Project 4.3 – Ex. 4.3: Reflective exercise

Relationships with materiality (contextual focus)

‘What does it mean to give agency to the material, to follow the material and to act with the material?’ – Lange-Berndt, 2015:13

Why do I choose what I choose for painting? What are the qualities I explored and perhaps could explore deeper?

  • My favourite ‘traditional’ painting material tend to be oil paint, on the one hand with a full bodily texture, long to modify, resisting a fast drying. On the other hand diluted down to a dripping liquid For the same reason that I like to paint with ink, specifically to let it ‘drip down’. Especially on Perspex or rhenalon oil paint dries very slowly, what appeared to be a great hurdle in developing and exploring those materials, thus often I moved to acrylic paint although with weaker performance of transparent layers.
  • My favourite material approach tend to be transfer processes, acrylic transfer. This goes often alongside a more ‘skin-peel’ approach as dry acrylic paint gets of the ground with a shiny smooth surface on one side.
  • My favourite artist attitude to material is that of bodily exploration, in proximity, a tactile approach, feeling material, a kinaesthetic experience. To notice how painting media is covering and interacting with a surface (liquid oil, ink). Also to work with ‘non-traditional’ media, as mud-dispersion or liquid shellac supporting a performative aspect of painting.
  • My favourite supporting material tend to be paper, what moved over time to transparent, translucent materials, e.g. perspex, mylar but also un-stretched canvas, rather textile. A flexibility of material, with a breathe of their versatile features.
  • Then there are two other media that I like but not sure how this can be played with:
    – Water: a medium I like for its versatility, and that I consider rather as paint than as solvent. On the other hand it is a tool, more versatile than a brush through spraying and flowing around. But it also as this feature of reactive, opposing, not wanting being absorbed e.g. by oil paint.
    – Light: light is performative, reflections are non-substance pictures performed by light. 

At times, those get mixed, and my fingers touch the oil paint and the transfer is embedded with my body traces.

My verbal response to characteristics :

  • Oil paint: the touching eye, the seeing skin
  • Water: versatile, existential, life
  • Transfer: multiplicity, difference
  • Paper: absorbing, fragile, versatile
  • Transparent : a mindset? multiplicity
  • Body: my kinaesthetic preference and sensing of the world? Being and feeling alive
  • Light: without, the eye is blind

What it tells about my material approach?

A versatile, experimental attitude toward discovery of unnoticed traces and evidence. A kinaesthetic approach that is missing in a digital, screen based realm. A phenomenological approach, embracing the Gestaltung through materials. Figure and ground, just a viewpoint, both to look at, both to explore.

In summary

The paint and the surface, an equal relationship. Paint as material embeds, but also absorbs. The surface absorbs, but also entangles.

Me and material, an equal relationship. Performative gestures on both sides. Control and chance as well. A dialogue of listening and response.

Reflecting this way on what I did and why, makes me aware that there could be a common pattern. A unique approach perhaps, that can be informed by those specific characteristics? Something to see how to do, a quest.

How to Be Complicit with Materials? (Lange-Berndt)

The text looks at agency of materials from a post-human perspective. On the one hand material that is informed by social constructed notions, e.g. gendered materials (?), and on the other hand autonomous acting materials beyond matter with a life in itself. How to bring these together? From the reading I felt as if the author tries to argue for approaching materials innocently, quite in context of Ruskin’s notion of the ‘innocent eye’, a footnote to ignore or put aside the world we are growing up in. Nonetheless, there is certainly something in it that resonates: material versus a thing, a thing is made out of material, substance and is through a production process exposed to thought. What relates to Serra’s ‘Verb list’ as acting on material with the artist being the subject. The author relates the process of change to a Marxist notion of alienated production as well as to the Platonic idea of transcendent ideas (material turns into matter) that exceed the material world, a position she links to Modernism. Both viewpoints are anthropocentric perspectives and the author votes for an expansion beyond this central focus. She notes that material culture in that sense relates to anthropology, human made-things out of material.

