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Productive limitation : painting emergent abstract languages through serial form

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Sellbach, AE ORCID: 0000-0003-4614-407X 2020 , 'Productive limitation : painting emergent abstract languages through serial form', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Productive Limitation: Painting Emergent Abstract Languages Through Serial Form explores how following systems of limitation and constraint can highlight the emergent qualities within a serial, practice-led and abstract artistic project. To repeatedly limit a practice (its contents and guiding rules over time), is to engage in a process that paradoxically maximises the opportunities to reveal and attend to the productivity, diversity and subtle nuances of its outcomes. Frames of productive limitation thus lead us to ask: how can limitation function as productive? and what thematic connections or discontinuities can be revealed in using this process?
This PhD focuses on the works from the Unstable Object series which consists of thirty-eight abstract paintings exploring serial iterations of depicted form, limited to rectilinear and diagonal trajectories of a coloured, painted 4cm beam mark. The paintings are both worked on and displayed in a variety of different configurations and rotations. This exegesis argues that the intervening open-endedness regarding the positioning and orientation of the paintings connect these specific modular processes to ways of enacting thought, which in turn make visible thinking processes and actions akin to undertaking a game.
Within the exegesis, themes of spatiality and language are explored through philosophical interrogation using the work of theorists Jacques Derrida, Elizabeth Grosz and Ludwig Wittgenstein, whom I situate in propositional dialogue with the works from the Unstable Object series. The research focuses on Grosz’s theories of space and the liminal space of the ‘in-between’, Derrida’s concepts of trace and erasure and Wittgenstein’s text Philosophical Investigations, through which his pedagogical questioning of meaning through the concept of ‘language games’ is explored.
As the Unstable Object series progresses, the forms that emerge become situated as an abstract language with linguistic potential. This is perhaps not a language that we need to understand explicitly, but a language that contains its own abstract specificity which moves us toward our own ways of reading. In this way, the project draws new relations between the abstract, the blurry and the ambiguous, which become useful tools within processes of making, reading and thinking.
The Unstable Object series uses the repeated beam mark to slowly explore processes of building within painting, where the aim is to build forms which are not recognisable as objects from the external world. The exegesis, however, goes on to view the works through a filter of things that are of this world—architectural structures (facades or internal structures); maps and the topographical marks they contain (borders, boundaries, gaps and intervals); and finally, through a filter of expanded language (diagram, symbol and syntax). The reader is continuously asked to read the works through both temporal and visual frameworks. Through this process of imagining the paintings ‘this way, now this way’ (a method borrowed from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations), the project gathers associations from outside the abstract that enrich and connect the research. Emergent anomalies and imperfections (the qualities that are made visible by implementing the productive constraints of the series), are pursued theoretically as research markers throughout the project. These elements, such as the wobbly or degraded edge, the mistake, and the estimate are also in direct counter to the predominant history of hard-edge geometric abstraction. This project allows the emergence of more uncontrollable forms like indecision, mistakes and intuitive thought to be mutually productive elements within a structure of systems and rules.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Sellbach, AE
Keywords: abstraction, seriality, modularity, painting, systems, emergence, erasure, language-games
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Copyright 2019 the author

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