Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Saenredam's Nothingness

"Hanging in the Dutch museums are works by a minor master who may be as deserving of literary renown as Vermeer. Saenredam paints neither faces nor objects, but chiefly vacant church interiors, reduced to the beige and innocuous unction of butterscotch ice cream. These churches, where there is nothing to be seen but expanses of wood and whitewashed plaster, are irremediably unpeopled, and this negation goes much further than the destruction of idols. Never has nothingness been so confident. Saenredam's sugary, stubborn surfaces calmly reject the Italian overpopulation of statues, as well as the horror vacui professed by other Dutch painters. Saenredam is a painter of the absurd; he has achieved a privative state of the subject, more insidious than the dislocations of our contemporaries. To paint so lovingly these meaningless surfaces, and to paint nothing else - that is already a "modern" aesthetic of silence."

Roland Barthes, "The World As Object" (sourced here).

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