An investigation of beauty and contemporary painting: Kant, Greenberg and Neuroscience

Banfield, Frank. 2004. An investigation of beauty and contemporary painting: Kant, Greenberg and Neuroscience. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

My motivation for my research stems from my practice as an abstract painter whose interests centre on form, pictorial space, surface quality and beauty in painting. For a long time I have been interested in the need for both freedom and restraint in the production of painting.

In my practice I use an unusual material, containing translucent silicon polymers, because it provides a beautiful surface quality for my work. This is difficult to use; it cannot be applied with brushes, and so I developed a simple semi-autonomous machine for producing an image on canvas. The machine enabled me to paint with silicon polymers, to achieve a beautiful surface, but it imposed very severe restraints on the form of the images. This difficulty compelled me to consider the problem of the conflict between autonomy and freedom at a practical level and that in turn led to a reflection on the nature of this problem at the intellectual and emotional level. This thesis is, in large part, my response to this conflict.

I begin my enquiry with a critical discussion of Greenberg's essay Modernist Painting in terms of the Kantian authority that he claims for it. I then tum to a critique of that Kantian authority itself. Common to both Greenberg and Kant is systematic argumentation in terms of wholly autonomous entities that makes a resolution of the conflict between freedom and necessity very difficult. In the second half of the thesis I use the concepts and empirical observations of affective neuroscience (which does not deal in autonomous entities) to develop my own theory of the beautiful and to use it as a critical tool in relation to both Kantian aesthetics and my own painting practice.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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abstract painting, Kantian aesthetics, affective neuroscience, modernism, Greenberg

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Date Deposited:

01 Jun 2020 11:12

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:30


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