«Thesis presented to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Zurich for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Mark Staff Brandl of USA and ...»
Bullock manifests this idea most clearly in the quirky, complex nodules of activity which are scattered over each work. These passages are "accretions of eidetic memory" (to use the artists own words), coupled with catachrestic portmanteaus of visual observations.18 They form areas of concentration which just might be a possible replacement for the "missing" human figure Frank Stella so perspicaciously has wished for in abstraction.19 Some painters use bold, condensed iconic motifs for this purpose. Bullock achieves this similarly but more messily, particularly in the layering and merger of levels of space and in the melting of elements of markmaking into capricious trails which seemingly signify adventures. While the notion of eidophor may be applied to the entire surface of one of Bullock's paintings, I find it most pivotally present in these passages uniting the haphazard with the emblematic in this expanded conception of the brushstroke. Therefore, I willfully misemploy and delimit the term eidophor to refer solely to these elements. Whereas painters such as Willem de Kooning or the French Tachists created compositional movement through swooping single strokes of paint, Bullock builds strings of compilations of effects, effectively assembling an expanded substitute for the single virtuosic stroke. These tropaically become paths of disparate experiences, which is significant for his central trope.
In the 2002 painting Seinpost, we can see three primary eidophoric configurations. Top center is a collision of a mottled, red-outlined conduit form with a compact, flame-like greenblue splotch. Traveling obliquely across the lower right quadrant of the work is an intricate, Euripides, Helen, trans. Andrew Wilson, on website The Classics Pages,
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~loxias/, direct page link:
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~loxias/helen.htm, accessed 16 August, 2010.
Leonard Bullock, personal communication, Basel, Switzerland, 2009.
"Yet abstraction has dared to try to get along without the human figure. Today it struggles, at least partly, because it has failed to come up with a viable substitute for human figuration, for the spatial vitality and versatility provided by the human figure. It was not so much the loss of the human figure itself as it was the loss of what the figure did to the space around itself that has been so hard to replace."
In Frank Stella, Working Space (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 74.
Central Trope in Two Contemporary Painters' Works 163 linear conglomerate. From lower left to upper right, this diagonal consists of: a scumbled and glazed neon-orange smudge, reminiscent of Rembrandt; a sumptuous magenta see-through curlicue; a dried-blood-colored version of the same, ambling up next to a partially removed marine blue S-swirl; finally capped with a Velázquez-like loaded brushstroke, which agglomerates all the preceding forms and colors in itself. A translucent cyan blue brushstroke from the first eidophor leads the eye to the third, in the lower left. This is a glowing area of powder blue on which a small, almost upright, Day-Glo orange stroke issues a halo of deep violet and tumbles over what appears to be a piece of applied manila masking tape.
Appearances can be deceiving. This "tape" is a carefully applied, raised area of oil paint— a bas-relief trompe-l'œil. These three eidophors float in the surrounding creamy white field, which is itself marked by comb-scrapped ridges revealing a wide variety of underpainted hues. The configurations collapse connotations of figures with evocations of their movements and momentary events affecting them. One is encouraged to read associations into the shapes, not like a Rorschach blot, but rather as if they were representational, while they are clearly wholly abstract. Most of all, they appear to encourage quasi-sequential readings, each area narratively following the other, forming bands of traversed ground. They seem sensuous, physical, voluptuous, yet somehow amusing. The artist uses witty visual foils to remind us of this. For example, in another painting a "racing stripe" similar to that on an automobile is scratched through an expressive, Manet-like brushstroke, making it even faster. "Shoddy chic" is parodied in such illusions as that of the applied "tape." There are small, almost invisible lines of wavering text in that now disappearing technology of pressed-on lettering called Lettraset or Presstype, so common to designers of the past generation. These phrases proclaim philosophical and personal invectives: text as textural draughtsmanship. Bullock can combine visceral sensibility with a self-irony that is not cynical. They form sentences, or at least phrases, reminding the viewer of the metaphor of streets inherent in the shape of sentences, one generally overlooked.
