Monday, August 10, 2015

The Grey Thinker

Robert Hughes, the supremo of modern art critics, once wrote about the distinction between sculpture and painting, that the former is integral to itself, a completed object that stands in its own space, and can stand in any space, home or gallery, indoors or outside, alone or surrounded, and it remains what it is, an isolated creation that one can walk around, a context unto itself; while a painting is a mere fragment, an incompleteness, a part of a landscape, a person's face without a body, or only part of a body, or objects, or artefacts, or ikons, confined within a space that in reality extends beyond the painting, trapped in that space by nature of being framed inside a canvas that is itself fixed upon a fragment of a wall. No grey thinking there!

Walking around the Rodin Museum in Paris, on the umpteenth of many occasions, I was reminded of that intricate distinction, and wondered what Hughes might have said about the painting of a sculpture. Do both definitions apply simultaneously? The painting unquestionably limits the context, and the sculpture can only be viewed from a single angle, and yet the sculpture is still a context that is integral to itself, the thinker who is not Rodin's thinker, but who is looking at a book of paintings that may very well include Rodin's thinker, or perhaps a picture of itself.

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