by Stefan Arteni


On Painting
Otherwhere Otherwise
Painting, Image Likeness
A Wandering Journey
Painting Calligraphy
Painting as Polycontexturality






Sol Invictus Press

The ‘real world’…is replaced…
by possible worlds, i.e. prefabricated
selections from the ready made
repertoire available to the culture.

Itamar Even-Zohar

The urge toward permanence is not contradictory to the streaming
chaos of existence, it corresponds to the essence of bodying
life (Heidegger): to transpose chaos into schemata (Johnson, Mark Turner),
to impress upon it the seal of regularity in the sense of making
constant what is inarticulate (Nietzsche). Facts do not exist apart from
a conceptual scheme. People with different conceptual schemes live
in different worlds (Weimer). What makes the world tractable is the
imposition upon it of one or more apriori structures.

Everything new is anticipated as something generally


‘known’ (Hollenstein): the constitution of space is bound to the
body and its movements; similarity, contrast, contiguity, appear as a
genetic Ereignis against a background; the possibility of correlating a configuration and an image does not intrinsically affect the configuration
as such.

    One question, to which the following intends to give an answer, is:
    what is the potential of visual art, and where do its limits lie?
    What would constitute an image? What consequences does the
    rift caused by modernity have for painting, image, and likeness?
    We must let the rift be, while textualisation articulates its possible
    variations. Briefly, although no comments on the artistic existence
    of the work have been made by iconophiles, the discussion gives
    glimpses on how a set of non-platonizing answers is no longer
    recalled, held, or kept, until partially redelineated by a few
    twentieth century painters. Learning to see requires to make
    problematical what is said, to overcome the univocal, rootless,
    shallowed, words, to prepare to open the eyes. Seeing may involve
    ‘translation’ of earlier visions into our vision as it is currently
    used, and ‘translation’ of our seeing into ‘their’ terms, a more
    originary, back and forth seeing, a hermeneutics as wayfinding
    (the Odyssey calls Hermes the ‘wayfinder’): form as ritual of
    the world.


Men are born iconoclasts or iconodules.

Fred Berance

Since Plato, the legitimity of painting and image is covered up
ab ovo (Boehm). The scandal of the visual/iconic lies in a wider play space
than verbal signs; this space will be fixed icono-graphically in analogy with
speech: the text gives the semantic identification of the visual, establishing
a relation between the iconic – the image, a polyvalent artifact- and referent,
independent of the latter’s existence. The iconic will be strongly codified as

The image controversy ignores the artistic dimension (Giakalis). Comments
on artistic theory or style are absent. Even before the iconoclastic crisis,
Gregory of Nyssa writes: “One does not dwell on the colors, but looks at
the figure alone.”

The iconoclasts insist on the presence of the prototype in the image.
Constantin V ignores the notion of a relation of resemblance between
model and painted image: in order to be a true image, the image has to be
consubstantial with what is depicted, image and original are all but
magically the same (Schoenborn), full correspondence between image and
prototype is the only criterion that validates an image. This attitude denies
in principle the existence of the image. Denigration and contempt for the
material aspect of art is also one of the striking traits of iconoclasm.

The 754 Council gives the argument a platonic twist: there is an abyss
between image and model.

The iconophiles first give equal weight to the written word and the painted
image. The iconophiles of the second cycle of the iconoclastic debate
emphasize however the superiority of the painted image (Photios).
Theodore of Studion claims that the sense of sight precedes all other senses.
The tradition that goes back to Heraclitus which maintained the superiority
of the faculty of sight is summarized by Aristotle: “Sight best helps us to
know things.” Byzantine painting becomes pseudo-figurative, quasi

When Gregory the Great equates the image sign and the homiletic
function (Maedler) and foreordains images to a strictly didactic and
illustrative purpose, he relegates Western Europe to a rhetoric grasp
of the iconic – ut pictura poesis (Simonides and the latins)- on the
model of ‘talking images’, a television effect through words (Lange).

