TOUCHING MATTER IN ART: TOWARDS A ‘MATTERIST’ AESTHETIC WITH FRA ANGELICO, VERMEER, LUCEBERT, DE BRUYCKERE, AND MOREAU
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Drawing on examples of works of art by very diverse artists as Fra Angelico, Vermeer, Lucebert, De Bruyckere, and Moreau, The author aims to show that the specific ways in which artworks yield aesthetic experiences cannot be properly understood without recourse to the peculiar (and all too often neglected) presence of matter in the work of art. In this paper he sketches the contours of what a ‘matterist’ aesthetic fundamentally needs to involve. Unlike ‘significant form’ (Bell & Fry), matter in art is necessarily related to presence, finitude and contingency. Touching matter resists communication through determinate concepts. It constrains the production and receptivity of beauty and coherent meaning, and not so much addresses our faculty of understanding as it touches and stimulates our imagination and our ‘soulflesh’, i.e., what Lyotard calls l’âme-chair. This ‘passibility’ to touching matter (which is not passive) neither presupposes nor procures any dialectic reinstalling of transcendental subjectivity, and resists appropriation by argumentative rationality and rhetoric. On the contrary, it points to a path that necessarily lies always before us: the path out of techno-science’s obsession with consensus, information and superficial entertainment towards communality in and through (aesthetic) affects, which testify to our inevitable human finitude.
825 – 833
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