Movement is different in sculpture and painting. By movement I do not mean capturing something in movement or even moving things around as in a kinetic sculpture. Movement starts firstly as the harnessing of actions made in a “fluid decision space”, where things can change and adjust as they take shape. Secondly it is about our eyes’ responses to differences. We have evolved as a species to scan a distant horizon and they swoop our gaze to a scrutinise something held in our hands; to be aware of a bead of sweat trickle down our brow and regard a hazy distortion of form when we squint to make sense of it. These sudden switches of scale are part of our spatial perception mechanisms.
Movement is what we do when our eyes apprehend differences. In sculpture it could be a part to part juggling of spatial relationships - giving the eyes more complex part to part relationships is to build in an experience of movement as we both look and - literally - move and look...in time.
In painting which is instantaneous in looking, this movement can be within the surface facture itself – any difference, however subtle, imparts movement as we regard the change and quality of this difference. Thus the whole surface of a painting can be alive to our eyes – not just dependent upon changes of colour, texture, contrast and scale (already significant) but those of facture too. A whole expressively fluid space can open up with attention given to these concrete elements. Also the visceral quality of seeing the surface in the flesh as we stand there, breathing, moving back and forth, shifting our weight from side to side. The whole experience of seeing art hinges on movement. Our eyes are extraordinary "machines", sensitive receptors creating our field of vision, ever moving, alert and responsive to the slightest changes of state.
Imagery has permeated our collective visual experiences of the world. Imagery as a phenomenon stands as a contradiction to this fluidity of perception, being the regarding of a known (known “thematically” and perhaps more significantly known as a “physical / visual” experience) rather than discovered - ergo perceived. Imagery is composed to a ‘norm’ rather than constructed out of a reflexive visual ‘necessity’.
Sociologically speaking , how often do we know hear the phrase “it was like” or even “I was like” in common parlance? Just consider this phrase; it is an offering up of the regarding of an image to make a point or a comparison - an invitation to the person being conversed with to stand alongside the conversation and together the unfolding scenario can be “viewed”. There is a case to be made that this is also an example of a loss of ‘authority’ in one’s sense of judgement. We no longer hear ‘I said’ which is clearly more authoritative a remark. Recounting the information through one’s one personal viewpoint; by contrast “it was like” as a phrase deflects the responsibility for one’s remarks to the third party of the ‘fictitious screen’.
We are seeing things that were once ‘active’ phenomena becoming ‘passive’, as a consequence of our addiction to screens which is turning us all into passive onlookers.
What are the implications for how we deal with space in our artwork? The space seen through the screen - however animated – is essentially a rectangular fixed point in space. Although this is a description of a painting from one point of view, the surface is the key point of departure – a screen having an uniformity of experience which locks out eye muscles rather than exercising them, whereas n when looking at a painting our eyes detect the most subtle shifts of viscosity or sheen. To covet the look of a screen would seem to massively compromise our evolutionary perception mechanisms. Take this back in time and put a modern person back in the stone-age. One wonders just how long they would survive - not noticing the on coming predator or missing the juicy berries. This is not being facetious: tests were conducted on schoolchildren who were split into two groups and told to play either as much computer gaming as they could manage over a week or to abstain completely. After the week they were interviewed and each time the interviewee “accidentally” knocked an object off the desk. Every pupil who abstaining from their virtual gaming, stooped to pick up the object, whereas, every pupil who pigged out in their virtual realities didn’t even flinch!
We can no longer depend on “context’ to make out art. We have to press on with visual discovery. It would seem to me that how we deal with the issue of movement will ultimately open up abstract space in unforeseen ways.