Page 28 - Studio International - July/August 1967
P. 28

Painting -a thing of the past

                              A French critic discusses kinetic art and the attempts on the part of certain kineticists to recreate 'the
                              festive climate of primitive society' as a counterweight to the 'isolating factors' of industrial society

                              Jean Clay

                              We are the prisoners of words. Hardly have we evolved a  us a scaled down version of that great work which nature
                              new concept than it becomes fossilized and prevents our  accomplishes incessantly in the universe as a whole.
                              thoughts from progressing. Born out of opposition to the  Kineticism is not realistic art, it is the art of reality.
                              notion of static art, kineticism has become the whipping-  Painting as such, which is the art of coloured pigments
                              boy of all those plodding daubers who interminably criti-  inherited from the Van Eyck brothers, was radically
                              cize 'everything which moves' without even trying to  questioned a few years ago by two important develop-
                              understand that there may be as much variety and as  ments: the 'monochrome' of Yves Klein, which put an
                              many different facets in these works 'which move' as  end to four centuries of speculation on illusionism and the
                              there are in 'works which do not move'. They confuse the  fiction of space; the razor stroke of Fontana, which de-
                              effect with the cause and refuse to understand the pro-  stroyed once and for all, in the most convincing possible
                              found reasons for which so much research has centred on  manner, the traditional medium—supposedly set apart
                              attempts to break the bonds of static principles at a cer-  from the confines of space and time—which had for so
                              tain stage of artistic, social, scientific and technical  long sheltered the lie of art. As for those young sculptors
                              development. From jointed Greek sculptures to Giaco-  who work in stone today, recreating menhirs or figures
                              metti's 'suspended ball', we could list many 'mobile'  inherited from the ancient world, we know that they
                              works which do not reflect the new spirit or bear witness  belong more and more to the past. Media such as stone
                              to that profound psychological revolution which is today  or oil paint which cannot reflect the ductility and in-
                              shaking the very foundations of art itself.  1  We cannot  stability of the changing world, are condemned by the
                              dismiss what is happening today as the work of a new  new art.2
                              generation of 'handy-men' who are merely offering a   Prophetically announced by Boccioni, a great era has
                              better puppet-show or more perfect robots than any we  begun—an era which is as exciting as the period at the
                              have known in the past. What is in fact happening is that  beginning of this century in which cubism destroyed
                              a whole generation of artists has intuitively become aware  the spatial concepts inherited from the Renaissance.
                              of modern, physical reality and incorporated in the lan-  Heralded by a few forerunners, Duchamp, Gabo, Man
                              guage of art notions such as relativity, evolution of the  Ray, Wilfred, Calder, Moholy-Nagy, etc., a whole genera-
                              universe, links between space and time, the fluidity and  tion has today set itself the task of destroying the static
                              ductility of natural phenomena, the corpuscular, un-  object. While the fetichist champions of pop art and neo-
                              dulatory nature of energy-matter. Kineticism is the aware-  dadaism indulge in their pious attempts to safeguard the
                              ness of the instability of reality.                products or the debris of a consumer society in their
                               Of course the old masters were also intuitively conscious  desperate endeavour to fix the appearances of the world
                              of this phenomenon. The originality of the new art lies  around us which is breaking up on every side, the kinetic
                              in the instability of the medium. The metamorphosis is  artists accept this decomposition and use it as an integral
                              played out in the heart of the material which bears the  part of their message. Time impinges upon space, matter
                              message of the work. The work has ceased to be a mere  is shown in movement, forms in a process of continual
                              static account of a movement experienced by the artist  transformation. The static medium which used to bear
                              and then described through the intermediary of forms and  the message of the artist is directly attacked, corroded,
                              colours which evoke and try to restore the original emo-  and carried off in the great flux of the universe. This
                              tional shock. On the contrary, the aesthetic happening  attack on formalism can already be perceived clearly in
                              takes place before our very eyes : we observe the work as  optical art. The very notion of plastic art is put in ques-
                              it is born, moves, vibrates, consumes energy, dies and is  tion by the new departures of Mondrian in 1918 and
                              reborn. A real, living phenomenon of nature is captured  1942, of Albers in 1925, of Soto, Morellet and Vasarely
                              by the talent of the artist. To draw a grammatical  in the 1950s and of the Visual Art Research Group in
                              parallel we may say that a kinetic work is in the present  1959. The inter-relationship of forms, the equilibrium of
                              tense, whereas a conventional painting—be it a landscape  volumes are no longer of any interest to these artists who
                              or abstract composition—is in the  past tense,  since it
                              represents primarily the transposition of an emotional
                              reality experienced previously by the artist. A kinetic
                                                                                 1   Whereas conversely, many static works bear the stamp of this
                              work exists only through the unfurling of a physical event
                              before our very eyes : the forces of nature, waves, light,   2  For example at the last Venice Biennale there were very few easel
                              driving energy, are utilized in order to perform before   paintings.
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