Negativity in Painting

Frost, Lola Audrey. 2007. Negativity in Painting. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Negativity in Painting)
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Abstract or Description

This combined theory/practice research project investigates and mobilises negativity in painting. The written thesis does so by developing an interpretive method which identifies two de-subjectifying signifying processes in paintings, called poetic ambiguity and sublime irresolution. The thesis proposes that these signifying processes structure an aesthetic practicing of negativity which disaggregates meaning. An investigation of philosophical texts (by Kristeva, Merleau-Ponty, Kant, Nietzsche, Adorno, Lyotard, Derrida and Irigaray) and art historical interpretations (by Koerner and Marin) of certain poetic and sublime paintings, services an understanding of these sublime and poetic practices of negativity.

The thesis explores the tensions and correspondences between negative aesthetics and philosophical deconstruction. It explores the irreducible inter-relation between experiencing aesthetic negativity in painting and understanding the discursive implications of practices of negativity. Such a dialectics enables a critique of philosophical deconstruction which degrades the autonomy of aesthetic experience, and of the feminist deconstructions of ecriture feminine which conflate textual practices of negativity with a politics of the feminine. This research project is a contribution to a revival of negative aesthetics after the impact of philosophical deconstruction.

As an applied investigation into aesthetic negativity, this thesis explores how selected paintings by C.D. Friedrich, Nicholas Poussin, J.M.W.Turner and Mark Rothko invite poetic or sublime practices of negativity. These insights are extended into a discussion of how the contemporary painting and visual art practices of Glenn Brown, Jeremy Wafer, Rosa Lee and Therese Oulton, invite a double register of interpretation. This doubling records the experiential impact of aesthetic practices of sublime and poetic negativity, and an understanding of the deconstructive significance of these painting practices. I suggest that my own paintings likewise engage a dialectical relation between the negativity of sublime experience, and the positivity of understanding their discursive and political significance.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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painting, contemporary art, fine art, poetic ambiguity, sublime irresolution, deconstruction, poetic negativity

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Date Deposited:

10 Jun 2020 14:47

Last Modified:

14 Sep 2022 09:18


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