Amongst artes liberales painting is classified under ‘Rhetoric’, painting
is subsumed under ‘Word’. The conjunction visual art- poetry- rhetoric
is reinforced by the Counterreformation. Gilio labels visual art as
muta predicatio (Scavizzi), images are concrete and direct while
letters are artificial and indirect and learning belongs to the
few (Paleotti). This silent form of iconoclasm reduces the visual to
an illustration of an underlying text, to seeing conceived as
reading (Baetschmann). The proprium of the pictorial forma as
semantically open is forgotten. The convertibility of the utterances
of a medium (text) into a different one (image), as ground for
iconographic coding, becomes asymmetric, it weighs in favour of
text: pictura est laicorum literatura, an effort to take control of
a symbolic system by artificial, formalized, verbal systems, and
supplant pre-linguistic structures (Deely).


One should dissociate representation and

Mikel Dufrenne

mimetike eikon








image as copy/imitation

misleading/deceitful/creative/formed in parody/

from the root ‘see’: the outward appearance in which
something shows itself/its stable whatness/
visible appearance

outward appearance that only looks like the outward
appearance proper/ Homer: what persists in Hades,
the visible but impalpable semblance of the once
living (Onians)

in the cult of Dionysos, to represent in dance, express/
related to mousike, it is a dromenon, a rite, movement/
mimesis of the mythos as happening in a
Gesamtkunstwerk, unity of gestural, mimic, dance,
speech and music; it degenerates into mimesis as
imitation, mirror of reality, while initially the accent is
on the process (Weidle, Koller)

The atomists’ theory of visual perception states that eidola, spirits without
substance but articulated in the same shape, are given off by a thing and
enter the pores of a viewer. Plato speaks of eikonas/eidola as
shadows/reflections in water, mirror, and art, illusions lacking the
reality of what they depict.

Painting consists in ‘constructing’, in accordance with the laws of the
very object to be posited in being. Plato, with his theory of imitation
in several degrees, misconceives the nature of painting (Maritain).
From Plato to Gadamer it has been assumed that a painted image is a
copy/mirror image/mimesis. The image is the objective condition
under which a few points are seen as a figure, a Gestalt (Wertheimer).

The most powerful of visual sensations are contrast, brightness, and
blackness (Gregory). There is a principle of transformation that
produces edges and borders (Gregg). All experiencing is selective,
it is a structuring.

Before perceiving a figure, one perceives the beauty and richness
of workmanship (Theophilus): the pictorial space is a manifold
of interacting elements –strokes/marks, areas, textures. It is a
visual continuum: underlying the concept of the continuum is the
intuition of a given totality which is not an extrinsic
assemblage (Dedekind, Cantor). The first perception of painting
within a building is kaleidoscopic in nature, in the sense of color
patterns changing as the eyes wander.


An art becomes fine when it loses its utility.

Etienne Gilson

paradosis – tradition

The visually new has to be somehow part of the past accumulated
visual experience. Consistency derives from the element of
interpretation of the past and the discovery of new principles of
repetition, ‘a recursion from the inside’, effacement,
transmutation (Bachelard).

Training for the Imperial Service consists in an education in the
classics – Byzantine ‘Confucianism -, while unwritten tradition
becomes the base of customs and practices.

To learn a visual art by example is to accept artistic
tradition (Polanyi). The student assimilates rules that are known
and rules that are not explicitly known to either the teacher or the
student – an unspecified skill, Fink’s Rueckverweisung (intentional
renvois): ‘Catoptrica’ (theory of angles of incidence and reflection
and refraction of light, used for the creation and placement of
mosaics); ‘Skenographia’ (where the picture space is that of the
room in which the painting is placed, i.e. the space before it);
a homospatial process, where two or more entities occupy the
same space, leading to the articulation of new identities, transitory
and hazy (Rotherberg); the complex bringing together of visual
elements or additive combinations in figure-ground configuration,
that lead to superimposed stimuli; a system of vertical parallel
planes superposed, the horizon line often seeming curved and
placed high; in short, the notion of structural pictorial
equivalents leading to Arnheim’s visual thinking.
The ‘Ekphraseis’ emphasize that the gaze of the viewer should


…a pictorial approach to philosophy…

Etienne Gilson

There is an ‘earth’ element in every work, a sign of mortality, at the
level of the material itself (Vattimo). What kind of being can one
attribute to paintings if their being is a slow an inexorable becoming,
and when one considers how difficult it is even to come up with a
definition of art?

A painting has an ontological existence as it is a solid, material thing,
object of visual perception, enduring in a certain place and enjoying
a continuous mode of existence as long as it lasts (Gilson).

