Fluid Signifiers: Abstraction as Figuration

By Richard Hook.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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To depict a fluid vision of the world and nature we need an alternative to figurative or photographic modes that are best suited to describing relatively static surface appearances. We need to be able to represent different forces, energies and movements in a dynamic field of changing physical states. However, choosing abstraction as a means to represent the physical world seems paradoxical. I want to explore this as it gives abstraction a powerful role to play in our efforts to represent the world as we experience it at the macroscopic level. I will argue that the meanings of abstraction, figuration and realism have to evolve with our changing understanding of reality and that the origins of abstraction in transcendentalism and a will to autonomy have obscured a parallel tradition of empirical concerns in abstract art that I want to affirm. The paper will draw on my own landscape painting and graphic work, John R. Searle’s philosophical ideas on representation and consciousness, semiotics and the theory of modality markers advanced by Kress and van Leeuwen.

Keywords: Abstraction, Figuration, Realism, Modalities

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 6, Issue 2, June 2015, pp.17-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 907.636KB).

Dr. Richard Hook

Honorary Fellow, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia