The primary aim of the paper to be presented is to instigate an examination of the theoretical and practical issues of contemporary pictorial space, in order to understand the current status of a particular academic and intellectual enquiry. The context is located through the re-thinking of formalist modes of painting.
Historically the context for the research originates from Clement Greenberg’s critique of formalism including his seminal text Modernist Painting, which hinges upon a ‘dialectical’ methodology. This methodology stems from the philosophy of Georg Hegel, aligned with Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment in which the concept of aesthetics and beauty are discussed.
This particular academic enquiry provides a distinct focus for a studio-based practice that contextually acknowledges the critiques of painting, specifically the genealogy of the pictorial plane as it advances from an Albertian perspective to a Modernist flatness and Post-Modern arrest. In establishing and acknowledging these critiques, the contextual repositioning presents the potentiality for a significant paradigm shift in the development and understanding of a contemporary painted surface.
Initially this paper will advance from a relationship between a Cartesian viewer and the engagement of a mimetic space within Renaissance painting. Through the understanding of this specific type of space and then subsequently discussed through the Modernist critiqueand starts to outline the conditions Greenberg established for medium specificity. The implicit relationship centre’s upon Greenberg’s concept of modernist painting surface’s absolving of a realistic perspective. Greenberg identified that painting could no longer be dependent on imitation and can be considered as an advance from a Hegelian idealism to a Marxist materialism.
Greenberg proposes that painting must retain its flatness as its essence and that flatness is the only element that can be retained from the Renaissance model of painting. The fact that the flatness was maintained even under the most mimetic regimes of perspective creating a ‘dialectical is the only apparent success for Greenberg. Indeed Greenberg maintains that the modernist surface announced its flatness prior to content, it’s true success. 
Through the continuation of this dialectical tension and the flattening of space Greenberg introduced the concept of ‘at-onceness’. Michael Fried’s subsequent writing about objecthood expands a singular, extinguishing, and temporal understanding of painting. Fried establishes the true success for the surface of abstract paintings is its ability to suspend it own object-hood and maintain a singular present-ness in effect a singular temporal encounter. Through the review of the notion; a singular temporal encounter, the difference between Fried’s present-ness and Greenberg’s at once-ness can be discussed as a self extinguishing durative affect.
Greenberg’s ideology is further discussed and how he established a paradoxical shift from the notion of the Renaissance perspective to the flat picture plane in which painting acts as an illusion without illusion. Greenberg states that it is the way in which the surface is negotiated that precipitates this shift. The surface is now no longer the mimetic window through which the world can be observed or entered; it is a cross section or fixed focal section for the eye, for Greenberg the surface now acts as the retina. Distinctly, the surface is now a record of an encounter between artist and medium instead of the capturing an image within the medium. Through the gestural practice of Pollock the changing worldview of the surface can be discussed as the canvas moved from the wall to the floor. Significantly, as painters started to explore the limitations of Greenberg’s modernist position the canvas advanced from floor to tabletop [i] and evidenced in the emerging practice of Robert Rauschenberg.
Thus the changing relationship between painter, surface, and viewer is explored through the methods of Post-Structuralism and its relationship to Post-Modern painting. This changed relationship can be explored through Rosalind Krauss’s notion of the index within abstract painting. [ii] The indexical link is expanded through an examination of the practice of David Reeds early paintings and the apparent similarities to the concept proposed by Roland Barthes (1997) in his text Death of the Author. [iii] Primarily, the removal of authorship within the surface of painting and a development of the concept that a viewer is no longer invited to enter and inhabit the world space of the artist but truly question the aesthetic conventions encoded within the surface.
The notion of the surface as an active agent in the site of an activity being worked through is introduced through the practice and writing of Therese Oulton [iv] and the introduction of expanded subjectivity outside of Greenberg’s medium subjectivity in terms of form and content. This notion is expanded through the practice of Peter Halley and his relationship to the ‘simulacrum’, which provides the pivot on which the contrast between Jean Baudrillard’s and Gilles Deleuze’s differing philosophical interpretations of the ‘simulacrum’ are defined. The contrast between post-modern appropriation – Baudrillard and intensification – Deleuze provides a potential for contemporary painting to explore further ‘the affect’ of painting as a non-appropriated intensification and provides a significant hinge. This notion is introduced through Warren Sack’s [v] reading of appropriation, in which he argues that appropriation remains firmly within a dialectical method, primarily through the negation of the real by the not real. [vi] In discussing the practice of David Reed both the notion of Baroque space in painting and the intensification of the real provide the distinct contextualisation.
The continual flattening of space within painting, which originated through cubism and was subsequently discussed extensively through both modernism and post-modernism effectively, closed down the space within painting. As each artist discovered new ways to mutate the surface a system was noted by Rosalind Krauss, which at its binary core, consisted of the transition from one artistic movement to the next. It was as Kraus observed a linear progression of individual artists exploring, to their limits of “experience and formal intelligence”, [vii] a series of rooms. Krauss effectively noted that this linear practice in which pictorial art could be considered as: the closing of one door [and once closed always closed] whilst simultaneously opening the next. [viii] The new room defined the space of the new hierarchical synthesis of pictorial effect and always to the negation of previous rooms; however revolutionary they may be.