While contemplating Bullock's coinage, I discovered that the term eidophor had been used once before, unbeknownst to the painter. A patent was applied for in 1939 by Fritz Fischer for a light-modulation-based TV image projector. For his machine, Fischer also coined the name Eidophor, "from two Greek words meaning Image Bearer." Although this device was better than those available today, it has disappeared from production. 20 From where, in fact, does Bullock's rather more philosophical invention of the term derive? For the painter, it is a cross between metaphor and eido. The term metaphor can be seen as a union of meta- (meaning "over, trans-, beyond," — or through analogy in nonce coinage meaning "transcending or sub/self-referential," such as metacriticism), with -phor from pherein, meaning "to carry or bear." Thus metaphor is an implied analogy in which one thing is imaginatively compared to another, where qualities are "carried over." Much as I am in this dissertation, Bullock is concerned with metaphor in its expanded sense, as trope in general, rather than in its more limited sense of comparing two widely separate nouns.
His second root word is the Greek eiådov which in its Latin form becomes eidos. This term means form, figure, or shape, that is, the external or outward appearance of something. It becomes incredibly rich in extended application and usage. In the King James version of the Bible, it is translated into English by several words, including appearance, fashion, shape, and sight. One of the most famous instances of its use is in Luke 3:22. "And the Holy Ghost
descended in a bodily shape (eidos) like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." This instance bears a complex of meanings: "in the form of," "the appearance of," "in one's sight as," or "in the fashion of" a dove. The verb form, as well as the combinatory form, of this word is eido, which is a treasure house of wonderful combinations of the ideas "to see," "to understand" and "to know." Again, in the Bible it is translated by a variety of terms including "to see," "to discern," "to turn the attention to something," "to get knowledge of," "to cherish" — and my favorite, "to behold." Jesus frequently uses this in commands to listeners, demanding that they go and see and thereby understand and know the truth. Much of Bullock's painting has a visual equivalent to the proclamation "behold!" — "Behold and follow the divergent paths I have taken." The most famous use of the word eidos which does not apply to Bullock's work is that in Plato. For this philosopher, material forms are imperfect realizations of ideal forms, which are the true realities. Bullock's thought is completely opposite. In order to distance Bullock's use of eidos from Plato's, I would like to describe it differently and precisely. My
pseudo-dictionary-like definition reads:
ei · do · phor (ī ' dō fôr', ī ' dб fôr') n. [ModL.:Gr. eidos, what is seen, shape + pherein, to carry, bear] the carrying over of visual understanding. A trope of image-making, containing a compressed and sliding series of visual references and comparisons.
Bullock's coinage bears a rich range of references, making it an ideal mirror of the aggregate path-like clusters of perception dominating his paintings.
Heterogeneous swirls of eidophors. This an equivalent on the theoretical level of the spiral composition of the Baroque, whose discovery allowed artists to dynamically organize their works, while disavowing the static, enclosed geometry of the Renaissance. Expansion, multiplicity and flux became central. More appropriate to Bullock's work would be mention of the faceted, vector-oriented compositions of Titian, which served as an alternative Renaissance compositional structure. In his Votive Picture of the Pesaro Family in the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice, Titian created a work that is site-specific; one which anticipates the direction of approach by viewers as well as their final standpoint for observation, while integrating and defying the surrounding architecture. Its lively, asymmetrical composition utilizes competing diagonals and complex color contrasts across a tilted oval arrangement of human figures and columns, in short, proto-heterogeneity — and proto-painting-installation to link it to my own work. Installation and painting merged in the 1520s!
Alastair Hannay, "Something on Hermeneutics and Communication in Kierkegaard After All," Spreti Kierkegaard Newsletter: A Publication of the Howard and Edna Hong Kierkegaard Library, St Olaf College Northfìeld, Minnesota, No. 42 ( September 2001), p. 10.Originally delivered as the Opening Address at the Fourth International Kierkegaard Conference, June 9, 2001.
