The painter Ines Brands examines in her serial works mostly philosophic theories, which deal with knowledge. Her concern is never illustration, but transformation or rather a further investigation of thoughts through painterly experience. Painting for her is part of the cognitive process. The starting point are mostly visual impressions, often »film stills« of seen movies, which she reacts on. In her works she questions the classic medium painting, cuts the overall image, works with repetitions and involves the (work) process. The serial, discursive and performative element of her paintings opens new perspectives and challenges the viewer. Again and again there is the question: What are images? What are images able to? In her recent series »Hysteria and fear« she deals with the unconscious, the hysteric/neurotic fear and its meaning for knowledge. »We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?« (from: »Psycho« by Alfred Hitchcock)
Art and philosophy, for me, are closely bound together. The difference between image and word as well as cultural phenomena (of seeing), society questions or political problems keep leading me to painting. Painting is naturally influenced by its surroundings, but should not be determined by them. The critical consciousness, Adorno is repeatedly talking about, is essential to not become one with the things surrounding us. Bringing feeling and thinking in line with each other. In the sense of Adorno’s »Negative Dialectic« one can maybe speak of »Negative Painting«. Painting, which is not solid (fixed), which is questioning (itself), which has no intention and no purpose, which is naturally and maybe vitally element of society, culture and politics.
I would like to leave this passage standing as introduction and now focus some points in detail. Thereby I would like to give word to Adorno and Kant, with whom I have intensively dealed during my »Meisterschüler«.
You can see different painterly investigations. I often progress from image to image. In my artificial work I would like to question the classical medium of painting and for this reason it seems nearly logically to me, that one starts thinking about cultural, social or political processes. From the initial question of knowledge and the depiction of knowledge in images or knowledge through images, I arrived at the differentiated pursuit of dialectic as a way of gaining knowledge.
The idea that knowledge is not only intellect, but also experience is behind the diptych »Critique of pure reason«. Kant devides thinking in intellect and reason, whereas the first one is connected to experience and the second one just functions intellectually.
»All our knowledge raises from the senses, moves to the intellect and finishes with reason, above which nothing higher can be met inside of us, to deal with the matter of vision and to bring it under the highest union of thinking. For that I shall now give an explanation of this upmost knowledge power, I am seeing myself in some embarrassment. There is just a formal, i.e. logical use of it like of the intellect, because reason abstracts from all content of the knowledge, but there is also a real use, because it contains the origin of certain words and postulates, which it neither borrows from the senses, nor from the intellect.« (freely adapted from Kant: »Critique of Pure Reason«, p. 381)
Images are sensible – on top of that painting in a certain way is an expression of a painterly experience, which manifests in images and hereby makes contact with the viewer. In this way it is a special form of communication – different to something read, which goes back to words, which already are a »thing« between sensual impression and communication with the viewer.
»So it cannot be purpose of a philosophical interpretation of artworks, to make their identity with the concept, to eat them up in it; instead the artwork unfolds through them in its truth. (freely adapted from Adorno, »Negative Dialectic«, p. 25)
»The union of under generally subsumed words is completely different from the conceptually determined particular. In it the concept is always at the same time its negative; it cuts, what it is itself and what still is not immediately to name, and substitutes it with identity. This negative, false, but likewise necessary is the setting of dialectic.« (freely adapted from Adorno, »Negative Dialectic«, p. 175)
But not only words are imperfect. In banned pictures even manifests a fear of images. They would falsify, positively paint in, sabotage and fix. Painted images could neither take up with lively creation nor with inner image production. There is talk of idolism, of mimetic thinking, of positively imagining utopia in materialism and of »Thou shalt not make thee any effigy (…)« in theology. The image is controversal, meanwhile not only in the eastern world with banned pictures, also in the western world with the image mania or the overstimulation.
Images and words extend the respective understanding.
Art and philosophy are closely bound together, but not one thing. »Art and philosophy have something in common not in form or formative procedure, but in a behaviour, which forbids pseudomorphosis. Both hold faith with their own content throughout their opposite; art while making brittle against their meanings; philosophy, while not clinging to an immediate.« (freely adapted from Adorno, »Negative Dialectic«, p. 26/27)
Concerning the »Negative Dialectic« cycle: What happens, if one repeats something? What happens visually? The ornamental in it is equally interesting as the dynamic and the depth. It is also a play with colour space and perspective depth. Here two image conceptions play a role: the first one deals with the measurement of light, the second one with the measurement of the view. Relation of mind and eye. Also muqarnas – through light into the third dimension (no meaningless, free ornament) are an exciting matter. And of course film with fast sequence of images and film editing, for me an important visual field of impression.