In order to re-think the flatness of painting outside of Greenberg’s flatness, the picture no longer merely maintains the integrity of the picture plane, but intensifies it. This is a picture plane that can oscillate between the precept and the affect of sensation. In turn this questions the modernist position that the flat picture plane announces itself prior to the content as a reversal of the Old Masters picture plane and why it does not resolve the contradiction between the flatness and the sign of the space - content. Deleuze’s philosophy progresses the Baroque as a spatial structure that can be employed rhizomatically within contemporary painting. In the Baroque, the implicit concept is that nether the surface or the space, the inside or the outside are in opposition of theother, which through the binary negation of one you arrive at the other. Within this understanding and development of this relationship provides the foundation to a key outcome for the research. Therefore the tension between the two that extinguishes the temporality is but one gaze or viewpoint. The implication of Deleuze’s notion of haptic space and its simplest of terms, the retina as a hand caressing each layer, shifts the potential understanding of the inside and outside of painting.
Deleuze discusses through his book The Fold theequivalence between independent parts and thus creates an allegory of a Baroque house consisting of two rooms, one without windows and doors and the other, a reception site, traditionally the sanctuary and the façade. [ix] As each room becomes mirrored through the other the relationship between the two changes. If the notion of a fold between shadow and light is also included within the emerging relationship then the as yetun-named forms start to emerge and recede, as light becomes shadow and shadow folds into light. The folding (through lots of small folds) of the inside and the outside creates as Deleuze suggests: “the spontaneity of the inside and the determination of the outside”. [x] When applied critically to a Post-Modern surface, which the façade is prominent, thrusting itself forward and as a distinct barrier to the spontaneity of the inside, which must remain appropriated and closed. Through the continued development of this distinction and expanded on as an emergent rhythm that explores a new harmony. The distinction between two milieu or floors: “resolves tension or allots the division” [xi] it is precisely the development of this distinction that provides the shift from the subject/object, figuration/abstraction, or content/form, which has proved insufficient in the critique of contemporary painting.
Through a Deleuzian re-reading a model or a notion of the formal emerges. Firstly Greenberg’s notion of formalism, which is pictorially shallow self-extinguishing surface that is considered in dialectical tension with the illusionary nature of the pictorial depth, needs to be implicated, displaced, and recovered. A formalism, which now has to shift: A shift, which expands on the subjectivity within the objectivity of painting.
A notion of formalism in which content is the inspiration for vision as long as content is intent on singular intent and form the a priori. Thus, a return to the dialectical argument that traverses no further than, form and content and which announces itself a priori. It is in fact through Deleuzes introduction of Kant’s Critical Philosophy that an explicit explanation and new understanding can be sought:
"It is no longer the aesthetic of the Critique of Pure Reason, which considered the sensible as a quality which could be related to an object in space and in time; it is not a logic of the sensible, nor even a new logos which would be time. It is an aesthetic of the beautiful and of the sublime, in which the sensible is valid in itself and unfolds in apathos beyond all logic, which will grasp time in its surging forth, in the very origin of its thread and its giddiness. It is no longer the affect of the Critique of Pure Reason, which related the Ego to the I in a relationship which was still regulated by the order of time: it is a Pathos which leaves them to evolve freely in order to form strange combinations as sources of time; ‘arbitrary forms of possible intuitions’." [xii]
Acknowledging Kant ‘with his theory of transcendent perception, that phenomenon is more than phenomenon’, [xiii] Deleuze continues this proposition through the concept of deterritorialization and immanence as an alternative to established phenomenology. The argument is established that if particular immanence enable a definition of beautiful, which, thus presents beautiful with: “an autonomous supplementary dimension to the inner sense of time, a power of free reflection to the imagination, an infinite conceptual power to the understanding”. [xiv]
As Deleuze and GuattaridiscussThe Aesthetic Model. This is a model that of the add mixture of both striated and smooth space:
"Smooth is both the object of a close vision par excellence and the element of a haptic space (which may be as much visual or auditory as tactile). The Striated, on the contrary, relates to a more distant vision, and a more optical space – although the eye in turn is not the only organ to have this capacity. Once again, as always, this analysis must be corrected by a coefficient of transformation according to which passages between the striated and the smooth are at once necessary and uncertain, and all the more disruptive." [xv]
Interestingly, the comparison between Greenberg’s optical conditions outlined in Modernist Painting, which announced the change of active vision from a focal splicing to the active retina, can be observed in its historicity. To expanded on this notion through the concept of smooth and striated space as discussed here by Deleuze and Guattari. If as Greenberg insisted the flattening of the pictorial plane that announced itself first could only be entered with the eye –exploration by a retinal journey. Whilst the pictorial plane inhabited by the Renaissance only holding interest through the dialectical tension held between the depth and the surface - the focal splice. The conditions for contemporary painting must be changed.
