My starting point is constructivism as a philosophical and social science concept. Constructivism basically states that knowledge, and to a larger extent social reality, is constructed by the interaction between people over time. The ‘reality’ of things is then dependent on the conception we hold of those things. For traditional constructivism, reality is mainly constructed through language and expressive processes. But then, what about the materiality of social reality? After all, we are constantly interacting with our material environment too, not only with each other. In other words, human collectivities do no only build knowledge and ideas, they also build cities, monuments, they labor the fields and they might even fight for access to material resources and territories.
According to philosopher Manuel DeLanda, constructivists do no take the word ‘construction’ seriously; they merely use it as an ontological metaphor. Briefly stated, one of DeLanda’s main claims is that reality can only be accounted for by the combination of expressive and material variables. His social ontology thus focuses on “assemblages” and on “objective processes of assembly” in which “language plays an important but not a constitutive role” (For more on assemblage theory, see Manuel DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society. Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. Continuum: New York, 2006)
This gesture of radicalizing constructivism by insisting on the materiality of the world is, for me, when this theory starts to be interesting for visual arts and particularly for painting. Following the same logic, it seems interesting to ask how one could radicalize the act of painting by insisting on the material dimension of the discipline. In an attempt to do so, I developed a particular methodology. My first step is to accumulate material between the canvas and the paint by assembling pieces of material directly on the canvas. I found out that is was possible to build complex wholes through the accumulation and differentiation of elementary four-sided units carved out of foam board. Secondly, I cover the structure with various materials to create different texture, but also in order to cement to individual parts together. The third step is the coloring of the structure. I can then repeat the process and create different layers, with different styles and different colors. I also use patterns and symmetry breakdowns in an effort to generate interaction between the layers. The use of tri-dimensionality is productive because it creates new surfaces for the paint, it creates depth in the painting and it also makes the object play differently with the light.
The whole process is thus labor-intensive and involves a number of different steps and materials (plaster, acrylic, foam board, glue, nails, modeling paste). It also rests on a particular approach to painting, one that aims at radicalizing the materiality of painting. For the future, I wish to further develop this approach by examining in more details the relationship between art and assemblage theory. I am confident that, in the long run, these theoretical experiments will make my work evolve in interesting and exciting new directions.