… Suppose we transpose, the thinking of differance, this negative philosophy, into the medium of painting. Our project would be to show in painting what painting is not. What would you paint? Stricken by such an odd request we would begin to ponder whether it is everything that can be shown in painting which is not painting itself. A chair, a pipe, a watch. These things are not painting. But as one approaches the canvas, primed and prepped to paint something, one is overcome by a horrific realization: to paint the chair, the pipe, the watch, would still be a painting.
Falling ever deeper into the (im)possibility of this chasm, we can only decide to leave the canvass blanc. Without a subject proper, it would seem to be the case that everything is painting. Like the blinding sun, the mocks us. Dare one even sign it? Or to that extent, is writing not painting? We would eventually be tempted to say (or write) what painting is not, perhaps in an essay such as this one. We might sensibly title the paper “What Painting is Not”, which in a sense tells us what we’re looking at (a canvass), and to that extent we will have actually failed to show it.
On the other hand, no one looks at a pallid sheet and sees “that is the negation of painting”. And since the project is indefinite from the start, has the title not shown the meaning of the painting? A meaning that was already predetermined as such from the start, from a sentence, and is only revealed as such by such, as a sentence? Has the sentence shown us, taught us, painted us a picture of ‘painting’? From an angle which painting itself could never see? If it has, it is probably only inasmuch as the negation is not natural to, or is not a property of, painting. Of a Boolean and a Saussurean logic then, painting has no identity.
Legs, curves, face. Portrait.