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Emily Carr University of Art and Design Graduate Studies (Degree granting institution)
Speaking Spaces: Phenomenology, Meditation and Pleinairism
This paper is about the practice of painting outdoors in the manner of pleinairism. This activity began for me as an effort to overcome a sense of personal alienation by engaging in an applied empathy with space. In turn, the thesis also touches on the general social condition of Postmodern alienation as a context for plein air painting. And it briefly outlines the history of pleinairism, as a methodology that aspired to render the world as it appeared to the contemporaneous eye. My current approach to plein air painting is described as an embodied conversation with space through the index of paint and suggests that in the state of attention, the space and the painter become intertwined in a reciprocal exchange, or a Chiasm as described by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. By painting this way, it is suggested that space and the painter express one another and in so doing, produce an animate document of a painted conversation. This material practice is inspired by phenomenology, meditation and the sensorial experience of working outdoors. This paper seeks to redefine plein air landscape painting for the 21st century as a model for awareness of ourselves and our relationship to space. It describes a methodology of applied empathy, and forgetting the self and predetermined ideas, in order to become receptive to the agency of space.