Painting is dominated by the unique role of the painted form which
has its own expressivity, independent of its ideological significance,
independent of any ‘language’ of the iconic/image (Gilson).
Form, forma, is the formula of a thing whose function it is to gather
together elements and include them in the unity of a being:
formosus, the formal plenitude for which a kind of shaped
matter (hyle+morphe) is meant by its nature – a bad painting fails
to be a fully constituted being -, a formal structure that dominates
content, a system that is a relational network, the nothingness of
form within the pictorial space where a line is a thing, a being.
When one isolates a fragment of a figurative painting out of its
context, the brushstrokes form an abstract composition – semantically
empty elements (Eco).

The phenomenological existence of a painting as a perceived object
is twofold (Gilson).

It has an artistic existence, as it having been produced by art as a
painting. The iconic/image has to be understood as painting, not
copy, it is not the simple representation of a prototype/model,
but its codification, in different degrees of iconicity: the degree
of abstraction of the icon/image is culturally conditioned, a
Byzantine or a Chinese literati painting will seem incoherent
to a 19th century Western European.

The painting has an aesthetic existence, as it being experienced by
viewers/receptors. Aesthetics, which grows out of West European
philosophy, might remain finally alien to East European thinking.


The artist is only a mediator between
inspiration and matter. Matter has a life of
its own. It is with his brush and on his
palette that the painter should first search
for perfection.

Raoul Dufy


A person born blind will first see, upon regaining the sight, an
amorphous whole dominated by color, which later will become a
specific shape (Von Senden).

In the Western frame of mind, color tends to be emblematic and
taxonomic (Pastoureau). In the Renaissance, lighting is external
to the painting.

For the Eastern European, skiasma (shadow/preliminary drawing),
skiagraphia (drawing/underdrawing), only fore-shadow
aletheia (truth/reality), for form is essentially defined by color.
The sense of sight must be understood as the basic faculty that
initiates the process that leads to the grasp of truth. To
know (eidenai) consists in communing with forms (eide), it is
a seeing (eidon). The painting becomes an alethological
Ereignis. There can be no substitute for this world of vision,
the sheer joy of seeing.

Color creates form. For Pseudo-Dionysius color is light
materialized, light is also darkness. Palamas stresses the primacy
of sight and the relationship between sight and the ecstatic
brightness of color, in an original space that is non-homogeneous,
bound to bodily orientations (Patocka).

Alchemical beliefs estimate color as the indication of the
transmutation of matter. Attributing symbolic qualities to
materials and colors, the impulse comes to enhance surfaces,
substances and textures (James), stressing the importance of the
visual and tactile senses in the appreciation of art works,
architecture and craft. John of Damascus rehabilitates matter
and thus the material, artificial, image.

Light is immanent in the painting-world. The flat surface color
is self-lighting, the colored background pushes the lighter colors
forward – a perspective through color-, color extends
beyond/withdraws within its borders (Schoene). Color as
matter becomes again self-lighting in the twentieth century,
in the works of De Stael and Poliakoff.



All is way (Tao).

Martin Heidegger

Painting, modus pingendi, should not be understood based on its
possible function of signifying some content.
Painting should not be understood based on an expression
function, as expression of someone’s subjectivity.
Paraphrasing Heidegger and Ott, painting may be viewed as an
overwhelming happening, in which humans are allowed to abide.
Painting paints, it is the ‘possibility of the possible’ of a mortal’s
act of painting.

Painting is a system of form-ation and trans-form-ation
rules concerning finite series of elements: kind and order,
constants used as abbreviations, variables, pictorial equivalents
as a visual mediation strategy (Kearns). The nature of painting
exists, lies above and beyond, yet it has no concrete existence of
its own, except in the nature of each painted painting.

The system of knowledge that underlies the art and understanding
of painting is based on rules –systematizations that possess a
normative force over particular questions of usage, but remain
malleable to future extensive enough variations. Rules are
primarily descriptive, they express regularities; over time
rules may become prescriptive and thus dogmatic.

The artistic function concentrates attention on the pictorial mark
itself, i.e. Levi Strauss’ iconic figures: brushstrokes, paint layering,
paint texture, etc., consequently against any referential or expressive
functions, which point to entities outside the pictorial. The
pictorial, as such, is self referential, semantically
empty (Mukarovsky). The work appears on the background
of artistic norms, conditioned in their turn by a cultural and
social background (Mukarovski). A cultural history hides beneath
the artefact.

