writer and curator Benschop Jurriaan

5000 €

Why Painting Works

Painting is an art form that everyone knows, its history going back to early forms of human life. Yet for many people, paintings can also be a mystery, hard to relate to, scary in their silent existences, and associated with a specialized field of expertise. The book I plan to write during the residency, Why Painting Works, is meant to introduce readers to the diversity and richness of contemporary painting, and to give access to the views on life that can be found inside or “behind” paintings. It will give tools to navigate through our current pluralistic (and confusing) era, inviting the reader to be an active and sovereign viewer. A range of different attitudes in painting will be discussed, focusing on temperament, themes, methods, and motivations. The book is also, and not less importantly, a reevaluation of the language we use to address art. Much writing about art still uses 20th-century vocabulary pointing to style, abstraction, or figuration, or it leans back on the vocabulary of oft-quoted theorists. As terms have lost their (ideological) meaning, we need new words—or at least we need to redefine the old ones. The book aims to refresh and enliven the language used to reflect on painting, and shorten the distance between reader and the artwork. It should be fun to read about art, even if it involves serious matters. Too often style and content are separated in writing on art—language is being used merely as an instrument—which is why I have chosen to write about art from a literary perspective. The book unfolds as a journey, where the reader discovers in which ways painting relates to our daily lives. It gives words to both visible and invisible aspects of art. And it makes clear how painting can be meaningful in a world flooded with digital images.