Rome: Pictorial Space, the picture plane and Mike Nelson, part 2 (return to Het Steen?)

To end this discussion, does all this musing on art in Rome have anything to do with Nelson and, going further back in these posts, does it have anything to do with Rubens and Het Steen? Can I make the connections? Well do you know, I think I can.

Starting with Nelson, what makes him interesting and what makes him stand out for the new generation of artists? It is the combination of narrative, conceptual clarity and high craft; integrity and sophisticated understanding of the possibilities of ‘pictorial space’.

He is very clear, rightly so, that he is not building a stage set, a set for something to happen in front of. This is art space, art space that you walk into. Therefore it can contain all the conceptual implications you might wish to bring. We ‘read’ it in the same way we ‘read’  a painting, we walk round the spaces in the same way our eyes walk round the space behind the open window of a painting.

The difference is that the crucial relationship to the picture plane of all illusory objects/ gestural marks/ colour fields etc in a painting is tangible, measurable almost. Whereas in a Nelson, that picture plane is conceptual, embodied in our consistent recourse to narrative, i.e. the relationship of one form to another through time/ space and causal relationship. One is actual, the other conceptual; in essence (in artworld) the same.

And Het Steen? Het Steen is all about the house, an illusory object in pictorial space in conceptual space, the house of the successful artist. The lights are on, we have walked out of the house to admire it, or we are perhaps approaching it for the first time. The House is a series of spaces we will encounter that have a series of potential narratives, each vital to the artist. Our conceptual route to them and through them is equally vital to our understanding of the work, hence the emphasis on paths and journeys in the painted landscape.

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