An interesting shift happens when the author refers beyond material and matter to contemporary view of ‘materiality’ where physicality is not any longer a condition, e.g. sound, language. This approach resonates wrongly due to my interest in sound (through my collaborative project with music student Vicky) and light (partly explored in assignment 3 as the material that allows appearance of reflections) as materials. However, it is hard to grasp, reminds me of the cause and effect dilemma. To take sound as an example, it relates to our senses and to a subject, e.g. a piano, that makes the sound through time-frequency patterns. In other words, it is a sender-relationship transmitted through a medium, eg. air. Language, spoken or written would be similar. In comparison to paint, where the light is the transmitting medium between the materiality of paint and the receiving eye. It seems to me sound is more similar to color than to paint as material.

The author refers to ‘mono-ha’ as an approach to look at material as a passage, a performance and structure through which things reveal their existence. Viewpoint that I also came across in the recent art&environment at SBLJ. I take from this that a material in itself, that includes any non-human substance, can be attended to, listened to. However, it will go through a process of sensing and cognition, conception and abstraction to derive meaning from this attentive moment. The author puts this into context of the ‘Eigenleben’ (life in itself) and the post-human new realism conception of ‘vibrant matter’ as described by Karen Barad (p.17).

The author refers to Elizabeth Grosz who herself refers to Deleuze who took ‘sensation as that which subject and object share, yet is not reducible to either subject or object or their relation. Sensation is what art forms from chaos through the extraction of qualities’ (Grosz, 2008:19). In that sense, I can relate to material process and acting on: a dialogue between me and the material, once I make e.g. a stroke and the material responds, resists, performs, depending on structure and surrounding conditions. A ‘materiality-effect’ or a phenomenon of materiality (p.17). Something the author relates to the ‘Materialästhetik’ by stating:

Possibilities of materials should be set free without turning them into commodities – p.15

This description can be certainly argued with when talking about art in the form of objects, e.g paintings, sculptures, installations.

to follow the material means not to discuss aesthetic issues .. but to investigate transpersonal societal problems and matters of concern – p. 16

This notion seems to me a bit too restrictive as it puts an anthropocentric view on material that the author a few pages before criticised. I am wondering what it means to paint in oil paint from a material perspective?

However, what I find intriguing is the ‘follow the material’ pathway through crossing boundaries of discipline and to look beyond the circle of art, it means to go to places where a specific material is of concern.

If one want to to be complicit with materials, it is not enough to point to the fact that some objects are made out of …. The point is to understand the history of the material used, to research other context in which they were applied, to follow their traces, … to embrace the carnevalesque, the popular, the excessive. – p.20

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld, 2019: latex paint skin - stretching - displining - performing

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld, 2019: latex paint skin – stretching – displining – performing



  • Material and attention to materiality opens up new views and sensations. To stay a tuned with materiality means to stay in a dialogue with the material.
  • The embrace the history of a material means to put it into a human perspective of reality and cultural conceptions (what includes all political, racial, and gender issues)
  • To look beyond the art-realm means to interrogate with material in a wider cultural and environmental sense.
  • It seems as to leverage a material through art practice would automatically address political and cultural issues, e.g hair is not innocent when placed in art space.
  • For my practice it means to be aware and to make conscious decisions, and to look at relationship between subject matter and material. An aspect my tutor highlighted in our last tutorial.
  • I am intrigued by sound as ‘material’ or medium as it will be a large part of my collaborative and parallel project. How to paint with sound, or rather how sound can transform spaces.


  • featured image and Fig. 1 works by SJSchaffeld, 2019 (from P4P2)


  • Grosz, E. (2008) Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth. [Scribd]. At: (accessed 05 May 2019)
  • Lange-Berndt, P. (2015). ‘Introduction / How to Be Complicit with Materials’. In: Lange-Berndt, P., ed. Materiality, Documents of Contemporary Art. London: Whitechapel Gallery and The MIT Press, pp. 12 – 23.


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