Pigment, matter, sensation

Materiality is a key concern for many researchers in the painting field as it opens on a discussion of process and what it is that differentiates painting from other cultural activities. There are many angles from which materiality can be discussed, but the nature of my research is the matter itself. What is paint and what can it be? The exploration of pigments and their origins need not be simply a tabular exercise but can be a multi-sensory experience of the sacred within cultural practices of painting. This brief presentation includes my own practical exploration of what paint can be and experiences researching the origins of pigment and their mythical significance in Western Arnhem Land. My particular focus is on naturally occurring pigments and their collection by hand, rather than synthetic simulations, therefore the traditional significance of a substance is integral. The most sought after natural pigments around the world have economic and spiritual power surrounding their cultural and historical story, which contributes to their innate material particularities in their contemporary usage. All factors attributed to the paint itself infuse and enrich the process involved in the production of a painting, which Gilles Deleuze describes as “a being of sensation,” and what is held in the matter of a painting as a state of “becoming” consisting of materials and space. Thus the artist is not the sole agent of transformation but rather the one who collaborates with transforming substances. As Deleuze states “So long as the material lasts, the sensation enjoys an eternity in those very moments.”

Guattari, Gilles Deleuze and Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
———. What Is Philosophy? New York: Colombia University Press, 1994.

2 thoughts on “Pigment, matter, sensation

  1. tch tch… a concern with material is not the exclusive domain of painting… Robert Morris: ‘The attention given to both matter and its inseparableness from the process of change is not an emphasis on the phenomenon of means. What is revealed is that art itself is an activity of change, of disorientation and shift, of violent discontinuity and mutability, of the willingness for confusion even on the service of discovering new perceptual modes.’


  2. Yes, my wording seems to indicate this unintentionally, of course any medium can be analyzed in terms of materiality. I should have explained this was my abstract for a paper presented at an abstract painting symposium. Love the quote, the language of matter is a rich vein.


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