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"Inclusional" concepts of "co-creativity," within the discipline of painting.

by Andrew Henon


The practice and discipline of painting is a complex process. In order to understand the relevance of emerging theories of inclusionality and co-creativity to painting a brief description of the different approaches to painting is required.


Painting is the production of a dialogical artefact a means of communication and a conversation. As the cultural, socio political and environmental conditions have changed so has the discipline of painting. Painting has developed either simultaneously or as a response or catalyst of change. Whilst text and words have been the dominant academic means of communication it is arguable that painting and the visual image has been more influential in the shaping of our world. At very least it has influenced our lives the way we see and perceive the world around us.


Whilst it is to a certain degree necessary to be able to "read" a painting the visual spatial encounter with it is instantly recognisable as an object, unlike text that requires the complexity of language and words, structures, grammar and a complete canon of underlying knowledge before communication can begin. That is not to say that painting or the reading of paintings is not also subject to an underlying canon of knowledge merely that our responses are different.


The levels of engagement with the content of painting are immediate and possibly more easily sustained. This may be because our first marks as humans were abstract painting, patterns or representations either of a perceived experience or expression of communication that only later developed through hieroglyphs towards a written language. Painting may precede text and it may even precede verbal communication. It is not difficult to imagine how the use of non verbal communication and body language developed into drawing as an extension of communication. A drawing on the ground would be a natural progression from a gesture of the hand.


As our verbal language and communication has developed and changed so has our written text. Our visual spatial communication has also developed and changed in line with the complex world we ourselves have created. Visual language has been long understood for itís abilities to penetrate deep into our psyche very quickly and for this reason is used together with music to even greater effect in marketing and advertising.


The basic simplified nature of the dialogue.


The conversation can begin from a number of positions and any combination of them.


  • The first position entails a thought in the mind, a concept and its ongoing manifestation into the visual object
  • The second position begins with the action of doing, without preconceived ideas or thoughts as to what the painting may or may not be.
  • The third position is the relationship and as such may not be described as a position it is a fluid dynamic relationship it moves between the first two in a reflective process.

It is this third position or relationship that may be considered as the co-creativity of approach.


The dialogue is full of content, methodology and approaches. There are embedded within the process decisions that are made that will both form and inform the process. This decision making process includes considerations of:


  • Materials
  • Spatial Environment and Context
  • Intent or non intent
  • Subject
  • The interrelationship between

All of these considerations and decisions made accordingly come together in a process to produce the final object or outcome. These elements are further complicated and either built on or eroded by the relationships and conditions that the painting encounters in the wider world.


A painting does not stay fixed it is open to interpretation open to an ongoing dialogue with the viewer in whatever context it is viewed. The painting may change over time both in physical makeup and social context. The content may mean different things in different settings or environments. A painting can be a co-creative process not limited to one maker both literally and metaphorically. A painting may start as intent, an idea and it is always subject to interpretation of misinterpretation by the viewer.


A painting may be said to be co-creative with nature when nature has been directly involved in the making not only as the use of materials is not without natural influence to begin with. This applies to the nature of the environment within which the painting has been produced and to an extent the very subject of its production.


In my thirty years as an artist and with my first discipline of painting as the underlying bedrock of my practice. I have moved from representational depiction, through surrealism, impressionism, abstraction expressionism, modernism and minimalism to the stage at which I know find my practice. I have for many years considered the removal in so far is possible the ego from my work. This has been to the extent where I have found my role in socially engaged practice to be without authorship. I have also been fascinated by a co-creative relationship with nature a way of painting that lets go of the "Artist" as being the decision maker the controlling hand.


The most recent works expose the paintings to the elements of nature in the making, wind, and rain. Nature works on the surface, through the works materials, changes them and co-creates the final piece. It is a final piece that does not remain fixed it changes further into the future in a process of becoming rather than merely being.


Separation and relocated self


Title: "Separation and relocated self"  Materials: Marine Ply, Gesso and Nicotine  Size 2 of 4´ x 4´ making one piece 4´ x 8´


The ideas and underlying concepts of "Inclusionality" and "co-creativity" provide a different approach and perspective for both my own practice and the field of socially engaged and participatory socially engaged arts a field generally referred to as "Community arts"


These theories provide models of engagement that are neither exclusively competitive nor exclusively co-operative. The theories provide ideas of another approach one that uses a principle of co-creativity and in the stating the idea itself that our behaviour need not be competitive or co-operative opens up a completely new landscape for exploration as to how this may be applied in a socially engaged arts setting.


I think that these theories have brought new light into and onto a deeper understanding of my own practice. I have found a relevance to my work as an artist not found in the contextualisation of my work within the arts. Much more insight has been achieved through questioning my relationship with theories of "Inclusionality" and the concept of "co-creativity" than I have been able to gain from the critical and contextual positioning of my work in my own discipline of visual arts practice and theory.



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