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Architecture / Art / Neuroscience

In the project Neurotopographics Hugo Spiers, Antoni Malinowski and  Bettina Vismann set out to explore notions of space in art, architecture and neuroscience. As part of the project Hugo interviewed Antoni in November 2006 about his work as an artist. This arose from Hugo's curiosity from reading a review by Mark Rappolt of Antoni's work THRESHOLDscapes.

"malinowski’s lines stalk you as you move around the gallery space. they swarm behind pillars and crouch into corners. the rhythmic dashes and lines sway this way and that, and, like some spatial metronome, appear to mark time, capturing every moment of your movement through the room."

Our art collaborator: Antoni Malinowski

Image (c) Antoni Malinowski

"his work escapes the canvas to cover a building’s walls, malinowski exploits architecture not as a singular fixed entity, but as a plurality of possible worlds, as an illusory reality, a space of shifting sand. perhaps in doing this he comes closer than many architects to an understanding what space really is."

(c) Mark Rappolt

To hear the interview < click here >

Below is a transcript of the interview:

H = Hugo

A = Antoni

H

How do you think about space?

A

It seems to me that Architects think very differently about space. They think about space in terms of a diagram. This is their training. Their training is diagrammatic thinking, about space. And this diagram by definition has to be all encompassing. From my position - I am not saying all architects are like this - but trainings etc. From my position, I do not think about space in this way. But in a, you may say, a much more reduced way. So it is not all encompassing. It is a way of trying to see the interaction of the 3 and 2 dimensions. Because this is my subject. My subject is 2 dimensions.

H

When you say 2 dimensions, do you mean painting onto a flat surface in a three dimensional world? Or do you have another meaning there?

A

By 2 dimensions I mean it is a flat surface. It’s the flatness. But these dimensions are in relation to the three dimensions by definition in our culture. Painting doesn’t exist without architectural space. I cannot paint this painting [pointing to painting in studio] and hang it on the willow tree out there. I can do it of course, but it makes no sense what so ever. It makes sense if I take on a position of an aboriginal artist and make a sand drawing down there, a landscape way of working. But in our culture. This particular tradition is not so. We have been for two thousand years or more linked to architecture. So this interaction interests me. This is excites me, this is my subject. This is where I get excited. The link between the 2 and the 3 dimensions. The interaction and what happens at this junction.

And then there is the fourth dimension of time. Which is of course also very much part ofg this interaction. So this is really 4 dimensions and then 2. Now, what I believe is that dimensions are foldable. What happens in painting, is that the 4 dimensions are folded into two, through the brush strokes and the substance of paint.

This is the basis of my work.

H

The interaction between the four dimensions and the two.

A

The folding. Which you can see this happening. It is a fact of life, nevertheless in western tradition there has never been a comprehensive theory about this. Only the ancient Chinese truly understood this and took it on board as the basis of their art. In calligraphy, the speed of the brush stroke is part of the perception.

H

They are incorporating the fourth dimension of time in their work

A

That’s right and this understood, this is read.

[We now stand in front a large painting constructed by artist and hung in his studio].

H

So when you make your paintings such as the one we are looking at now When an observer is looking at painting, are you trying to affect their eye to move along the brush stroke, to perceive the brush stroke, it is touching into fact they you laid it at a certain time.

A

So each brush stroke is separate. You can see every brush stroke. It is done so you can read or imagine the time. Not only because of the multiplication, but also the actual gesture. It happens in time.

H

Looking at the brush strokes you have a sense of how each one was made, how brush stoke was laid on the canvas.

A

There is no way of erasing it. What I think happens perceptually, is that those dimensions sort of unfold.

H

So the view is forced to interact with space.

A

I believe, there is some sort of unfolding.

H

When the observer sees your painting

A

Any painting. Not necessarily mine.

This sort of intuitive, but not quite, this is how I sort of feel this is how it is.

H

Do you have this unfolding in mind when you are constructing your painting?

