What Painting Knows

What Painting Knows was a painting research event at Wimbledon College of Arts. It consisted of a panel discussion between artists Simon Burton, Kaye Donachie, Mark Fairnington and Nadine Feinson. The discussion was chaired by Tom Helyar-Cardwell and supported by Geraint Evans and Zoe Mendelson.

The central idea was based on Hanneke Grootenboers argument that painting is a type of thinking. This concept was also discussed by Derrida who claimed that painting can embody or articulate truth. Derrida described the four ways that this can be done: a presentation of a presentation, a presentation of a representation, a representation of a presentation and a representation of a representation.

The panelists debated the idea of painting as a type of knowledge, with Kaye Donachie claiming that what painting knows is always at the edge of consciousness. Donachie went on to say that art can transmit unconventional ideas in unconventional ways and in this respect it is akin to poetry. She titles her paintings like a poem and constructs her shows like a poem. She noted that art is, and should be, mystifying, and that it takes an interaction between the painting and the viewer to reveal the ‘truth’.

Simon Burton echoed this idea when he said that uncertainty is painting’s strength. Mark Fairnington remarked that he often only knows the meaning of a painting once it has been made. Nadine Feinstein concurred that although when we begin painting often we don’t know what the outcome will be there is a process of thinking through painting. The painting, in the end, embodies all those thoughts, ideas and knowledge. Perhaps we can draw on the thoughts of the painter Frank Auerbach to sum up the theme of the discussion. Auerbach said that his paintings are the end result of a coming together of complex thought processes on a given subject. This echoes the ideas of the panel who gave an interesting account of the complex thoughts and activities that go together to make up a painting.


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