I am standing in an art gallery and I’m not sure whether it is my backpain or my generally never wanting to be in an art gallery, but the picture above, combined with my reading of the exhibition’s accompanying pamphlet, is making me angry.
I am supposedly looking at ‘an interior universe’ and a ‘conduit for rupture’. I am given to understand that I am looking at vast canvases (as large as, oof, 30 square metres) about meaning, about mad and vain grasps at truth. I am looking at searches for ‘a totalizing experience’.
That this painting should make me angry is either a testament to its power, evidence of my ignorance and powerlessness, a heady mixture of the two – or neither. Perhaps these paintings are about nothing. Perhaps they are rootless and meandering meditations upon the abdication of the author (note ‘abdication’ and not ‘death’ for authors always have it in them to turn the truth in their ink-stained fingers). Perhaps my back just hurts and that is that.
I am angry that, despite my being conscious of their manipulation, these paintings are demanding that I seek to make sense of them; that they have been deliberately (artfully, even) generated to do so. And that they are, seemingly, only about that. About our silly brains and their insistence upon Capability Brownian levels of order in perception. About our fear of and steadfast resistance to chaos.
I don’t know much about anything, but I think it was Jean Paul Sartre (piggy little face and too-round spectacles) who coined the term ‘nausea’, refering to the dizzying contemplation of meaninglessness outside of what we make of life: the awesome realisation of our total and personal responsibility for meaning making. This art, combined with chronic backpain, conspired to induce in me such a state of sickness. I’d also been cross-training the day before, which didn’t help. And running too.
I joked to my youngest daughter (as we stood before this painting and I rubbed my right hip) that, if I were a character in He Man’s Masters of the Universe, my name would be Vomitar and I’d probably be a villain. My daughter looked up at me and demonstrated how my superpower might work.
We laughed and the pain lessened a little.