Materiality & Transcendence

Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, c. 1486, tempera on canvas (Uffizi, Florence)
Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, c. 1486, tempera on canvas (Uffizi, Florence)

Considering works by Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Dan Colen, Botticelli and others, Martin Mugar examines the differences between materiality and transcendence in painting.

Mugar writes that works such as Richter's abstract paintings "risk and do at times descend into pure materiality. This embrace of the material results in what I would call art that is 'time poor.' ... It appears that Richter wants to stop time to impress one event on the viewer to such a degree that it eliminates any consideration of what came before or after... Gone is the role of the imagination, which might evoke memory, or the role of symbols that could point to an inner structure of consciousness that shapes the present." On the other hand, Mugar continues, in paintings such as Botticelli's Birth of Venus "the goal was to get beyond [to] (transcend)... This transcendence was not achieved through an act of will but by knowing the right prayers or alchemical formulas or in the case of art to use the right proportions, colors and geometrical shapes."