Central Trope in Two Contemporary Painters' Works 165 fig. 58 Titian, Votive Picture of the Pesaro Family, oil on canvas, 1519-1526 488 x 269 cm / 192 in x 106 in This could serve as an astute parallel to our period. Sundry artists, especially painters, are pressing in this direction. Jonathan Lasker proves art's histories to be plural; Mary Heilmann is unabashedly physical and anecdotal. David Reed is able to locate mass-media references embedded in paint. Painters seem to be in the process of inventing artistic techniques charged with meaning that could lead to a much needed (anti-?, post-?) Central Trope in Two Contemporary Painters' Works 166 Postmodernism which incorporates the discoveries of this period into a healthier whole, yet is not a Neo- or Alter-Modernism.
In many ways Bullock is a fellow-traveller of Reed's, but painterly. The manner in which recent Polke paintings stand toward Richter is an analogy of Bullock's position vis-àvis other Conceptual Painting. Granted, Bullock is more Action Painter than Pop influenced, but his work has a popular cultural feel, only more improvisational, like Jazz. And the precursor figurehead to both battle and embrace at this moment in visual culture for many artists is a triumvirate of Action Painting, Dada and Pop — with perhaps a sidelong squint at Minimalism. Bullock is openly working through his own personal agon with past art practices, yet he is not simply worshiping art's histories. He is involved in a dialogue with his time, but is also in a debate with the past and is attempting to persuade the future. Bullock has often repeated a favorite de Kooning quotation, "Style is fraud."22 In Bullock's art, style is expansive, exclusivity is fraud.
"Style is a fraud. I always felt the Greeks were hiding behind their columns." Willem de Kooning, "A Desperate View," Collected Writings, ed. George Scrivani (New York: Hanuman, 1988). Cited in Dictionary.com. Columbia World of Quotations. Columbia University Press, 1996.
http://quotes.dictionary.com/Style_is_a_fraud_I_always_felt_the,accessed: 16 August, 2010.
Central Trope in Two Contemporary Painters' Works 167 fig. 61 Mary Heilmann, Kelly's Cove, copperplate etching, 2002, Image Size: 30 x 30.5 cm / 11 7/8 in x 12 in Paper Size: 76 x 56 cm / 30 x 22 inches
Cognitive Metaphor The aspect of form Bullock utilizes in his metaphor(m) is the brushstroke. Therein he returns us to the discussion of Vincent van Gogh presented earlier in this dissertation, yet Bullock's interpretation of this element is unlike van Gogh's. Bullock breaks the unity of the stroke into an assemblage of parts and blends that with the likeness of an ever-changing path in an iconic image-mapping. This allows him access to his chief foundational metaphor, one of the most common in our culture, "LIFE IS A JOURNEY." This is sometimes seen as a correlate of "LONGTERM PURPOSEFUL CHANGE IS A JOURNEY," which is particularly close to Bullock's notion, as he emphasizes the transformations from one subsection to the next within each painterly trail. Furthermore, a subordinate instance of this trope is important in Bullock's reasoning: "Stages of life are routes you have to travel on." A related metaphor is "PURPOSEFUL ACTIVITIES ARE JOURNEYS." The "purposeful activity" clearly being artmaking, as the practice of painting is conflated with the endeavor of leading his life for Bullock, as well as for most artists, as I have discussed above. Important to the construction of his bands of painterly activity is the trope "CHANGE OF STATE IS CHANGE OF DIRECTION," for, as I have described, Bullock's eidophor-routes consist of sequences of course modifications, some of which can be quite jarring. These clearly serve as metaphors for the shifting circumstances and predicaments of life. The alterations can be seen as progress, perhaps growth in self-knowledge (because "DISPARITY IS CHANGE," "CHANGE IS MOTION" and "THE PROGRESS OF EXTERNAL EVENTS IS FORWARD MOTION").
His mapping proceeds as follows. "Life is painting," and "painting is the brushstroke," both synecdoches. Each brushstroke itself becomes a compendium of personal variations and historically associative ones, thus a metalepsis. This is mapped onto the image-schema of the path, yet a variegated one with many stops and alterations, false-starts, restarts, changes of surface, and so on. This is a seemingly slight yet highly original variation on the image of the "road of life" achieved by both the elaboration and extension of the cultural mainstay, "LIFE IS A JOURNEY." This yields Bullock's metaphor(m): "The brushstroke is a variegated path."