Everett critique

             ‘I think about my present state, or SENSATIONS (appearances), are representations of the present state of the world. Therefore, my sensation is actualized by the soul’s power of representing according to the position of my body’

Alexander Baumgarten, Metaphysics.

At gallery Mennour, Everett mentioned ‘Camp fire’, which started november 8th, until its confinment, on november 25th, gnawing 600km2, of which emanations obliged even people afar from the site to stay locked up inside their housing, including Everett and his family, who live in San Francisco. But is there a link between the exhibition and ‘Camp Fire’? Do we  have to see here a transcription of these catastrophic and deadly events? I don’t think so.

The struggle engaged by Everett with painting — and this term should be taken as a sort of mythologic figure, against which Everett fights, and not as a painting per se, the unique and singular object —, this struggle does not date from 2018. As a proof of it, Everett admits that each painting is a struggle. This is not an ‘image’, that’s his reality : a practice (praxis). As such, it engages the full body of the artist, a body which is not dual (body/mind), but, rather, hylemorphic (the Aristotelian ‘mixture’ of the intertwined nature — psuchè/pathos —, of our being, to put it briefly — sorry for that, but you can contact me, and I will explain).

It is commonplace to remind that a painting implies an engagement of the body. It is sometimes asserted metaphorically, or, literally speaking: It needs a living body to produce a painting. The objects/obstacles put on the canvas add to the difficulty for Everett to intervene in his gesture, as it can be seen here. In this video Everett explains why he makes use of objects as such: it is made to feel him more ‘present’, not going ‘elsewhere’, elsewhere meaning something like distraction, daydreaming, I suppose. The constant implication of objects between him and the canvas requires his full bodily attention-intention (in-tension, either).

Everett paintings are made of superimposed layers, adjacent, overlapping, which seem to figure as much as moments of attack, more of less decisive. These attacks are also counter-attacked, because we can see traces of scratch, scraping, repent, as if Everett had changed his mind, and finally looked for what was there just ‘before’, i.e., ‘underneath’, because we notice, looking carefully, several traces of masking, of materials contours momentarily fixed upon the canvas in order to paint around but not inside. From this latter aspect, some areas look like collages.

The result at first is a chaos: Traces of projections, crushing, displacements, deposit, flowing, superimpositions. What strikes the « regardeur », the beholder, is what I would call the association of contradictions. And this should not come as a surprise, since, according to Everett, the canvas on the ground is the site of a permanent research which possesses all the characteristics of a conflicting happening. And this can reminds us of the very notion of ‘aesthetics’ such as circumscribed by Alexander Gottlied Baumgarten (1714-1762): ‘A universal nexus, which cannot be represented without both sides of the connection [i.e., the “sufficient reason’], in every sensation, everything connected with something sensed, or with that which is sensed, is represented, but not clearly, and hence for the greater and most part obscurely. Therefore, there is something obscure in every sensation, and hence to some extent there is always an admixture of confusion in a sensation, even a distinct one. Whence it follows that every sensation is a sensitive perception that must be formed through the inferior faculty. And since EXPERIENCE is clear knowledge by means of sense, the AESTHETICS of gathering and presenting experience is EMPIRICAL’.

Of course that what Baumgarten is saying here is a bit redundant for anybody familiar with philosophies of experience (from Aristotle to Whitehead, through James and Dewey, for instance), and probably for most of the artists. Why? Because aesthetics, etymologically, is the work of the senses « à l’œuvre », in the questioning of the real and of reality. Yet it will become less redundant if we posit that what Baumgarten and Whitehead had brought into the field of experience, are respectively the obscure or confuse sensation, and the negative feeling. There is something of this kind in Everett paintings, which leaves us to a certain point of indetermination: words do not suffice, they interrupt their noise in front of the painting.

A note on the ‘struggle’. A painting by Everett seems to be the result of what could finally be called an ‘armistice’. Decomposed, the word is made from the Latin words arma (arm, weapon), and ‘state of immobility’ (statio), build upon the word interstitium, ‘interstice’. If we keep on with the metonymy, we might assume that the final touch on a painting is the very sign of the armistice, such as the exact moment, the exact space-time where the absolute end is missing, and, in the same exact space-time, Everett uses a finished canvas for another one, by laying it down on a new virgin one; in other words: for another struggle. If there is no armistice, hence this is the utter destruction of the painting. It disappears, it never existed.


References. Alexander Baumgarten, Metaphysics: A Critical Translation With Kant’s Elucidations, Selected Notes, and Related Materials, Bloomsbury Academic, 2014 /// Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality. An Essay in Cosmology [1929], The Free Press, 1978

PS: Once again, I’ve been translating this piece of critique from my French, and I am sole responsible therefore for any miswriting, and I apologize in advance.