black gold

thinking/making: catching thought in process

11 March 2020: Black Gold


Elaine Fisher (2019) Black Gold (double sided drawing, ink on paper, 11 x 11 inches) installation view, Flat Files Exhibition, Institute of Contemporary Art, Baltimore

As the lowest value in the plastic elements black is below, dark and solid.  Here, by way of its liquidity, black passed through paper to emerge as gold, an earthly element we ascribe a different kind of value to.  So the drawing ‘values’ darkness and matter – the feminine – whilst also taking as its subject the feminine connecting principle in the chain-link-fence.

The beauty of standing outside a discipline, peering in from the borderlands, is that you can dip in and out of its terminology as your work connects with it, drawing out only the timely fundamentals the subject has to offer.  I paint but I’m not a painter and so much of painting theory is new to me as my work connects with it.  I am most interested, not in ‘looking up’ (researching the material theories behind the work I have made) but in ‘stumbling upon’ (or as I like to think of it – being ‘drawn to’), finding theory rise to the surface as I follow a curiosity about something (else entirely?).

Today my train of thought went something like this:

adaptation / of a species (Swallowtail Butterfly) / objects in a new environment / changing (to) function / elasticity – an elastic art / a play on plasticity – a plastic art / what defines a plastic art? / what is the definition of the element ‘value’ ?

Plastic art normally refers to sculpture but is also (less often) used to differentiate visual arts (painting, sculpture, film, photography) from literature and music.  So a derivation of plastic – elastic – might be a useful term to describe a situation in which subjective stories weave around functionless (albeit personally symbolic) objects in contrast to a situation where (as viewers to a work of art) we look to identify the certain stories that are enshrined (signed) in ready-made objects?

Value in colour theory speaks of how light or dark something is on a scale of white to black with black having the lowest value.  It sets the structure of a realistic painting i.e. if you translated a colour painting into black and white it would retain its realism.   In these terms grey areas – gradations of grey – are redefined to denote certain spaces in relation whereas the opposite poles of black and white may serve to create an abstraction, ambiguity, active tension in their arrangement?

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