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Art Writing and Subjectivity: Critical Association in Art-Historical Practice

Bristol student theses: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Authors

  • Lizzie Lloyd

Research units

Abstract

This thesis stages three pairings of artworks and texts – Francisco de Zurbarán and Susan Sontag (chapter 2); Walter Pater and Peter Doig (chapter 3); Michael Simpson and Gertrude Stein (chapter 4) – that are connected through a perceived material and phenomenological association articulated through my writing. The basis for their connection is neither historical, thematic nor causal. The matter of writing in this thesis is, therefore, key: it is used less as a vehicle to convey falsifiable findings than as a means to generate ideas, and an exploratory performance of research. As a result, its form, style and timbre is highly contingent on its physical, emotive and intellectual encounters with particular artworks and texts. The character of each chapter is distinct in tone, mood and content because these qualities materialise through the occasion of their writing; they are individuated ‘bespoke’ responses where my words in each chapter are ‘site-specific’, alive to the landscape of particular images and words, enacting and bearing witness to the critical nature of association at stake in each chapter. In this way, fundamental questions emerge around how the coupling of texts and images suggest themselves. How do they unfold in thought and writing? And what is the value and implication of foregrounding the development of their association as the objective of research in its own right?

This manner of approaching art and writing harnesses subjectivity as an active, responsive, and ultimately improvisatory, mode of thought and feeling while simultaneously maintaining productive tension with the discipline of art history at large. Since subjectivity here makes itself felt in the way that it asserts itself through the writing into association of each pairing – through, for example, description, affective response, experimental rendering and serendipitous detour – the manner of its writing is both reflective and performative. This thesis focuses on the practice rather than the product of research, asking what an approach like this can add to disciplines like criticism, art history, and art writing.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date23 Jan 2019

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