Jonathan Miles
‘Notes From a Cloud: Constable Country
The Painting of Filippo Caramazza’

Catalogue essay for Filippo Caramazza, “Notes From a Cloud: Constable Country”
15 November – 17 December, 2014


“In order to think, thought is to be abandoned.”1

In order to paint, painting is to be abandoned. Abandoned paintings or painting of abandonment: we cannot take anything for granted.

These paintings, so modest, at times seemingly withdrawn or lost within a labyrinth of their own presentation, oscillate within a region surely unmarked by the glare of public time. So is then a setting composed within the dimming of time or its faded withdrawal? But surely these are not grim paintings on the basis that they withdraw themselves from the optical overload of the exposed present? Surely something is at stake, that something is being tested, but then, what?

Images pile on images, twisting and folding as they do so, this way and then that, a never- ending labyrinth of this way and then that. I suspect that this painter likes that writer who was so taken by the same figure. But then to follow the lead that this might be a form of literary painting might be fateful turn because these are far from being narrative painting. Yet I am still certain that Borges figures incessantly but in ways that are not always obvious. Another page is turned: the words disappear for a moment then fall into focus. What am I in search of? Visual pleasure folded into devices of exposure? Lingering around the edge of a canvas is not the place to find answers but then this is probably a good reason to linger there. Is that what I need to do: linger, linger yet more and then sink into? Withdrawal was evoked but there are whole passages of pleasure to be found lingering on the edges, inspecting the folds, discovering the blind spots in what could be described as the drift within the in-between. Yet is this too say or claim too little, after all it would be absurd to claim the pleasure of a book is to be found in turning pages or inspecting margins even though tiny pleasures might be claimed in the absorption of type face or texture of paper. I am simply wishing to point out a resistance to the virtue of direct apprehension that would summon up descriptions to be then layered over first by concepts with the final flourish of speculation to be added in order that a jouissance of kind might be evoked.

If I had to lead a way out of such devices of reading it would be toward the sense of exposure, being exposed in the act of exposure and in this case the exposure of painting within the act of painting. To be exposed is always inflected by something that cannot be touched or known. Venture to say that this process attaches itself to an almost indefinable loss, suffering even, but whatever it is required that the author might discover that the place of meaning is always elsewhere and that each painting, no matter what its resolve, can only repeat the disappointment that demands its own disguise or covering over. As a detour from this it is not that this exposure is in any way obscene but the risk of obscenity is only that it masks a yet more hidden, even subtle condition. We cannot pursue intentions because for in order to be properly a work, intentions have to be surrendered. The painter is a painter after all of surfaces through which processes of discharge occur. To paint surfaces is also to bring things to the surface, like bringing things to the boil but those things are closer to the yet to be thought or figured so surface in this sense is connected to remoteness.

On the surface of things these paintings play with surfaces in ways that are not altogether likely. From one moment to the next they might open out a surprise, occasion humour, spiral around irony, then oscillate within the in-between, present misrecognition, annul symbolic certainty and discharge logic. They set in motion all these possibilities as a route of gesturing of possibility but the counterpart of possibility to be found within withdrawal. All of this is connected to the sense that time itself is manifold, and in this manifold, congregation is fractured. This in turn implies a complex construction of the relationship between temporality and the image.

What are the various vectors opened between the memory image, the repetition of this within the present and the leap into the unmarked abstraction of a ‘future yet to come’? Rather than the act of painting providing clues as to how time might be synthesized into continuity we have quite the opposite finding and that is then that the subject is fractured by it in ways that they the repetition of the self-same is related to what is ‘out of joint’. This then is why answers cannot be provided but a condition of novelty can be presented setting in view a displacement of the fractured relations of subject, image and temporality. Displacement here could also indicate unmarked or limit: pure. There is of course a look that resonates with another look, appearing in turn to be looping around without recourse to the claim of progress (a bad infinity?) but what is perhaps closer to the case the relationship of temporality is emptied of the indices. Whereas in the process of collage we have a discernible cut or series of cuts, in this work, we have instead, something closer to the figure of a caesura around which elements are stretched out either side of suspension (as opposed to being severed). The process of the stretching out of this before and after of time through which the image passes, provides inflections within the image that lead to a feeling of not enough or too much. These painting thus appear to oscillate between a condition of measured excess and abysmal emptiness. When presented in serial form they operate through a series of tilts, imbalances, slippages, and syncopations. Like the very trail of desire, they are seemingly asymmetrical (or thrown) because completion is almost invariably elsewhere to the place that it might be revealed. As painting they posit an elsewhere to the technologised frontality of vision that aligns the visual image with the screen (in this context vision is rendering as a grasp). The sense of the technological being embedded within the structure of the screen pertains not only to material support but also to an inherent nihilism framed by the phrase “a screen of indifference” which is the face of the instrumentalised rationality of the power structure.

As an art we are given over to insoluble tensions captured within surfaces alongside the accentuations of memory and the exteriority of the future. Within these tensions there is no occasioning of a grasp but rather a serialised entry and exit points without discernible demarcation. Above all else something is always slipping away. It is not that the surfaces of these works present such a slippage but that appear to be constituted out of an anxiety that such a perpetual slippage is embedded within the structure of desire that is also the motor force of their becoming in the first place. No line can be drawn between starting and ending, or if there are any lines, they do not lead in the same direction.

