Exposition

The Rembrant Search Party (2016)

Jean-Marie Clarke

About this exposition

The object of my research involves an elementary particle of meaning: a letter of the alphabet. The claim that a single letter can make to meaning is clear in the case of an initial—which is usually a single, capital letter—and even more so when this initial appears in the context of a signature. Specifically, my research deals with the initial letter "R" used by the 17th-century Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) in his signatures. The meanings that an initial letter can mediate are not limited to identification and references to a full name. Letters of the alphabet, while being basic verbal units, have visual, not to say pictorial features. All by itself, a letter is not yet a word or phoneme. It exhibits the formal characteristics of a sign, grapheme, symbol. Many of the major writing systems in the world—phonetic or not—were derived from pictograms, from representational pictorial symbols. We all learned to write by drawing letters before combining them into words. The pictorial history of letters and writing (then printing) has been ignored by mainstream art history, which has devoted its attention to works of "high art," like painting. At what scale does an intentionally-made visual form become pictorially significant? The pictorial component is obvious in calligraphy and typography, even if only to a specialized audience. But there is a blindness relative to letter forms, such that, for example, few readers are aware of the shapes of the type or handwriting they are reading. This blindness is all the more surprising considering the fact that even phonetic writing was a visual achievement: the rendering of speech visible. Given this, the traditional opposition between the verbal and the visual, between word and image, needs to be reconsidered in terms of vision coupled with blindness. Vision, because eyes read texts and see pictures. Blindness, because in both cases the medium—print or paint—is overlooked. I postulate this seeing/not-seeing paradox as a principle of vision-based works that could be summarized by the word overlooking. This ambiguous term can mean both "not seeing things" and "seeing things." Often, we end up either not noticing certain things or "seeing things" by virtue of looking too much: this is a basic risk in research of any kind. In reference to Edgar Allan Poe's famous detective tale, The Purloined Letter (1844), which provides a paradigmatic case of overlooking, I like to call it the "Purloined Principle." Given the pictorial significance of a letter of the alphabet, a study of Rembrandt's signature—the graphic sign of his identity—will reveal that it may be considered as a historical, existential and esthetic document in its own right.
typeresearch exposition
keywordsRembrandt, signatures, writing, pictogram, Poe, blindness, attention, letters as form
date11/02/2016
published08/11/2016
last modified08/11/2016
statuspublished
licenseAll rights reserved
urlhttps://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/250318/250319
doihttps://doi.org/10.22501/jar.250318
published inJournal for Artistic Research
portal issue11.


Simple Media

id name copyright license
304943 6_Rembrandt search party EC2 Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
304941 5_purloined principle EC2 Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
304937 4_practice EC2 Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
304934 3_practice EC2 Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
304932 2_practice EC2 Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294283 3_practice ECC Jean-Marie CLarke All rights reserved
294258 0_Introduction ECC Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294225 6_Rembrandt search party EC Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294222 5_purloined principle EC Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294206 4_practice EC Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294181 2_practice EC Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294155 1_practice EC Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294140 0b_NOTE to the introduction video EC Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294137 The Rembrant Search Party Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294136 The purloined principle Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294135 Practice 4 Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294134 Practice 3 Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294133 Practice 2 Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294132 Practice 1 Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294131 Practice 1 Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294130 Note, theory Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294129 0_introduction Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294032 0_jmc_JAR_introduction_ - copy jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
294028 0_jmc_JAR_introduction_ - copy jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
294025 0_Introduction EC Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
294021 0_jmc_JAR_introduction_ - copy jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
291252 JAR-JMC-Intro-3 - copy jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
291247 JAR-JMC-Intro-3 - copy jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290110 2016_Rembrandt_Chronology_2016 jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290106 2016_jmc_purloined principle jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290103 2016_jmc_R_practice_4_vortex jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290100 2016_jmc_R_practice_3_signatures jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290097 2016_jmc_R_practice_2_navel jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290094 2016_jmc_R_practice_1_apprentice slips jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290091 0_jmc_JAR_introduction_ jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290090 title_video_epilog jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290089 title_video_zwischenbericht jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290088 title_video_introduction jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290087 title_video_afterthought jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290086 title_Note_theory jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
290083 TheRembrantSearchParty_Eyechart_title jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
289994 Afterthought jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
289974 JAR-JMC-Preview Test Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
289936 jmc_JAR_Epilog jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
289931 jmc_JAR_Zwischenbericht jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
289919 JAR-JMC-Intro-3 jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
289914 JMC_JAR_Afterthought-Dwnldd 2 jean-marie clarke All rights reserved
256531 jmc_Purloined Principle Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
255066 2_intro_Theory_R_JAR Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
255065 1_intro_R_JAR Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved
252787 2016_JAR_R_intro_Note-Theory Jean-Marie Clarke All rights reserved

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