That the observer later will be pulling out these unfoldings?

A

Yes, that’s right

H

Is the unfolding a constant process?

A

Well no, there is a compositional contrast.

[artist draws attention to a large area of the canvas covered with a greyish wash with large brush strokes]

Often there is a large area that is painted differently with a large brush and then some other areas that are very intricate.

[Artist indicates an area of fine brush strokes]

So this is how I build this construct.

H

So what’s interesting for me is the way you are working over the space, which is quite a large space. The observer has a large expanse where there is little form. It’s almost a void, with no form, little colour, but very intricate bits. There’s a lot of movement. You get the sense of a background and a foreground, but I not sure which is which as you might with a typically painting.

Is that something you play with?

A

Absolutely. I want you to experience something, which is not clearly identifiable.

I create a situation where you do not know where you are, and you don’t know what it is. So you have to make an effort. I want to take you to a mental area. And in order to do so I have all those tools, which are colour, rather delicious, and wonderful. So you are drawn into them. And I construct it in such a way that you want to go there.

So as viewer you notice something and you go off… This mental space, where I want you to be is my way of communicating something to you. But it is all done in a language of painting it is not really definable. To do something like this in words is not really definable. A poet would have to write a poem.

H

You use different levels of unfolding. There are areas with more dynamic brush strokes.

I am not an artist. I have no training in art. I spend my time thinking about how the brain represents the space. So it is very interesting for me to understand how you think about it.

A

I think there is another answer to it. Which may be relate to the grid we make in our brain as we explore. I think something like this happens here. When you start a painting, you have an undifferentiated canvas.

[We now stand next to a blank canvas]

It can be anything. Anything you want. This is always the most difficult thing, because there is nothing. It is the situation of complete nothingness.

H

We touch earlier on the distinction between painting on a canvas and painting on a room. What is the difference?

A

And here is the difference. That is the point. Because a room already has a door it has a window, it has some beams of light. These are the elements that interact immediately. It has a certin light, a way the light falls, things I can already start relating to.

Here [pointing at canvas] I have nothing, nothing to relate to. Okay there are the edges, here is the side, but this an abstract situation.

So what happens the minute I put a line here. Or a patch of colour I begin to create space. So my brain begins to generate the grid and it can go any way you like. So the next layer generates another layer of grids, and the next move another one and so on. And this is never ending complexity and there is no end to it. In the final work there is a final number of those grids if you like. But it varies from view to view. With really accomplished paintings of old masters you can have a whole life studying them, and then you may still see something else, on a bright morning or on a dark afternoon, because those paintings were worked on for a long time. This is the way I like to work; I like to work for along time. Because I like to work with those spatial complexities and pushing them as far as I can.

So here for example [we look at the details in the painting]

Where I play with the fact that you can see this configureation in several different way simultaneously you can see this as if you are looking down on something in a huge landscape. You can see this as being underwater, or maybe it’s something tiny and it’s a magnification.

H

I also don’t know whether these are fixed forms, are these a rock bed, a mountain or a group of swarm of animals.

A

And this is sort of flatter. So this in a strange way counteracts this reading. So you think maybe it’s not like this. Maybe this pierces this whole space, while this [patch of colour] is an off shoot of this and it’s like a plant. Then this [other bit] is another situation. Is this hanging like a cloud or is it fixed ground or the original ground on which this other thing entered. So all those different things happen simultaneously and I hold this together. In order for me to hold this together I can always remember that this is a two dimensional surface. And I must never go too far from it. So I mustn’t create an illusion which is too trope doyle (?) Because that would distort, destroy the whole reading

So I have to always keep it, at a certain relationship to the surface, so it’s always just a surface. And very delicately those spaces are suggested.

H

You are not designing this with a strong sense of projection from the image.

Much more, an attempt at ambiguities, a subtlety in the different layers.

Colour plays a large role in your work. What have you learnt about using colour with space?

… Interview continues (end of transcript).

Page last modified on 18 feb 11 12:25