The primitive mark, the brushstroke element, is a unit that seems
to be a sign but is semantically empty (Eco). The syntax lays
down the formal rules according to which pictorial compositional
structures are to be built from the elements: a new form is
applied to pre-formed matter, a higher form is based upon a
lower one.


The work is not the trace of art as activity, it
is art itself; it does not designate it, it gives
birth to it…a sign signifies, form signifies

Henri Focillon







pattern/composition device/shape at rest [workshop

seal/cut in/to impress or stamp/visible aspect and image
of this visibility/character signifies that which makes a
collection of charagmata (drawn lines and strokes) into
a coherent configuration, Gestalt (Germanos of

to carve, engrave, visible, recognizable marks


shape/visible shape


the latin forma is hyle+morphe/eidos+morphe

The iconoclasts sought to assert the priority of writing (Parry).
Writing is as much visual as painting (John of Damascus).
Graphia/graphe means delineation/representation by means of lines/
painting/writing; graphe is both visual form and written
discourse (Nicephorus); grapheion (engraving tool/chisel/brush/pencil),
graptos/grapte (painted/marked as with letters), and
graphai (to engrave/inscribe) are related terms.

The artist is kainourgos (makes new/re-creates), grapheos (painter/scribe),
technourgos (creator of art), he possesses eutechnia (skill in art).
Miniatures of the book of Genesis show Christ as a geometer, with
a pair of dividers. The figurative painter, one who paints or writes
life (zographos), imitates the work of the Divine Maker.

Painting is graphia (painting/writing), hylographia (material painting/
material writing), zographia (figurative painting), logographia (painted
words). In the Far East a calligraphy may be signed ‘so and so painted

The painter gives shapes (schemata) to the amorphous (aschematistos),
writes John of Damascus. The making is a bringing forth, becoming
fixed/established, in the work’s enduring structure, an inner
belonging together admitted into the dynamic/fluctuating/changing
play of surfaces.

Although the figurative image is patterned on the human body,
for the Greeks the Gods are not anthropomorphic; it is humans
who, now and then, are theomorphic (Besancon). Theodore of
Studion describes humanity as theomorphic.

The figurative painting represents itself and something other than
itself, it is a formal game.


No little of the sterility of art theory…from…
antiquity to our own day, is due to the failure to
state at the outset whether one is thinking from
the point of view of the producer of the work of
art, or of the consumer.

Bernard Berenson


The reader may commission a painting, may demand a specifically
and expertly formulated iconographic program. Regarding the
material incarnation, the painter’s starting point is more or less
fluid, even when using a how-to handbook of the ‘Hermeneia’
type as an aid.

    “When a painting is in the making, we seem to recognize it
    little by little, but without ever knowing ahead of time what
    its true visage will exactly be…” (Jean Bazaine)

The artistic pictorial marks structure is not reproduction, but invention
as creative process – the art work is open (Eco), the ambiguity of
decoding leads one to look for ‘how it is done’ by concentrating
the gaze on the brushmarks.

In the graphic visual continuum, the syntax layer, the unbounding
of the ‘iconic figures’ (Levi Strauss) or pictorial marks structures
takes place, without any regard for referential possibilities:
the pictorial mark exists at a pre-linguistic level.

There is a distinction between the work as a material object and
the form cast into it. Contrapunctual form operates on two
dimensions, horizontally (melodically) and vertically (harmonically).
Two or more melodies combine in such a way that they develop
independently of how they sound against each other. But they
have to be concordant.


To exist fully, means existing at the dimensions
of the world…because of the power to exist,
[paintings] detach themselves from the context
and become signifying by themselves.

Mikel Dufrenne



The grand illusion of traditional aesthetics has been to look for
the meaning of the work outside of what gives it artistic meaning.
Unless iconographically codified, the work has a semantic openness.
The ‘language’ of painting is not a giver of meaning, it is a sense
carrier; it carries its meaning in itself, it does not give meaning to
anything else but itself. The work reflects back on itself, it gives
itself the meaning that it, itself, is. In a painting, blue means firstly
blue, not sky (Piguet).

