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"Art puts the empirical (the unquestioned beliefs of the world of everyday life) into question through its insistent engagement in the practice of re-presenting, of relating to the 'presence' of phenomena; it does this through offering itself as an experience".
What had begun for Arnaoutopoulos as a process of enquiry into the effect of paint "soiling" on surfaces, has resulted in an exhibition which also articulates a ceremonialised objectification of the artistic work process.
Arnaoutopoulos' concerns are about the synthesis of action (both ritualistic and accidental) and the passage of time. Earlier exhibited works were a response to his past observations of the incidental buildup of paint that occurred around printing machines in the industrial workplace. This latest exhibition took him into the studio environment where he endeavored to re-create or re-present the soiling process that takes place in the act of painting itself.
What becomes apparent, however, is not just the result of an objective approach to the notion of soiling and its reflection of time/space, but also the iconographic/ceremonial arrangement of the art product.
The re-construction or re-presentation of the accidental soiling/weathering process required ritualistic expression, and it became apparent to Arnaoutopoulos that in this process of building and eroding, the history of art making comes through. It necessitated the gestural Application of pure colour on canvas, accidentally or incidentally including other objects, which were often innocent recipients in the act. The throwing of paint against surfaces, the subsequent muddying and the lasting image of those final haphazard spots of pure colour called forth memories of the universal act of painting throughout history.
In his "altar-like" installation composed of the "tools of his trade", Amaoutopoulos assign these paint-soiled objects (used-up paint jars/tins) rags, sticks, gloves, overalls, easel) a place normally reserved for the "art product", not for mere "witnesses" to the creative act.
A pervading sense of ritual echoes throughout the exhibition; the iconographic stance of paint soiled ice-cream containers reflects a representation in a totemic configuration, their specific identity submerged, their signification altered. Likewise the arrangement of paint splattered, muddied newspaper drop sheets is held up and hung on (clothes?) lines as if to issue a testimony to the work ethic. The installation pieces stand in contrast to the stretched canvas works. Here Arnaoutopoulos seems to beg the question "Which is the art product?"
The conceptual arrangement of objects is reminiscent of Johns and Rauschenberg, but re-presented. In Arnaoutopoulos’ placement of these mundane objects in the rarified environment of "Art", he plays with the tensions created between what is being signified (i.e. The aura of the art object) and the objects in themselves. It would seem that this contradiction is not carried through, however, to the stretched fields of canvas. Different considerations become apparent as the spectator confronts the notion of "random" soiling in conflict with the formality of the rectangular frame. This formality, however, enters into the paintings of paint-soled objects (the totemic ice-cream containers, XXXX and Coke cans) through the considered placement of the objects in the picture plane. Here original identity and signification are subsumed into a commitment to the ultimate completion of the ritual.
The exhibition is about contrasts, the contrast of the expression of the unplanned and the random, to notions of contemplation and ceremony. In these works Arnaoutopoulos' considerations are about surfaces, but also about the significance and integrity of the creative act itself.
Andrew Arnaoutopoulos, Installation view, 1987
Phillipson. Michael. Painting, Language & Modernity. (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1981)
Anderson, Michele. Essay on A. Arnaoutopoulos for Bellas Gallery.