Seeing Differently Winter 2011

Jonathan Anderson,
Theoria, 2009, oil on
Canvas, 79” x 93”

Impasse: A Meditation on Representational Painting

In this issue we have explored a religious impasse of sorts—one that affirms that the European continent is both a graveyard for religion and a laboratory for new forms of faith. That emerging reality evokes questions about the future of two global faiths in this context, particularly the space—geographic, political, social and sacred—shared with one another.

I think about painting in construction terms. Paintings are ‘buildings’; they are structures that are designed to provide support and containment for ways of orienting oneself toward the world. The construction of a painting—particularly a representational painting—is the process of taking up common materials (wood, fabric, oily mud) and reconfiguring them into spaces: visual spaces for the housing of stories, the sheltering of questions, and the structuring of concepts and trains of thought. It’s not only that a painting might be an image of a building; it always already is itself a ‘building,’ providing space for a distinct kind of human dwelling. Yet, there is an impasse that occurs in such paintings and, ultimately, all representations. The construction of visual space has a dual action to it: the same structure that affords us a space to enter, consider, and temporarily indwell is also an obstruction, a barricade. The painting draws us into a space but also withholds it—and it is the paint itself that serves both functions: it is simultaneously an image (a chapel) and an object (mud on stretched woven canvas).

To see other images in this body of work, and for information about the artist, visit