Beyond the space of painting and poetry: Mallarmé and the embodied gesture

O'TOOLE, Bernadette (2020). Beyond the space of painting and poetry: Mallarmé and the embodied gesture. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

O'Toole_2021_PhD_BeyondSpacePainting_.pdf - Accepted Version
Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (9MB) | Preview
[img] Archive (ZIP) (Digital outputs/artefacts)
O'Toole_2021_PhD_BeyondSpacePainting(Digital outputs).zip - Accepted Version
Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (7MB)
Link to published version::


Painting cannot be bound by definition; painting’s entanglement with art history, theory, and philosophy is a game of conjecture leading to a proliferation of terms as colourful and singular as a brush mark. This research re-evaluates the terms of painting in the ‘expanded-field’. Rosalind Krauss considers the expanded-field the domain of post-modernism, equating it with ‘the post-medium condition’ – opposing Clement Greenberg’s modernist aesthetic which limits painting to the conventions of its ‘proper medium’. Today the expanded-field opens onto digital space – David Joselit imagines painting as a network, Isabel Graw proposes a ‘residual-specificity’ embedded in a ‘medium-unspecific’ concept of painting. This research re-imagines the space of painting through the space of poetry: through a network of reciprocal relations manifest in Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem Un coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard, (A throw of the Dice will never abolish Chance). The striking innovation of Mallarmé’s generative poem lies in its capacity for multiple and simultaneous readings, signified in a weaving of word, image, and sound, which Mallarmé presents as a constellation. Through a close reading of Un coup de Dés I suggest a new critical space for painting, demonstrated in Mallarmé’s spatial poetics. I propose that the poem marks the transition from a Modernist ‘absorptive’ mode of looking/reading to a postmodern performative mode, and that Mallarmé is crucial to understanding the relation between content and form. I demonstrate Mallarmé’s relevance to articulating a reductive tendency in painting through a re–appraisal of the structural and spatial organisation of the text, the grid, blank page, and the subsequent sculptural turn that led to a re-negotiation of the space between the object and viewer. Through performative strategies I engage with the text, drawing attention to the metaphoric possibilities of the space of the page and of the book; these include painting, sculpture, video, digital media, installation, and mathematics. Through a formal investigation of line, space, and gesture, painting is presented as a language with its own syntax. My artwork shows that what animates this relation is the embodiment of gesture, as a movement towards the idea perceived, and that the viewer’s relation to the object is negotiated as a gap or a virtual space where meaning constantly unfolds. The distinction between practice and theory, between academic writing and writing as practice, breaks down; research, conceived as a series of dialogues with Mallarmé, re-frames and re-articulates Un coup de Dés. Visual and textual forms are woven together, establishing a direct relation between literature and the plastic arts. This research makes a contribution to Mallarméan studies, and to current discourses relating to painting in the expanded-field, through a re-evaluation of the relation between the space of painting and poetry, and discourses that underpin spatial and temporal readings of the text. I demonstrate the importance of Mallarmé to trans-disciplinary research; extant material from one field applied to another generates new forms embodied in this gesture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Kivland, Sharon [0000-0003-4583-4677]
Thesis advisor - Simmonds, Gary [0000-0001-7925-289X]
Thesis advisor - Tarlo, Harriet [0000-0002-6626-8099]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Dr. Sharon Kivland / Supervisors: Gary Simmonds and Harriet Tarlo.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2022 15:03
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 15:19

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics