Liquid gestures : a study of the behavior of gesture in painting

Gordon, Melissa (2022) Liquid gestures : a study of the behavior of gesture in painting. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


How do gestures in painting behave: both as material that is shaped through physical interactions, as well as understanding how the behavior of gesture is changed by the contexts of site, time, and the boundaries of what a ‘presentation’ can be. This PhD investigates the implications for contemporary painting to posit that gestures behave in a liquid manner, with agency unto themselves, in that material and bodily understanding and reading of gesture in painting can and does change over and between the course of time and place, in relation to other objects, situations and histories. Can we understand the implications on the historic and contemporary role of authorship in painting, in relationship to the changing dynamic and inclusion of voices, bodies and histories by positing that it is the gestures themselves in paintings that are fluid and unfixed? My approach has been to try to locate gesture in painting as something that is found as a movement between objects, moments and places. In doing so, this PhD has undertaken to understand the implications of imagining gesture as a potentially disruptive liquid form which can and does affect the containers of painting: canvases, exhibitions, institutions, histories. I have undertaken my research through the creation of my own paintings that attempt to enact a liquidity of gesturing. My practice-led research uses the site of the canvas as a place for gestures to show that they are not static, concrete, still, solid; through installations of my own and others work that engage with mutable positioning of the site of the exhibition, and through material writing which utilizes voice to give a second, bodily ‘mouth’ to my painterly practice. I contextualise these methodologies within a history of how gesture is read in art history: looking at discourses on staging, on corporeal mime, on feminist liquidity, on liveliness in authorship, formlessness in art history, modeling a thought in painting, and how voice functions in art objects. This PhD seeks to present a new understanding of gesture, specifically in painting, as behaving as a liquid: and that the mutating and shifting liquid behavior of gesture, which projects agency and voice through time, can itself have the potentiality to change the shape-form of the various situations it finds itself in, rather than simply rehabilitating ‘excluded’ gestures into the existing ‘solid’ forms of art history.

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