    “Representation and signification differ in this: an object can
    represent another than itself, and thus be a sign, but an object
    can also represent itself; a sign is a sign only if it is a sign of
    something other than itself. All signs involve representation,
    but not all representations are signs.” (Poinsot, 1632)

The painting is an articulated plane surface, a virtual/pictorial
space, relations of pictorial equivalents/visual substitutes, a
structure based on the fact that sight focuses on vertical planes
at various depths, a lexicographic bricolage where one must
ascertain the referential illusion that transforms a configuration
into image of something (iconization).

The work is autoreflexive, the iconic melts into its materiality
(the interpretant of the sign/configuration is only a disposition
to react in a certain way), it blends into the material – it becomes
a ‘plurisign’ bound into the pictorial context. Forma should not
be perceived as recapitulation of earlier memories, although the
artist inscribes painting out of an immense dictionary of pictorial
signs and citations (Barthes). Contrary to Barthes’ view, the
unity of the work lies in its origin, not in its destination.

Self-reference, Aufsichberuhen (Heidegger), breaks the one-to-one
correspondence between image and archetype, because the image
system can respond only in terms of its self-referential structures,
it can react only in its own terms (Luhmann).
Painting signifies as painting (De Schloezer). The signified is
immanent in the signifier – signifier and signified are part of the
same order of existence.



We emphasize the main characters
and forget the accessory ones.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The painting is a non-verbal artefact, an ontological event. The
painted image is an auxiliary fictive construct, formed by art,
an expedient that is useful, a play, an as if, not an as – not a
real analogy.

Form and color must first be grasped as things, they can be
grasped also as signs – as making known something other than
themselves, the thing signified being a sign in its
turn (Maritain).

The sign shows up as cultural debris dragging along an
unchartable history (Leitch). The image as sign involves the
reference to certain possible groups of transformations. It
changes when we refer it to a different group and determine
the invariants accordingly (Cassirer, Bourbaki). The rule may
be defined as that group of transformations with regard to
which the variation of the image is considered (Cassirer).
The system is built by structured elements in dynamic
relations (Caws).

When something is seen, then its image is also seen in
posse – the image has potential existence before its
iconographic production (Theodore of Studion).

A space exists between the sign and its potential meaning.
Another space opens between an assigned meaning and
the actual reality. Imagination exploits the space of free
variations populated by images (Breton).


The idol would be the fall of the
sign into a sacral object.

Paul Ricoeur


eidolo-latreia – veneration of shadows

Like John of Damascus, Husserl emphasizes the parallelism
between the memorial image and the image of the portrait
type in its social function, as antidote against forgetting:
memory as a constant abiding with something (Heidegger).

The imperial image is essentially a head or bust. The cult is
directed to the emperor’s genius, the spirit in the head that
survives death (Onians). The religious title of Augustus links
the emperor to Mercury, mediator between the human and
divine worlds (Warmind).

The imperial image theory is part of the prototype-image
formula. The honours paid to the artificial image, eikon
technete, are transferred to the emperor himself. Athanasius
writes that in the image of the emperor one finds his
aspect and shape: eidos kai morphe. The iconoclastic
emperors overuse the imperial portrait. They insist on the
presence of the prototype in the image – the image makes
imperial power really present.


For when a visible result is possible,
it is improper to postulate an
invisible one.

Mimamsa Paribhasa

‘Meaning’ applies primarily to certain features of language and
only derivatively to other things, but some expressions of
language are meaningless (Staal). The urge to attach meaning
to all kinds of entities is an arbitrary process, an extrapolation
from language – accretion of meaning (Schipper), the search
for a significance : looking upon manifestations of culture as

It has been assumed that painting must be ‘program painting’.
Semantics can be applied to visual art via language by extending
the notion of expressions beyond language – the visual ‘text’ as
a signifying practice through the iconic sign.

The sign exists only in its recognition – this involves users and
contexts of use. In the Byzantine tradition the image is presented
in a minimal schema. The image has a sign function only when
it is taken as a sign, when the pictorial disappears behind the
pointing function. The image signifies within a sign and symbol

Although the ‘content’ , the range of thematography, may be
trite, mediocre, a (West)European, as soon as gazing at an image,
starts searching for the text illustrated by the image. The
relation of the two sign systems, image and word, must be
ascertained on a case by case basis (Keel). All visual
‘imitations’ are anecdotes.

