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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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    Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon the Logic of Sensation (pt 2)
    Project: The Total Library
    Painting, Its Ways and Faces

    "The adventure of painting is that it is the eye alone that can attend to material existence or material presence [...]" (39).

    Deleuze relates to two definitions of painting - one by line and color, which is visual, and the other by trait and color-patch, which is manual. He then proceeds to distinguish between several aspects of the relationship between eye and hand, or the values of hand -
    The digital - which marks the maximum subordination of hand to eye. Sight develops an optical space and grasps through an optical code while hand is reduced to execution function. The tactile - in which the subordination of the hand is more relaxed and the optical space still presents virtual tactile referents. The manual - a reversed relationship between eye and hand - the painting is still a visual reality but the space is without form, with a restless movement, thus the optical is dismantled. And the hapticHaptic sensation (from the Greekhaptikos - able to touch or grasp) involves the intermingling of sight, touch, and bodily motility. Following the writings of art historian Alois Riegl and the paintings of Francis Bacon, Deleuze delineates a form of haptic visuality that acts as a function of both sight and touch. - when there is no subordination in either direction, when "sight discovers in itself a specific function of touch that is uniquely its own, distinct from its optical function"(109). Deleuze and Guattari derive the term ‘haptic’ from art historian Riegl and his discussion of close vision and haptic space in the context of visual art. It is not about the all-encompassing (optical) view, but the micro-level (haptic) variation, which suggests orientation and negotiation that is articulated step by step, at a local level (Rebelo).

    A short historical review is in place here. It is in the Egyptian bas-reliefs that this haptic function can first be found, joining together the senses of touch and sight, through a close view, putting form and ground on the same plane. The Greeks distinguished the planes, introducing perspective, a distant viewing. There begins classical representation, the conquest of an optical space, which is, in fact, a tactile-optical space, replacing the haptic space. And while Egyptian art put the form in the service of essence, western painting, starting with Christianity, disassociated the Figure from essence and linked it instead to the event, or even the accident. Classical representation, if so, incorporates the accident into an optical organization; it is a form of representation that is organic and organized, expressing the organic life of man as subject. Modern painting begins when man no longer experiences himself as an essence, but as an accident, always with the risk of fall. From this point two opposed directions developed, both dismantling organic representation. One was the expression of a purely optical space, annulling tactile referents. This was seen mainly in Byzant, where the classical "organization" gave way to "composition" which is an organization in the process of disintegration. The other - the imposition of manual space, seen in Gothic art, which has speed, violence and life. This is a space of active manual strokes, an intensive non-organic vitality. Here the organisms are in a whirling movement that unites them in a single "fact" with no figurative or narrative connection. Both these directions, the one an idealism of transformation, working through luminous disaggregation, the other a realism of deformation, working through manual aggregates, dismantled the tactile-optical space and classical representation. The modulation of light appeals to a purely optical function of distant vision, optical space is defined by light and brightness. And the modulation of color recreates a properly haptic function culminating in a close vision. Light is time and space is color. "Colorism claims to bring out a particular kind of sense from sight: a haptic sight of color-space, as opposed to the optical sight of light-time" (97).

    It is this haptic relation eye-hand that Deleuze searches for and holds as the highest form of perception/painting as he says: "[...] painters paint with their eyes, but only insofar as they touch with their eyes" (97). In the very last pages of the book Deleuze summarizes that with painters such as Bacon there is a gradual motion from the hand/the manual to the haptic eye/vision. This passage is "the great moment in the act of painting [...discovering] the problem of pure logic: how to pass from the possibility of fact to the fact itself?" (112). And a new clarity emerges when the duality of the tactile and the optical is surpassed in the haptic function that is born. This is Bacon's greatness (as Deleuze shows in the unfolding description of his work).

