Künstler: Jonathan Binet
In Jonathan Binet’s works, pictorial thinking is inexorably intertwined with spatial, sculptural execution. Binet, coming originally from drawing, grasps spatial elements in a way that is also entirely graphical, and, in turn, views paintings and painting elements as spatial presences. Two- and three-dimensionality form an exchange here via an imaginary “mediating” plane that is essentially constituted in the eye of the beholder.
Binet’s formal vocabulary consists of simple materials such as stretcher bars and steel profiles. Apart from the visible elements, however, absences, cut-outs, concealed aspects and imaginary forms the viewer expands on also play a defining compositional role. A concentrated interplay of actual and absent forms is formulated in an inter-pictorial and sculptural manner, i.e. between the paintings and painting elements, but also in relation to the spatial “frame,” the exhibition space. It provides the frame of reference and compositional meta-structure for the hanging. This could well be understood as a form of presentation in which the space functions as a stage for individual works eager to demonstrate their aesthetic potential as compositional actors. This conception of exhibiting not only reveals Binet’s thinking about formal relationships and composition, it also reflects a performative aspect intrinsic to the process as well.
Binet’s work was already devoted early on to the question of how to formulate an abstract painting out of concrete forms and gestures. In so doing, it is not about the genesis of a balanced compositional interaction, but about achieving a certain balanced restlessness, which always also points to the possibility of other, altered constellations and syntheses and thus to a potential future. This compositional “restlessness” is not only contingent on the interplay and interferences between heterogeneous, disruptive forms and materials, but also by the matter-of-fact application of mutually opposing methods and principles: Binet’s works are about both making and destroying, presence and absence, questioning and answering, as well as action and reaction. The artist works with deliberate forms, with decisive placements, but also with the autopoiesis of materials and forms. Conceived and spontaneous, the incidental, but also the tangibly real and situationally imaginary do not constitute opposites, but poles between which the process of the work’s genesis unfolds in an undirected-directed manner.
Formal principles of repetition, variation, and the continuation of a motif also open up a decidedly temporal dimension. The individual works—which can also be read as temporal outtakes from a compositional continuum—do not merely demonstrate decisions and specific placements and thus document the past, but also make it possible to conceive of and imagine a future, i.e. the potential continuation of the compositional undertaking. Spatial and temporal aspects are subtly unmoored from their usual ontological anchorages and negotiated in the space of the painting as a simultaneity of successive elements.
The title of the exhibition, Diptych, alludes to a “figure of thought” and conceptual underpinning that informs Binet’s working approach. Intended here, however, are not two juxtaposed image components joined together with a hinge, but partially corresponding, overlapping pictorial and spatial layers, whose relationships appear rather disparate, even precarious. Binet thus resorts to a form of correlation and correspondence between parts of the paintings, but then quickly draws out their variances, their inconsistencies. Of interest is not so much the status of the individual parts that form each doubling, but their uncertain relationship to and dialogue with each other. Given the very inconsistent and challenging nature of their relationship, the viewer is once again called on to work out, even “visually deduce” the interferences between individual components.
With Binet, the surrounding walls, the entire space, form together with the visual features of the individual works a compositional whole. Against this background, it is also possible to account for a visually striking spatial intervention, which, within the inter-pictorial, spatial context, can be read as a drawing-based graphical, even gestural aspect: Binet shifts one of the pillars of the exhibition space, first exposing it by removing its drywall cladding and making visible the concrete beam located inside. The original cladding is then moved a few meters into the center of the room. This spatial intervention produces a kind of doubling of the support column via its sculptural simulacrum, forming an architectural counterpart to the pictorial diptychs on the walls of the exhibition space.
Despite the interleaving of two- and three-dimensionality mentioned at the outset, art-historical terms such as “spatial painting” or “expanded painting” are inadequate and ultimately also inaccurate for Binet, since his thinking is explicitly influenced by drawing, regardless of the materials used, and can be read as a reflection of the status and potentiality of the stroke (and only thereafter of painting). Also, the sensation of perception, the modality of seeing that Binet aims for with the viewer, proves to be conceived of in an essentially pictorial and graphical manner. The wall of the exhibition space serves here as the actual canvas, as the basis for the compositional scenario. A field of tension and interference within the pictorial space of the image is formed differently for each viewer depending on the angle of view. The essential quality of the work is not achieved here by the individual elements, be they of a pictorial or spatial nature, but results from their interaction.
In his works, Binet reflects the fundamental conditions of the system of drawing—and of painting. He questioned early on intentionality and artistic will, since it showed him that the imagined gesture or form always deviates from the one actually created. The lack of concordance between imagined and realized forms creates a conflict zone that became an interesting subject for the artist and indeed what inspired his working process. Here, direct, hands-on access to material is crucially important for Binet. He works in a highly physical, at times almost performative way. The radius of movement that produces the drawing stroke can involve the entire length of his body. Nevertheless, a small preliminary drawing or sketch is by no means subordinate to a large-format work in a room, the spatial drawing. Instead of a conventional approach based on sequential drawing phases—from idea to draft to implementation—Binet’s aesthetic process alternates between individual drawing modalities. By deliberately eliminating the work’s successive steps, by infiltrating the temporal order, Binet is able to achieve forms and results he himself would not have been able to plan either at the outset or during the process.
Binet is engaged in a paradoxical search for what cannot be controlled: “The only goal,” says the artist, “is surprising yourself.” Chance often yields better results if you just coax it along. Binet seeks to circumvent or eliminate what’s planned, selected, and decided during the working process in order to turn what’s not intentional into performance. Although it is impossible to plan or generate something unpredictable, the conditions for getting there can be created.
Disruption is recognizable as an ongoing motif, indeed a strategy, within Binet’s aesthetic practice. Binet questions the potential quality of the error. For instance, a trace of paint or a hole in the wall of his studio, made while creating an earlier series of works, can serve not only as an aesthetic component but even the starting point for a new series. Errors and successful forms are specifically taken out of their original context and made available for potential reinterpretation. Binet does not view this semantic shift as deconstruction at all. Painting over or cutting out parts of the paintings, even entire paintings, is also an important tool for giving form, paradoxically, to the non-painting and non-form, the non-existent forms. This is why Binet does not, as a rule, throw out unfinished, “failed” works; he sees in these discarded paintings or fragments of paintings the potential of a formal quality that can be rearticulated at a later date and in a different context. This allows the artist to integrate the past, i.e. the set-aside and the discarded, into the current creative process. Here, the past is not something complete, or even surmounted, but forever a potential present. Binet works to create a present version of the past, his works are capable of projecting what’s past beyond the present moment into the future, making evident that it is the future that is capable of determining the significance of the past.
Text: David Komary
Translation: Erik Smith