cvs_centar za vizualne studije

Skupovi: Slika i anti-slika. Julije Knifer i problem reprezentacije

Ernest Ženko, Univerza na Primorskem, Koper

Između apstraktnog i konkretnogKniferov Meandar kao potpis

Two fundamental questions cut through the sphere of abstract painting since its beginning. The first one, related to the very nature of abstraction itself, ask a deceptively simple question: how do we recognize an abstract painting? Even though, at least at an intuitive level, the answer seems to be straightforward, because we recognize an abstract painting when we see one, a thorough theoretical determination or even a definition of an abstract painting proves to be much more difficult. Namely, from any relation to an established aesthetical concept (representation, mimesis, expression, etc.) there follows a host of new dilemmas and equally challenging problems. The second question, which intrigued pioneers of abstract painting themselves, is related to the value of an abstract painting, which ceased to be appreciated because of a distinctive relation between a painting and its referent, but demands a development of a new set of specific rules and norms. Emancipation of abstract painting, which is one of the most important achievements of modernist art, demands a reevaluation of relationships between sensory and conceptual, or in another context, between general and individual. In contrast to painting, which – at least in general – works through representation, and therefore creates meanings and values on a basis of a relation to distinct visual sense data, abstract painting forms meanings within the sphere of conceptual or general. If mimetic painting, in its medium, renders an individual (concrete) fragment of visual reality, abstract painting, on the other hand, tends to expose general truths that surpass the level of phenomena and enter the domain of conceptual. Painting, in this sense, becomes anti-painting.

Any particular analysis of the relation between painting and anti-painting (or, in general, of image and anti-image) highlights the deficiencies of this scheme, which serves as a starting point for a further discussion. It is not difficult to realize that – as already pointed out by G. W. F. Hegel – one should reverse the understanding of abstract and concrete. Mimetic painting is in its essence abstract, because it extracts (or abstracts) a fragment from the world and treats it as a separate entity; abstract painting, on the other hand, uses concrete means to achieve its goals and therefore deserves to be properly called concrete. It is, moreover, not necessary to see the gap between the two as absolute, and several authors think of abstraction as emerging in grades (e.g. Richard Wollheim) or variations (e.g. Miško Šuvaković).

We will, for the sake of this research, preserve the aforementioned division, and use it in the case of Julije Knifer, one of the most interesting and idiosyncratic, but also enigmatic abstract painters. Knifer put a lot of his energy to one specific endeavor –creation of a recurring motive of meander. The initial point of this discussion is a thesis that Knifer’s meander plays a role of signature, and that in this sense his paintings perform a process of deconstruction of the relation between abstract and concrete, and open up new possibilities for interpretation of his painting and, moreover, abstract paintings as such. The effect of signature is always double – on the one hand, they express the identity of the author, and come into being after the work in finished. On the other hand, an author can be perceived because of the signature, as the result of a graphic inscription. In this research, we intend to follow Knifer’s meander as a signature through semiotic analysis, tied to the context of Plato’s Cratylus, a dialogue on common names.