Painting is not language precisely because it lacks the semantic
component. There is no systematic relationship between its
structure and ‘contents’. Painting consists of formal structures
and acts that can be studied by adopting a syntactic approach.
They can be provided with any meaning/content whatsoever.
This is why only their form and the rules are handed down.
The meanings are there to fit the form.


For the naïve, tangible presence and
cipher language are not distinct.

Karl Jaspers

agalma [from agallo –I glorify/exalt/exult] – everything for
which one exults/cult statue

The iconoclasts believe in an immediate relationship between
image and subject represented, the image tending towards
identity with the prototype, a magic-like imitative reference
and synonymy (Giakalis) - true images are taken to be
‘natural’, consubstantial with their archetypes. An ‘artificial
image’, by not being consubstantial with its archetype, is by
necessity an idol.

A cult image should not be viewed simply as a ‘likeness’ or
‘portrait’, but as a ‘representation’ [representare – to make
present as in legal representation (Nicholas of Cusa], when
the identification is realized by means of attributes and
paraphernalia of a given deity (Onians).


The work of art does not send to any
transcendence; all its structural
elements invite us to dwell in its

Roman Ingarden


The facticity of the image consists of the support – the real
reality, the carrier, i.e. forma as hyle + morphe – which is
correlative with the carried image world (Fink). The carrier
consists of the ground field, i.e. a distinct surface with a definite
boundary or an unenclosed surface like in cave paintings, and
the sign-bearing matter, constituted of non-mimetic and
asemantic marks/elements that create an artificial
equivalent (Schapiro). The facets in the concept of the image
are: eidos (appearance), eikon (image), homoioma (likeness).

The carrier is usually seen through, covered up, overlooked,
but not invisible, and may become thematic when the pictorial
context, in turn, covers up and de-forms any figural
Gestalt (Merleau-Ponty). The image world is the unreal shown
in the painting. We tend to see more than is actually
present (Merleau-Ponty): a figural moment that allows the
grasp of a whole (Husserl).

    “When one uses X, the X too is something he is aware of,
    as well as and as a necessary condition for X’s being a
    sign for Y.” (Deely)


The duality of the symbol presupposes
signs which already have a literal sense…
and which by means of this sense
send/point to another sense.

Emilio Brito





military standard/sign

to point out/to de-sign-ate

to bring together

blow/beat of horse’s hoof/impression of a seal/imprint/
impressions supposed by Democritus and Epicurus to be
made on the air by things seen, and to travel through
space/hollow mould or matrix/engraved mark/ cast or
replica made in a mould/figure in relief/carved figure/
exact replica/ pattern capable of repetition/an
identically repeatable imprint

John of Damascus clarifies the ‘image’ concept. Generally, “an
image is a likeness (homoioma) expressing (characterizon) an
original, yet being distinct from it in certain respects”. John lists
five ( or six) categories of images. The fifth category are the images of
things past, whose memories we wish to preserve, as drawn in books
through words or as painted. For John, image is an analogous
concept, but in the case of the painted image the analogy is a
most remote one. Analogy as correspondence may be maintained
through many distortions, it encloses a moment of negativity (Splett).
“A sign is an analogous or abbreviated expression for a definitely
known thing. A symbolic expression is one that is held to be the
best possible formula by which allusion may be made to a relatively
unknown thing”, writes Coomaraswamy. Artificial images can possess
only a relationship of extrinsic similarity between image and

Imaginal standing-in-place-of (Buehler): the painted marks in which
one engages do not denote what the things for which they stand
would denote, the image does not denote that which it seems
to denote, but the same image does evoke feelings which would
have been evoked by the real thing (Bateson).

Nicephorus applies Aristotelian logic to the image question and
lays stress on the image as a representation and as such distinct
per se from that which it represents. The artificial material image
belongs to the category of relation, a relation by means of
resemblance, a relational connection of similarity. He writes
that the iconoclast refuses to understand the meaning of
equivalence and homonymity. The image of the emperor on
a coin is an example of homonymity.

Figurative images are hypoicons, i.e. object-signs, largely
conventional (Peirce). The stock of images accumulated in society
provide a ready made source of signifiers – the image is
apparently without a code, because with increasing familiarity
style and content become confused, images become conventional.


