Michele Theunissen - sensation

Michele Theunissen

2 July - 23 July 2011


Sensation fills the living body with the resonance of (part of) the universe itself, a vibratory wave that opens up the body to these unrepresented and unknowable forces, the forces of becoming-other. (Grosz E. Chaos, Territory, Art deleuze and the framing of the earth 2008:80)

This group of paintings is an attempt to create sensations through colour and the matter of paint. Sensations occur when a vibration or pulse impacts on the senses, eliciting an affect difficult to articulate. It can be like the feeling of intensity when certain stimuli are encountered: coming across the tree Nuytsia floribunda, startling orange at Christmas time: or slanting light across water. Nature performs sensations. In painting, sensation emerges as qualities are extracted from a multitude of choices, from chaos. It operates in a realm that precedes rationality and cognition. For me sensation occurs when the field of colour and matter crystallises into cohesion within the frame.

Organic Geometry

The generative impulse to make art often turns on just a few ideas or interests, The same concerns pop up in different configurations. It's like a frame to work in, a place to enable materials to be expressive and shape the impulses to make art. I wonder how we are nature and whether our consciousness is also the consciousness of nature. Forces that act on me act upon everything. I notice the patterns on my skin resemble the patterns on the surface of the water, and the patterns of sand moved by wind and water. These patterns are like organic geometry, never exact, always having the potential for elasticity. They seem to speak of invisible forces that lie underneath, or above, or within. They are forces that fluctuate between stability and instability, never static.

Colour is elusive because its nature is determined by its neighbour. Blue can slide towards mauve or green depending on what's next to it. A colour seems to be grey until blue makes it mauve. I am constantly astonished by the contrariness of colour. A discreet colour out of a tube loses its autonomy and becomes unpredictable when it's in relationship. It takes on a new dynamic, and has the potential to change and offer new sensations. The interdependence of colour makes me think of the African sense of community and belonging which is contained in the words ubuntu. I am because you are and therefore we are. I like this linkage, because colour reminds me of the way we are porous in relationship to others. For me a colour seems to become an entity when it is in a relationship to another colour which supports and enhances it.

Looking for nothing is the desire to experience forces beyond the rational mind. Perhaps nothing is a conduit for unfamiliar energies. In my search, I thought I would find something. Something binding and connective. I realised that the word looking is a problem because it teases one to find, and nothing can't really be found. It's not a ball or a ladder or an empty teapot. It's not hot, cold or tepid. It's not a negative space. And now we think we know that black space is not nothing. The problem too is that in the act of looking someone is doing the looking. It's the self, with desires, conformities and opinions, and they won't let nothing in. I know that the harder I look the harder it is to find.

The advantage of boredom
By painting repetitive marks I set up a platform for boredom. Boredom is foreign to a life in which we have become fidgeters. Attention is distracted by all the boredom reducing, information flooding devices we have. To be still is to invite boredom. To repeat marks over and over is to enter into boredom. But staying with boring repetition, eventually brings something other. Something appears, and it's a surprise.....


Art does not reproduce the visible: rather, it makes visible Paul Klee

I prefer to work towards a concept, rather that from a concept. The difficulty is that this involves trust that the process will unfold and present something that's recognisable. I believe that starting with a concept that delivers up that concept can disallow the process that makes art magical, unbounded by language. Once language wraps around an artwork it can become choked with meaning. I like to find a remainder in art - something that words can't get at. They can only circle around. The left over after language, is the space for the imagination. I do it for the left over, the excess after rational thought has had a go at it.

Michele Theunissen
June 2011