LIAN ZHANG: The Half-Light of Painting Jonathan Miles
“Painting is always on the threshold. It makes up the threshold between intactness and touching – between the intactness and touching of light and shadow”
Jean-Luc Nancy The Sense of the World P.82
Fascinated by the painting ‘The Flaying of Marysas’ by Titian, Lian travelled from Berlin to Kromeriz to view this painting. It was a long and solitary journey. There is little evidence that this event of looking at this work had any direct effect though, almost the contrary, at least, on the level of surface appearance. Maybe it was the fact of the journey itself. She might at thought that she was standing in front of an image of Europe, an impossible Europe, or at least a Europe that never came to the surface, unwanted, uncalled for, and lacking in anticipation, a Europe sinking into destitute time without realisation that such a time was possible. We might also think of standing in front of a painting as drawing upon a reserve, as opposed to extracting a complex of significations, a mode of seeing that stutters into light and sinks back into shadow (a dark womb of a painting).
Was the journey simply a discovery of what can lie hidden (unconscious) within a continent?
Scattered across such experience, are a whole number of figures flickering in and out of focus: reserve, stutter, fascination, half-light, gesture, destitute time, shadow, and threshold but then these figures cannot by there nature articulate the space of the work.
When I am viewing these small paintings I start to think of things outside of paintings in order to arrive back again, in particular the relationship to cinematic temporality that arrests my attention. In Godard’s ‘Histoire(s) du Cinema’ there are a whole series of juxtapositions of distant, remote narratives combined with close personal narratives. At first this might appear as chaotic but as a rhythm starts to occur then relationship between images or modes of history starts to form an in-between zone in which intersection or montage manifests as intensification of the present. Layering, splicing, blurring, rupture, interruption, circulations, repetitions, stoppages are the formal syntaxical elements that construct this philosophical poetics mourning the death of cinema. Yet the mood of these small paintings are not that of mourning even if the temporal orientation is towards what is passed or more exactly passed over but a shadow poetics is in common. This is a realm of half-light in which figure and force appear as one and the same thing, re-postulating the relationship of time and image in the process.
We linger in an in-between space of two continents and two modes of temporality. This a space without becoming, an impossible empire in which time spills backward and where presence cannot give itself to one point but resides as a latency contained within a dark reserve of sense. This is neither a post history nor a post modernity but the loss of the figure through which anticipation occurs. We cannot for instance think of this work as being like a coiled spring through which a better future might be realised nor do they stand in negative relationship to what actually is because they disavow the schematic impulse that give rise to such figures. The image is neither a point of arrival nor a form of departure. It is the restlessness formed within the erasure of temporal direction, somewhat like be caught between a flurry of motion and a stoppage.
A continent purely outside itself, is this the continent we are asked to explore? Would this be a continent without a body, a trace that has no origin and therefore no destiny? Only the imagination can take is to such a place, but a form of imagination mining the pit of images (before schematisation or habituation) as in Hegel.
The unconscious in Europe, the forgotten in China, the organised quick step toward
mutations of repression within the present, attest to the fact that the whole is false. This work flickers like a light bulb about to discharge for the last time and yet on it flickers without such an event within its horizon. The flickering of light and the fragmentation of the image are in accord but the resonant trace is one of discordance.
Something seems to appear either side of the image, from the behind and from the fore of the image. In part this can be understood as a process of collage but then it lacks the instrumentality of collage because it is not related to the cut or splice (perhaps in turn it is not connected to fetishism). The image appears to be subject to either latent or immanent disintegration on either side of its face and this appears in turn to create a space of discontinuity in which the image resides. This would suggest that the image is without ground, foundation or indexical origin.
The image both appears to capture movement but is also a space that is moved upon by forces outside its orbit. The image not so much as an arrest but a quivering force, awaiting arrest. Formation and deformation are in this regard equal forces.
Images, moods, memory, temporal flight, repetition, rupture, are all in circulation.
There is no destination within the image rather there are series of circulations without arrival points.
Something juts into the work and yet this cannot be seen. We are left waiting for the next but the next will never materialize, for the work is in the very suspension that erases such anticipation. Is it an image we are looking at, or something closer to a mood? Rather is it even a form of image-mood, a shard of something in between both conditions?
I cannot go forward with these paintings, and yet if I go back enough, then I might slump into a latent pit of unhabituated images. This would suggest a grim treadmill but then these are not at all grim paintings. They only wish to affirm a discontinuous space of painting, which as a form of trace, touches an immeasurable elsewhere in which programmes and positions are rendered aside.