The article explores the extent to which ‘pictorial art’ resists legibility, transparency and coherence. The analysis of three artistic case studies, Idris Khan, Maria Chevska and Jane and Louise Wilson, serves to investigate established hierarchies in our perception of visual referents. In the discussion, the article inquires the means of erosion, veiling and dissemblance as ways to critique assumption of the homogeneity of the image. All artists cast a view of the external world by diverting it, defacing it and distancing themselves from the external environment. However, the distancing is never disconnected from the everyday and never succumbs to abstraction. The article argues that the crisis of the image offers a productive framework that allows artists to draw attention to the absence of logical structure and the instability of the visual sign.
The focus of this special journal issue ‘Erosion and Illegibility of Images’ is to explore the relationship of erosion and visibility through contemporary artistic practices at a moment when everything, as Latour suggests, is smashed to pieces. The essays in this issue deploy the notion of erosion as a conceptual tool in order to explore the shifting and depositing of materials, which is observed both on a formal visual level (the breaking up of the image surface) and a critical revaluation of memory, visibility and artistic tools. From an instrumentalist understanding of tools and material, I set out to explore the impact of a radical restriction and limitation of traditional skills and craftsmanship on the artistic process. While recent research has focused predominantly on art theoretical understandings of ruins, the articles collected here aim to interrogate the relationship between artists, artistic tools and the materials of production in contemporary artistic practice by putting them in conversation with each other and scrutinizing interventions such as ‘preservation’, remaking, retro-recuperations and nostalgia work of several kinds.
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