How can ‘that’ time become ‘this’ time, how can ‘that’ image, mutate into ‘this’ image? What is the difference between thinking something and imaging something? Wittgenstein said that we tend not to put the question deep enough down. Are these paintings this type of struggle of putting the question deep enough down? But would this then presume that this quest is on the side of language or at least the game of language? And what if deep enough down was all on the surface anyway? I once heard someone saying that Fillipo is a very thoughtful painter. For a moment I thought not the accumulation of thinking, but its granulation, thus a sprinkling of residues but then to pursue the idea of a thoughtful painter: would this lead us to the sense that his work is laden with concepts? Perhaps at this point we should re-occasion Kant’s notion that without percepts, concepts are empty. Concepts are in part defined by what is exterior to them, namely non-conceptual objects from which they arose. Thus painting can never really be subsumed by the concept and what is tested in this body of work is the distress that such a proposition might arise in the first place. Ideation is the means of securing distance (objectification) and distance is the means of securing a system that in turn provides the rule or measure. As opposed to this schema we are presented with intimate constellations that illuminate latent interior traces pertaining to the working of the image. Rather than distinct and clear object open to the penetration of the look and in turn the assertion of legibility, we are given over to sedimentations of the past, valorisations accrued from left over traces, the re-animation of forgotten vectors embedded in the particular image (or the image marked by particularity). This search for particularity gives rise to the figure of circularity and this figure lends constancy to the search. Something is being touched upon and that is all. Touched upon would here signify that there is a form that might be touched but then we might also be on the edge of a form giving away to something else, a fading, a loss or disarticulation in which things are not quite as they seem. Yet to pursue this sense of touching upon we might have a border region in which the imagination provides that momentary opening, a form of bliss in which vapour appears to dissolve boundary so what is touched upon is this condition.

Again. These paintings, so modest, moving but moving slowly across the terrain of their own making. At times they appear to be stuck in a rut quite unable to see there way out. They appear as works composed around attentions but then what painting is not about attention? We might even suppose that we already know these works because they appear to circulate around painting itself without suggestion of limit or end. They seem to remind us just how fast we are in this culture (circulating around itself), devouring the possibility of extension as it does so: incessant. Can work being knowing and telling at the same time or can it both show and say? Of course questions such as these can be raised but then they demonstrate a profound impatience with the aspect of art that is surely or inertly dumb. They are modest because they are on the side of refrain, so distinctly on the side of refrain, that attention appears to hover around refinements that accrue within painting as its own object of attention. Holding onto their own economy of making, they also touch upon abandonment, a discharge of loss repeated without signs of exhaustion. Just a tone, a set of phrases, a labour of making, a grain and a rubbing against the grain, is that what we are pointing towards. Painting is a lonely business, the work of long durations, sometimes filled by music drifting from an elsewhere (not included in the evidence being assembled).

The smell is always the same. This smell is connected to a dulling sensation born out of a need to forget the smell. The smell persists and the painting process works itself beyond this persistence by becoming persistence itself. There is a trail of scent that leads to immobility. Immobile painting. The entry point of each painting comes with a flurry of gestures, but each gives way until an exit point is reached in which all is at rest, other than the act of discovering the exit point. (Are these two points the last thing to be figured?) This is quite another sense of image, that is an arrival somewhere but sensing abandonment in this arrival. A point is required from which a gaze might be constituted. The painting passes through the very gap that is closed to the artist. The artist has finished the process of work and then the painting assumes this. This is the double sense of that the painting is a work. It quite literally starts to work (even when seemingly a failure) and this is why the term autonomy arose because it precisely indicates the continuation of work either side of subject or object. Yet in a move beyond the modernist glorification of autonomy as an attribute of the existence of a realm of freedom, autonomy should also be inflected by abandonment. Or at least this should be thought.

Fragile and intimate: these painting stand aloof from sentiment. There is a hidden dimension of labour that stirs a course between the sensible and the intelligible and yet collects traces of both. In this, the work is closer to the subject, as opposed to the condition of an object, because of this quality of being drawn back into itself. Back into itself and then ‘in itself’ but ‘in itself ‘ as a sense of a restored fragility. Passing over a world collected by that memory vehicle called art history, the optic born out of looking over and back gives way to an optic born out of fascination. Has history been passed over, giving way to a ploughing over of forms in a reforming of form? Giving itself away, passing through and over: painting as the reversal of itself, in order to become itself yet again. Something was there and is there again, a strife with what was and what is, in the promise of what will become, a becoming which never arrives, a double accentuation of grammatical ending, a process of becoming that skips a beat into the elsewhere.

I start to write an imaginary list relating to the designation of painting. Compiling lists might be the means of finding another trajectory but they also serve as cancellations or eliminations of thoughts passed over. I wonder if painting itself might proceed through such errant arbitration? What is sometimes a way of starting might be my way of finishing as if to throw the act of naming up in the air. Whereas the painting just has to discover a way of going on this writer has to find a way of ending: a labyrinth of always.

Speculative paintings: painting in search of what lies outside of itself
Jewish paintings: always wandering but not like Kafka, full of affliction.
Sedimented paintings: always the scrapings of, or in the layers of the left over.
Memory paintings: always forgetting the pathway.
Conceptual paintings: always in pursuit of the evasive idea.
Allegorical paintings: always one delay after another
Aphoristic paintings: always, in the words of Blanchot: “unmade according to the image.”
Untimely paintings: always anterior to their own time.
Abandoned paintings: always escaping the grid of representation.
Neurotic paintings: always in fear of the madness of art.
Philosophical paintings: always the question of painting neither the answer.

Always: just a case of starting a new painting. And yet again: as always.
In the end: a list of paintings becoming a body (a body stretching this way and that). Still moving. Always moving: just moving. Still.


1. Julia Holzl (2010) Transience NY: Atropos Press P33