Process Material Gesture
What you see is what you see Frank Stella, 1959
The aim of this lecture is to introduce ideas of process, material and gesture. The outcome of this session is that you will be able to define Process Art and identify artists, which belonged to it.
What is Process Art?
Kristine Stiles, 1996, wrote,
Process visualised both the actual conduct of materials and the behaviours of artists in their studios… What had begun in the 1940s, as attention to gesture in painting increasingly became a consciousness of how process informs practice at all levels from the studio to the support systems and institutions of art.
All art involves a process of creation. On the most basic level, a painting is composed of several layers of gesso, primer, colours and glazes. Traditional painting still employs a process despite its illusion to reality thus diminishing the trace of process. By acknowledging process in art, the artist brings it back to the realm of art and distinguishes its distance from the real.
Process Art began in the 1960s and was often characterised as abstract monochromatic works. Process painting also had a performative element in that is conveyed an action and evidenced time passing. It can highlight the artists’ touch or the lack of. Some artists employed mechanical processes to make their work and some used instruments other than the conventional paintbrush to apply paint. For example, Jason Martin, as seen here, dragged paint across the surface of his stretcher with a piece of wood longer in width than the canvas stretcher.
Yve Alain-Bois, 1990, wrote of how this style of painting was solely about process and without narrative,
Like the hunt for sources that used to take place in literary studies or the search for the motif in art history… the narrative of process establishes a primary meaning, an ultimate, originating referent that cuts off the interpretative chain. That is, an aesthetic of causality is reintroduced: …A (paintbrush) + B (paint) + C (support) + D (the manner in which these are combined) gives E (painting). There would be nothing left over in this equation. Given E, ABCD could be deciphered absolutely.
Therefore, Process Art was viewed as autonomous, and self-referential. It emphasised methods of working, but it did not completely banish all links to reality. Many artists have been inspired by their surroundings and sought out a new visual language to communicate it.
Jackson Pollock was an Abstract Expressionist artist inspired by nature. His drip paintings from the 1940s showed his involvement with the act of painting; he flung paint at his canvases, he poured and he dripped. The tangled marks and lines revealed the essence of nature and the hidden torment of his mind. He was interested in the essential components of painting: colour and line. His paintings were very physical: he painted vast pieces on the floor in various ways from sticks to turkey-basters. The work appears as a rhythmic performance or dance, full of movement and life. The process led the work and defined it.
A contemporary artist, Ingrid Calame has a more formal systematic approach to painting. Each piece is a trace of marks and stains found on pavements and roads, they have different locations giving context to the work. She uses layers of tracing paper to build the final image. Each piece traces one mark in a different colour until the final layer reveals a maze of abstract forms and colours. The work may refer to reality. But it is orchestrated by process. Process becomes the work.