Ontologic Painting overview

This overview is a conceptual systematization of the creative research that defines and analyzes the theoretical component of Ontologic Painting.

My ideas of Ontological Painting were formed and evolved beyond the reverse of the Great Black Square by Kazimir Malevich and his theoretical research on the subject Zero form, Zero space, as well as theses on non-narrative painting and the interaction of color and forms reflected in the essay of Wassily Kandinsky „About spiritual in art”. In its turn, a German group of avant-guard artists ZERO, without breaking the ties with the avant-guard of the 1920s, puts forward new artistic principles at the end of the 1950s referring to the concepts of space and time in a cosmogonist vision. The art of ZERO becomes a zero reference point, renewal and rebirth. In the 1960s, many Western philosophers were interested in the question of zero, and zero point. Theodore Adorno, Maurice Merlot-Ponti, Roland Bart were Among them. During these years, the group ZERO released their first manifesto in the spirit of the early avant-guard entitled Zero is Silence, Zero is beginning. Zero is not a symbol of nihilism, the negation of everything – it is a reference point, a moment of emptiness at which new art is born. In addition to the German ZERO, there were other groups with similar names: GUTAI from Japan, ZERO from the Netherlands, New Realists from France, and Azimuth from Italy. The Zeroists maintained relations with leading artists of that time – Lucho Fontana, Yves Klein, Mark Rothko, Piero Manzoni, who shared their intentions to oppose the abstract expressionism and other appearances of the unconscious.

My empirical search in the formation of Ontologic Painting have been going on for thirty years, beginning in the late 1980s from a conscious transition from graphics to painting. The concept suggests the possible answers to the fundamental questions of the ontology of being rather than the ontology of everyday life. The tasks set directly echo with the philosophical concepts studied by ontology. Ontology is the doctrine of being acting in the system of philosophy as one of its basic components. In its times, ontology was divided into two areas: material and idealistic. Its analytical view aims to study the fundamental principles of the structure of being, its beginning, the essential of the forms of being (material, ideal, existential), properties and categorical distributions, as well as structure, space, time, and movement. Generally speaking ontology is a doctrine of being. Its visual-plastic embodiment in my paintings received the name of Ontologic Painting.

In the initial search for an artistic form, I either lowered the polychromy of a painting to almost monochrome, either introduced bronze or aluminum powders into the color. Sometimes even the brush strokes of different sizes and shades became the main plastic content of the picture. Only with the passing of time, it became clear that only the primary natural media may solve this problem. I started applying earth, sand, clay, finely grated shell limestone, graphite, and metal powders. Thus, the use of such natural elements from the coloristics point of view makes the paintings look rather ascetic, which effectively corresponds to the asceticism of the spirit itself. For this reason, ontological artworks have not been painted with oil for a long time and in fact, with no abundance of color and shades. The ontological paintings seek to echo the spiritual sensations, rather than emotional experiences that cause contemplation of matter in its various manifestations, and the mimesis of the outside world. Color appears at a later stage of the Ontologic Painting, however oil paint is usually applied with thick impasto to render its physical properties of viscosity, fluidity and texture, color being of secondary importance.

In spite of the fact that ontologic paintings have no clear-cut composition, they nevertheless have a certain ‘momentary composition’, which develops at the moment when the viewer visualizes a non-existent object on the canvas. It can be a random object, an impossible object, a certain object, etc., determined in general as the Perceptual Object. When a depicted form is not just amorphously spread out on a plane, but even can be remotely perceived as a certain indefinite object (here also Perceptual Object), the image takes on an additional mental strain. In some cases I introduce realistic ropes, which in combination with the other components of the artwork sets it apart from a completely abstract painting. In fact, this is the so-called Ontologic Painting, where the Perceptual Object is one of the constituent elements.

The infinitely large cannot exist without the infinitely small. This thought led to the simulation of double-effect on the paintings. On the one hand, the depicted forms can be seen as infinitely large universes, structures or galaxies, and on the other, they can be associated with the biomorphic world depicting cells, atoms, nuclei, photons and micro-elements. The viewer can see chaos, and at the same time something structured, or trying to structure. The media used and the imagined structure of the particles make it possible to interpret the picture as the smallest physical particles, and at the same time, as huge space formations. Consequently, the impossibility to clearly determine what the painting shows exactly gives the viewer room for multi-scale perception of the depicted, as well as a wide range of spiritual sensations and experiences.

Ontologic paintings lack consciously used or transmitted plot, narrative, poetic realism or any emotional experiences associated with matter. The artwork should not have top and bottom, picturesqueness (in the traditional sense) and, thus, nothing superfluous. A new step in painting means the birth of new ideas requiring a conceptually new artistic aspiration in the expression of unexplored area of spiritual being. The meaning of Ontologic Painting should be captured almost instantly through a range beyond sensory sensations and short dotty energetic interactions between a viewer and an artwork. These moments should make previously unfamiliar chords of an immanent spiritual life sound.

Victor Cuzmenco,  1992-2020

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