The truth in painting 1993

Lang, Martin (2021) The truth in painting 1993. In: DigitalPaintingPhotography International Online symposium, 21-22 October 2021, University of Derby.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


This presentation of an ongoing practice-as-research project asks to what degree it is possible to distinguish analogue and digital painterly marks. I make paintings, scan them, add marks using digital painting software, print them onto canvas and then add further marks on top. The result is an object containing three kinds of painterly mark: physical paint on the canvas surface; photographic (scanned) facsimiles of painterly marks; and digitally constructed painterly marks. The last two are sometimes enhanced with a transparent medium that retains brushstrokes, rendering 3D the previously flat photographic and digital brushstrokes, drips, smears, and splats. In “faking” analogue painterly marks, I explore the limits of digital painting and paint mediums. This has political ramifications (related to deep-fakery and forgery, for example) but I am more interested in the philosophical and aesthetic possibilities of a hybrid form of photographic, digital and analogue painting.

I have a longstanding interest in the intersection between painterly and photo-mechanical mark-making, but the impetus for this project was an interest in post-truth. The project is called "The Truth in Painting 1993" partly in response to Derrida's book The Truth in Painting (first published, in French, in 1978) and, more generally, the notion that truth is a social construction. My subject matter is taken exclusively from events in 1993, which the viewer could interpret as connected and significant, or as contingent and meaningless. For example, NAFTA and the Maastricht Treaty were signed in 1993, the same year of the first Islamic terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Waco Siege. The viewer might contemplate if 1993 was the year that a new economic world order emerged, as well as armed opposition to it. Alternatively, the viewer might treat my choice of subject matter with suspicion, interpreting it in the vein of a conspiracy theory.

“The Truth in Painting 1993” presents a dialectics between these two positions – both through its subject matter, and through its materiality. On one level it asks which marks are “true”, implying that the digital ones are fake (at least when passed off as analogue). This is linked to Derrida’s questions regarding what Cézanne meant by “the truth in painting” when he wrote to the artist Emile Bernard in 1905. What is the truth in painting 1993? On one level, the viewer is drawn to the truth of the marks. On another level, the project investigates the limitations and benefits the digital, the photographic and painting bring to the exploration of truths about historical events. Lastly, it asks whether a combination of these techniques and subjects might reveal a different kind of truth that has nothing to with materiality or subject matter, but is brought into being by an amalgamation of the two.

Keywords:Painting, Truth, Digitalisation, Deep fake, Derrida, Luc Tuymans, Cézanne, Conspiracy theories, New World Order, morality
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
W Creative Arts and Design > W120 Painting
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
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ID Code:46325
Deposited On:18 Oct 2021 15:48

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