As Deleuze and Guattari note when discussing the laws of painting, it is the rhythm of the transition between these two spaces:
"The law of painting is that it be done at close range, even if it is viewed from relatively far away. One can back away from a thing, but it is a bad painter who backs away from the painting he or she is working on. Or from the “thing” for that matter: Cézanne spoke of the need to no longer see the wheat field, to be too close to it, to lose oneself without landmarks in smooth space. Afterward striation can emerge: drawing, Strata, the earth, 'stubborn geometry'." [xvi]
 Deleuze and Guattari seek to separate the negotiation for the types of space purposed:
"Where there is close vision, space is not visual, or rather the eye itself has a haptic, nonoptical function: no line separates earth from sky, which are of the same substance; there is neither horizon nor background nor perspective nor limit nor outline or form nor centre; there is no intermediary distance or all distance is intermediary. Like Eskimo space…it is less easy to evaluate the creative potentialities of striated space, and how it can simultaneously emerge from the smooth and give everything a whole new impetus." [xvii]
Eskimo space becomes a classification of space that works par excellence for the new and changed space within a distinct type of painting that seeks to dissolve established hierarchies of gestalt figure ground. This is a space with no signposts in essence a space emerging from a fog or entrenched the blindness of snowstorms – close vision space. That the affect in turn invokes the sublime and the beauty, yet this is a changed sublime that is not of the uniformity of nature but of the vastness of the encounter and beauty that is not only a façade. A surface within painting that has a renewed potential as an active site of enquiry.
Through the definition between the relationship of the optical and the haptic, in which the haptic encounters the surface through the optical activation. As a site of activation the surface forms the critical hinge in this relationship:
"We can see clearly here how smooth space subsists, but only to give rise to the striated. The desert, sky, or sea, the Ocean, the unlimited, first plays the role of an encompassing element, and tends to become a horizon: the earth is thus surrounded, globalized: “grounded” by this element, which holds it in immobile equilibrium and makes form possible." [xviii]
The initial separation between the types of surfaces in painting is needed. Thus, the difference between the painting surface – the maker and a painted surface – the viewer, has to emerge. Deleuze and Guattari outline the emerging conditions for this separation and can be discussed in a recovered notion of beauty and sublime, in which both become enfolded within each other. “Folded” in a relationship that does not seek a hierarchical dominance in order to present Affect and Sensation.
It is the very merging and re-merging that dominates the affect. To be lost in a fluidity of sense - haptic, close, optical and distant:
"When we invoke a primordial duality between the smooth and the striated, it is in order to subordinate the differences between “haptic” and “optic,” “close vision” to this distinction. Hence we will not define the haptic by the immobile background, by the plane and the contour, because these have to do with already mixed state in which the haptic serves to striate, and uses its smooth components only in order to convert them to another kind of space. The haptic function and close vision presuppose the smooth, which has no background, plane, or contour, but rather changes in direction and local linkages between parts." [xix]
Through the re-thinking of the definition of the space within painting and the utilisation of a changed application and identification of smooth and striated space in a material practice becomes possible within the illusion of the real. Its immobile background no longer defines its content nor is it considered as an object of pure exteriority. Both can now be mixed and re-mixed in the formation of new as yet un-named spaces. The surface and illusion can now explore hidden depths as yet not acknowledged within the scope of history. A space, which is not dependant on the signification of the mimetic, but a space that informs the encounter with the surface of painting through the folding of the acknowledged illusion of the real.
[i] Leo Steinberg, Other Criteria (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press. 1972).
[ii] Rosalind Krauss, ‘Notes on the index, part 1,’ in Charles Harrison & Paul Wood (eds.), Art in Theory 1900-2000 (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), pp. 999.
[iii] Roland Barthes, Image, Music, Text (London: Fontana, 1977), pp. 142-8.
[iv] Therese Oulton, ‘Abstract with Memories in Abstraction,’JPVA, vol. 5,edited by Andrew Benjamin (Academy Group Ltd. 1995), pp. 82.
[v]  Sack, Warren. ‘Painting Theory Machines,’Painting in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,edited by David Moos (Academy Group Ltd. 1996), pp. 80-92.
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Krauss, ‘Notes on the index, part 1,’ p. 978.
[viii] Ibid.
[ix] Gilles Deleuze, The Fold - Leibniz and the Baroque (London: The Athlone Press, 2001), p. 34.
[x] Ibid, p. 32.
[xi] Ibid.
[xii] Gilles Deleuze, Kant's Critical Philosophy (London: Continuum Books, 2008), p. xi.
[xiii] Barnet Newman, ‘The Sublime is Now’, in Harrison& Wood (eds.),Art in Theory 1900-2000, pp. 580.
[xiv] Deleuze, Kant's Critical Philosophy, p. xi.
[xv] Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (London: Continuum, 2004), p. 544.
[xvi] Ibid.
[xvii] Ibid, p. 545.
[xviii] Ibid, p. 546.
[xix] Ibid, p. 547.