    The consequence of the tactile-optical space is the figurative. The disruption of this space allows for the emergence of a form of a completely different nature - the Figure. Whereas “figuration” refers to a form that is related to an object it is supposed to represent (recognition), the “Figure” is the form that is connected to a sensation, and that conveys the violence of this sensation directly to the nervous system (a sign). Deleuze borrow from Lyotard the concept of the 'figural', which stands opposed to figuration or representation. This issue of figuration in painting can be related to Deleuze's wider references in challenging the dominant belief that we know and experience our world through imposed structures of representation (Colebrook, XXXI). From the viewpoint of representation and common sense, the actual world provides a foundation or external model (transcendence), and thought ought to be a faithful copy or replication of the actual (Colebrook, 2). "The world of representation is characterised by its inability to conceive of difference in itself" (Deleuze, "Difference and Repetition", 138; in Colebrook, 3). Representation plays a similar role in painting as does recognition in philosophy (Smith in Patton, 41-2). The danger of figuration or representation in painting is that it is both illustrative and narrative: it elates the image to an object that it supposedly illustrates, thereby subordinating the eye to the model of recognition and losing the immediacy of the sensation. It relates the image to the other images in the painting, thereby tempting us to discover a narrative link between the images. As Bacon says: "The story that is already being told between one figure and another begins to cancel out the possibilities of what can be done with the paint on its own" (Sylvester, "Interviews with Francis Bacon: The Brutality of Fact", 23; in Smith in Patton, 41-2). But painting, according to Deleuze (here also quoting Bacon), has neither a model to represent nor a story to narrate, thus figuration must be escaped. Photography, Bacon said, has taken over the illustrative role, thus painting no longer needs to fulfill this function; and moreover, modern painting, being atheistic, is free from the conditioning of religious aspects that give meaning to figuration.Quoted by Deleuze from "Bacon: Interviews", 28-9. Deleuze disagrees with Bacon on this last point, explaining that, if anything, religious sentiments liberated the figures from figuration/representation/narration. It is more difficult for modern art to escape figuration, says Deleuze, as the canvas is "already invested virtually with all kinds of cliches" (8), which the painter must break with (Deleuze finds this to be the reason for modern painting turning to abstraction).

    Deleuze distinguishes 3 "paths" in respect to a "modern" function to painting:
    The abstract - that reduces the manual and the chaotic aspectThe place of the chaotic aspect in the act of painting will be elaborated later under the heading "the diagram" to a minimum, rising above the figurative givens and producing a purely optical space, suppressing "tactile referents in favor of an eye of the mind" (75). It elaborates a symbolic pictorial code, and, says Deleuze, offers a "spiritual salvation" from "manual chaos" (73). But, according to Bacon, it is cerebral and lacks sensation in the sense of a direct action on the nervous system. Moreover, it runs the risk of becoming a simple symbolic coding of the figurative, or as O'Sullivan puts it - a signifying art, waiting to be read ( O'Sullivan, 63). Smith, elaborating on this point, says that it tends towards a plane of architectonic composition in which the painting becomes a kind of spiritual being, a radiant material that is primarily thought rather than felt, and calls the spectator to a kind of "intellectual asceticism" (Smith in Patton, 43).
    The abstract expressionism - this is the opposite extreme of abstraction, a radical manner of escaping the figurative, taking the manual and chaos to their maximum. It is the absolute deterritorialisation of the figure ( O'Sullivan, 63). It is the decomposition of matter rather than transformation. The hand is liberated completely from subordination to an optical organization, creating an exclusively manual space "that is imposed upon the eye as an absolutely foreign power in which the eye can find no rest" (75). Rhythm is discovered as matter and material. But, says Bacon, it leaves sensation in a confused state. Abstract art is, for Deleuze and Guattari, a dematerialisation of sensation. Conceptual art on the other hand "seeks an opposite dematerialisation through generalisation, by installing a sufficiently neutralised plane of composition" (Deleuze and Guattari, "What Is Philosophy?", 198; in O'Sullivan, 59).
    The third way to break with the figurative is neither optical nor manual - it is a "middle way", Bacon's way, distinguished from the preceding two by his solution of uniting-separating. Bacon keeps the manual-chaotic confined and limited in space and time, operative and controlled, as a "possibility of fact" rather than "the fact itself". This is how he keeps the sensation clear and precise. Smith sums the via media followed by Bacon as: without a material framework, the sensation remains chaotic, but on its own the framework remains abstract. (Smith in Patton, 45).

    "Painting elevates colors and lines to the state of language, and it is an analogical language" (80), says Deleuze, a language of relations. As such it has 3 dimensions - the planes (their connections/junctions), the color (its modulation and contrast of shadow-light), and the body (exceeding the organism and destroying form-background relationship). Color is the analogical language of painting, the creation of space while avoiding abstraction, figuration and narration.

    (continued in pt 3)

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