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Material Thinking

Clive van den Berg in his studio, Johannesburg, 2018

Meet Johannesburg-based artist (and art + reading contributor) Clive van den Berg, pictured in his studio in front of one of his paintings in progress, reading Philip Guston & The Poets by Kosme de Baranano (Germany: Hauser & Wirth, 2017). Clive encountered Guston's paintings in 2017 at the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice and writes that he looks at Guston's images frequently, occasionally reading the poems he loved. Baranano approaches Guston's life's work (spanning 1930 to 1980) through the writing of 5 key poets: D.H. Lawrence, William Butler Yeats, Wallace Stevens, T.S. Elliot, and Eugenio Montale. Baranano writes:

"Beyond figuration as re-presentation (and that transcends what we could call simple designation), since the pre-Socratic poets the poetic word has aspired to generate new meanings, it has wanted to open hitherto unheard of paths to the senses and meaning. We are not trying to make a simple metaphor here, in the sense that Guston's paintings is like Lawrence's or Montale's poetry; rather, in the sense that with his painting he does not re-present but, much like poets, enters into unknown territories. These poets delve--with language and in language--into unknown regions in order to rescue what wasn't there to begin with.

Poets look upon or envision as a means of obtaining information about the object itself, but they go beyond that: they think in language, just as the painter thinks in painting. Artistic expression, like scientific discovery, is a form of reasoning, in which perceiving and thinking are indivisibly interrelated. A person who paints, writes, composes, or dances, thinks with his senses; that is to say, art is a visual thought." (2017, 17-18)

Painting, writing, and making more broadly, may indeed be approached as material strategies of thinking--and agency. In his ongoing series Men Loving, Clive explores issues of mourning, memorialization, trauma, and bearing witness through the lens of homosexuality and alternative masculinities. See Clive's work and read his reflection on history, violence, and 'looking' in his contribution "Men Loving", published in the inaugural issue of art + reading (issue 1, rupture, autumn 2018).

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