Withal single picture and series distinguish insofar as the series does not fix because of the repetition of the same starting point. Painting here is less representation of something, but shows more as corporal or rather cognition process. The process gets the image. The pure representation dissolves in painting. The series emphasizes painting itself. Because of the repetition the previous picture is questioned. It is a failure as it does not work out to paint the one image. At the same time it is a step into negative dialectic. Non-identity is setting and the cognition that one truth does maybe not exist.
»Dialectic is the consistent consciousness of non-identity«, explains Adorno. (freely adapted from Adorno, »Negative Dialectic«, p. 17)
The conflict or the argument shows non-identity. Dialectic originally means to come to an understanding through disputing. The term »dialectic« is described as »›philosophic method of thinking, to come to knowledge through scheduling and revealing contradictions.‹ ›Greek dialektiké‹ is the ›art of scientific conversation techniques, art of disputing‹, in Greek philosophy the ›method to push forward to the truth through overcoming contradictions‹, Greek dialégein ›select‹, medial dilégesthai ›to talk, discuss‹ (…).« (freely adapted from an etymological dictionary)
This positivity of dialectic, the solution of the dispute at the end, is now challenged. While with Kant contradictory thinking is opposing each other, with Hegel is negated and dissolved in mind, with Adorno it leads to knowledge, but not to identity of both positions, but to a stepwise incrementalism and approach.
This can be painful indeed, not only physical also mentally it can shake to the very foundations. Painting can (like singing and dancing) help to understand, because it opens and addresses a human felt aspect, which at first sight has nothing to do with words, society or culture. In the beginning painting maybe is pure drive output, which than, different to the concept, connects to understanding. The intellect involves conceptual and sensible understanding. In world war II, one of the main origins for Adornos theories, the conceptual, pure mental understanding of the National Socialism was not coinciding with the sensible painful understanding in the war. Thereof he is developing a scepticism against any systematic pure thinking and this puts him in front of a paradoxic starting point of his theories, which primarily function mental only. Therefore one can maybe explain contradictory passages, repetitions and the poetic sensible language, whereby he is trying to break the systematic. Also his affinity towards music or art.
»Knowledge, which wants content, wants utopia. This, the consciousness of possibility, sticks to the concrete as the not deformed. It is the possible, not the immediate real, that blocks the place for utopia; within the existing it therefore appears abstract. The indelibly colour comes from the non-being. It serves thinking, a piece of existence, that, negative as ever, reaches the non-being. Only utmost distance would be nearness, philosophy is the prism, which picks up its colour.« (freely adapted from Adorno, »Negative Dialectic«, p. 66)
To inspire thinking, and yet not detaching it from feeling is an essential aspect of my painterly investigations. Painting springs from its environment, from the seen and experienced, but should not be determined by it. The more »fringed« the arts are, the harder it would get to address the feeling, the more material would images get.
»It is as the art genres would nibble, while negotiating their last outlined shape, at the concept of art itself. Archetypal phenomenon of the »nibbling« of art was the montage concept, which surfaced before the first world war in dadaism and surrealism. But montage means to disturb and to belie the sense of art works through an of its legalism revoked invasion of fragments of the empirical reality. The »nibbling« of the art genres accompanies almost steadily a grasp of the shapes to the outer aesthetic reality. It of all is strictly against the principle of their depiction. The more a genre lets into, of what its immanent continuum is not containing, the merrier it is participating on its other, material instead of imitating it. It virtually gets a thing surrounded by things, of that we don’t know, what it is.« (freely adapted from Adorno, »Die Kunst und die Künste«, p. 450)
An exceptional position at this surely takes film, which opens a parallel reality, which is no singular experience, but a mass media event. It is this feature which for me makes it an exciting visual field of impression. It is important to stay critical, to not be captured by the media and to get one with an apparent reality. That means to develop a critical consciousness and to resume it in painting.
In the sense of »Negative Dialectic« of Adorno one can maybe speak of »Negative Painting«. All that is solid melts into air. Painting should not be solid (fixed), should question (itself), has no intention and no purpose, but should naturally and maybe vitally be element of society, culture and politics. It should conducive to cognition.
The latest series deals with relativity and existentialism – with subjective knowledge and man as itself questioning creature. Nietzsche says, man is something, that one has to overcome, similar to Foucault: »The individual man is a young invention and would soon disappear.« Adorno criticizes about existentialism, that man is not only whereto he makes himself, but also what he can be. Unlike the »Negative Dialectic« cycle I am here playing with the diffraction of room. Godards protagonists transit the Louvre in an awesome speed.
Originally I wanted to write an artistic manifesto. It should have the title: »A New Sense in Painting«, and refer to the famous exhibition »A New Spirit in Painting«. On the one hand it should declare a new (whereas »new« can of course be questioned) sense and on the other hand a new sensibility as a contrast to a mass media and virtually influenced world, in which real experience gets rare. Whether this is one, please judge on your own. I hope painting brings a bit truthfulness, grounds, concentrates and inspires thinking, but also feeling.