Op writing : text ornamenting vision

Speight, Amanda Gaye (2008) Op writing : text ornamenting vision. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The decorative and the textual have a complex and uneasy entanglement within the history and practice of modernist art. Sometimes celebrated as critical modernist strategies, sometimes denigrated or repressed as the opposite of Art, the decorative and the textual were understood as "foreign" forms that variously endangered, or, in turn, invigorated the power of art.

My creative practice, which includes installation, painting, photography, text and an exhibition catalogue, exploits and explores this decorative and textual instability within modernist art practice. In my work, (visual) codes conventionally associated with the fields of writing and pattern, are re-examined and problematised by placing them within the context of visual art. When writing and pattern become the subject of painting there is an intriguing oscillation, complication and dialogue between the spaces and codes of reading and seeing, writing and pattern, the decorative and the abstract.

The thesis also explores the decorative and textual instability within modernism by analysing some key contradictory moments in aesthetic thought and arts practice. In the writings of Clement Greenberg, a "decorative" painting is deemed the highest achievement of modernist abstract painting but to arrive at this goal, the decorative must be used against itself. In Frank Stella's early abstract paintings, decorative patterns structure the work, and yet the artist and his commentators only see the work as a kind of pure, abstract painting. In Lawrence Weiner's statement-sculptures, the terse, laconic text, that nominates materials and processes, is thought to be a "direct" form of art information that would remain unchanged even in reproduction. But as Weiner's work is reproduced in journals and magazines, this "direct" form of art is complicated through a variety of reproductive forms - documentary photographs, transcription errors and differences in the visual format and typography of the text.

In these key moments of contradiction, concepts such as the decorative and the textual, that have often been regarded as peripheral to visual art, will be shown to have central significance in analysing its specific qualities.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16611
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: McNamara, Andrew & Webb, Mark
Additional Information: Recipient of 2007 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award
Keywords: arts practice, art history-theory, contemporary visual arts, Clement Greenberg, ornament and modern art, Frank Stella, text and modern art, Lawrence Weiner, ODTA
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Department: Faculty of Creative Industries
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Amanda Gaye Speight
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:07
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2013 01:30

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