Noescritos About that which is Called Art

One of the most important Latin American artists from the last half-century brings together his artistic, critical and theoretical thinking in this volume, in continuation of what he formulated in his first book, “Antiestética” (Anti-aesthetics, 1965); it includes articles, conferences and previously unpublished texts written by Noé in Buenos Aires, New York and Paris between 1966 and 2006.

The four major areas articulated in this book are: art between technology and rebellion, art and language, art and power and expanding the concept of painting.

“Noescritos sobre eso que se llama arte” (Noescritos About that which is Called Art) is a theoretical testimony to “thinking in a state of evolution” in which this artist and thinker’s ongoing themes continually intersect: chaos as structure, the relationships between art and theory, artistic issues in Latin America, painting as an artistic language and the crisis of the symbolic image.   


What is painting? This question is implicit when we talk about both our own painting and that of others. What is the act of painting? What is one doing when he is painting, besides making an object called a picture that might be hung on a wall? Does that “besides” exist? Yes, yes indeed… But always? And what is it? … What surprise is it that is recorded in the picture, that of the painter in relation to the world or that of the painter in relation to his own act of painting, since he is aware of what he is doing as he is painting?

… Painting, even the most figurative kind, is abstract: it always refers us to itself, even when it is talking to us about what is around us. But, paradoxically, for that same reason, painting—or rather the painter through the act of painting but, ultimately, painting—lends its soul to the objects that it represents and thus appears to reveal the soul of those objects. … Painting gives life to what it names (to represent is to name) and names what it gives life to (even if it is not a representation). The language of words, in contrast, fails to give life just by naming. It requires many words.

… Painting is an infinite intuitive syllogism.        


I was surprised when I read the following reflections by Hegel: “The surface on which the painting makes objects appear itself offers the possibility of creating environments, relationships and combinations of all types, and the color demands that the particularization of the appearance corresponds to a particularization of the interior.” That imponderable aspect of painting (manifested by the relationship between space and color and between different spaces and different colors among each other), which Hegel calls the “principle of interiority” and which he defines by saying that the main content of painting is subjectivity itself, leads him to this conclusion: “Due to this orientation towards the soul—which is manifested by the diffuse hue around the outer objects that creates a special atmosphere—painting essentially differs from architecture and sculpture and comes close to music, thereby constituting an intermediate stage between the visual arts and sound arts.” Linguists would then say that painting—regardless of the representation—can, like music, come to refer to its own terms. In the case of painting: line, space and color.

A century later, Kandinsky, in an effort to understand the principle of “the inner need” of painting and interiority of each color—aware that every art, thanks to its own particularity, becomes able to express what only it is qualified to say—points out that while music is quintessentially the art that expresses the spiritual life of the artist, painting offers the spectator an advantage that music does not possess: the massive and instantaneous effect of the content of a work.


What is painting? It is a way to get to know what one thinks that one cannot otherwise know, since thought and language are intrinsically linked. Unlike thought constructed with words—which, therefore, starts from concrete concepts to reach abstractions—painting starts from the abstract to reach the concrete.

What is painting today? It is to think, through painting, without preconceptions about what it should say and what it should be (whether those prejudices are figurative or abstract) and beyond all particular codes and with the experience of them all. The sole purpose of the act of painting is the manifestation of the “principle of interiority.”


"Noescritos sobre eso que se llama arte (1966-2006)", Buenos Aires, Adriana Hidalgo, 2007