The organisational principles we choose to underpin the pictorial logic of the worlds we construct in painting are hugely varied and offer myriad possibilities. In those worlds, imaginative solutions have been found to represent elements of experience fundamentally alien to static flatness, including space and time, constantly renewing the representational systems developed. In turn, these devices, often based on convention, feed back into how we experience the world. If a certain system is used long enough, our acceptance of it as the norm can hinder our ability to imagine beyond it.
Any epoch’s world view is a manifestation of complex factors including shifting belief structures, scientific discoveries and philosophical models, not to mention historical conditions. These contextual cues influence the art made, and many figurative painters choose to work with numerous historical specificities which respond to and reflect their time. However, in order to employ the tools available consciously, rather than through convention and conditioning, it is important to assess their validity and the implicit world views they embody.
Borrowing from literary theory and Bakhtin’s notion of the ‘chronotope’, the discussion will address the ways in which Western painting has confronted, to begin with, spatial limitations and, secondly, temporal limitations. Finally, the limitations and problematics imposed by a shifting world view where humanity is no longer the defining axis will be turned to in order to question painting’s role today.
To represent three-dimensionality on a two-dimensional surface, several projection systems have been created. Linear perspective, despite not accurately reflecting human vision, is still predominantly accepted as a valid organisational principle. Consequently, it will be taken as a case study, providing a brief overview of the implicit world view embedded within, its limitations and its inherent anthropocentrism. Time is an equally complicated dimension to include within the constraints of immobile flatness. The tools used to represent temporality will be explored by looking at examples where time has been employed symbolically, in conjunction with spatial systems or by breaking down these spatial conventions. Paintings from different periods will be referred to throughout.
Lastly, it will be argued that our contemporary reality requires a radical reimagination of pictorial space for painting to open itself up to the specificities of our age. We live in a world that could benefit from a perspective, beyond the human axis, which allows us to experience or evoke the Anthropocene. Paintings that offer a glimpse into how we can move beyond our subjective viewpoint will be discussed, assessing how space and time have been employed.
Is the spatiotemporal representational model needed to engage with the challenges of today’s reality beyond the limits of painting? Painting will never slow down the effects of human intervention on the world, but maybe it can adapt to incorporate a world view that allows humanity a glimpse of itself from outside itself. This external vantage point calls for a radical reimagining and renewal of the representational systems painters currently use in order to expand the available possibilities.
Elina Cerla is a painter and independent researcher in the process of forging her own figurative language. She brings to her practice a theoretical perspective which is a residue of her degree in Philosophy and Masters in Cultural Policy. In addition to pushing pigment around, she is interested in theorising through paint. Rather than consolidating the rift between theory and practice, she hopes to open a sphere where haptic and visual thought processes determine conceptual formulations.
Elina sought technical training from a wide array of teachers -including Amaya Gurpide, LARA (London), UCM (Madrid) and BAA (Barcelona), as well as workshops with Vincent Desiderio, Antonio López and Alex Kanevsky. She is currently exploring where figuration starts to break down and continuously contextualising and questioning the rules.
Elina runs ‘Visual Thinking’ classes that combine the teaching of technique with elements of art history, theory and neuropsychology, fuelled by her interest in the ways in which perception and the biology of vision can help overcome the hurdles faced when learning to draw and paint. She has exhibited in the United Kingdom, France and Spain, currently works between Paris and London and is curating an exhibition of figurative painting for the end of 2019.