The semiotic operation occurs in a
finite field, the symbolic operation
opens onto unlimited translinguistic

Jean Baudrillard


The process in which a sign vehicle as mediator (the pictorial unit)
functions as an image-sign (the sign is a unit, the unit may not be
a sign) is called semiosis (Morris). Semiology investigates the
differences between signs in the systems. The system is a finite
set of signs actualized in the order of creation and innovation:
semiological systems actualized in actual works.

A matrix of relations, contrasts, color scales, is produced, which
brings to light the underlying visual code and its inner logic. The
codes may be sign vehicles.

The similar is perceived despite difference, in spite of contradiction
Apparent incongruity becomes a newly discovered likeness:
similarities in dissimilarities (Ricoeur). The iconic image is a sign
which somehow resembles the object which it denotes: picture
and interpretation of reality in its metaphoric and symbolic
dimension (Wimsatt).

The visible, figurative or not, is recuperated (Wirth). There is a
supra-linguistic order of force (Freud). Symbols are contingent,
bound to a certain culture and all interpretation is questionable.
The extra-linguistic powers are socio-cultural – the ground of
images. Pre-linguistic realities force their way to expression
via symbols.

The work as event becomes autonomous as an intentional
inscription. For the receiver, authorship is essentially accidental,
but, in the long run, the work is also liberated from the
restriction of a particular audience.


Images are a kind of motion picture
projected on a screen of voidness.

Heinrich Zimmer







originally, guilt before the law/origin/natural cause


fore- or underdrawing/shadow


state/condition (alterable)/stationary condition stable
or not/nature/quality/expression/attitude/posture/

originally wondersign (Przywara, Walter Otto)

Hans Georg Thuemmel lists a few definitions of the figurative image
in a collection of Byzantine texts compiled probably by Photios.

1. The archetype [archetypos/aition (cause)/Urbild]
    is beginning [arche]
    and model [paradeigma/Vorbild]
    of the copy [paragogos/homoioma/skia/aitiatos (produced by a
                         cause)/apeikasma (copy)/Nachbild/Abbild]
    of the copy’s cause [aition]

2. The image [eikon/Bild]
    is a shadow drawing [skiagraphe/skiagraphia]
    of the prototype [prototypos/Vorbild

Theodore Of Studion:

3. The image [eikon]
    shows the Gestalt relation [schesis]
    or pattern [schema]


The configuration is established from the
start by the Grundstimmung, the
fundamental disposition which creates
its own form.

Emilio Brito










round about/all around

to go to the end-point/to go over to the other side

related to spinning, weaving and binding/Moira spins
bonds which are fastened upon men/bond(loop) ends
crossed/woof thread/web of multiple cords/girdling/
cord circling around/a cord defines a precinct: temenos,
templum, tempus – cut (Onians)/based on the
image-schematic preconceptual structures of containment,
spatial boundedness (Johnson)/boundaries ‘between’/
holding itself together/bringing to perfection

things which define, determine/bonds, boundaries/
determination (Bergren)/a network of bonds like a
spider’s web

limit/overflow/play of limit and passage/passage (Derrida)/
for passages in painting cf. Andre Lhote

outline/ general appearance/individuality/compass of
expression/contained within limit/enclosed/self-contained

to trace a line about/sketching




Zeuxis speaks about mastering the technes peirata (the threads/the ropes/
woof and warp/rough draft) of his craft. Art draws out the outline of things
by concentration/selection/creating centers. It is not re-production but
production (Cassirer). Painting is inadequately understood as ‘mirror
of nature’ or ‘exteriorization of subjectivity’ (Gadamer). Drawing is
the art of leaving out (Lieberman). That a picture looks like nature means
only that it looks the way nature is usually painted (Eco, Goodman).

Circumscription and uncircumscribability – there is a linguistic
relationship between aperigraptos and agraptos: that which is
uncircumscribed cannot be depicted – are central among the questions
analyzed in the second phase of the iconoclastic debate: the
concreteness of the visible appearance of one individual raises the
question of the visual rendering of the divine which is neither
material nor circumscribed.

Nicephorus demonstrates the imprecise application by the iconoclasts
of the concept of perigraphe. Showing himself a well-versed
Aristotelian logician and employing a terminology far from platonism,
he determines that it is not the question whether something can be
circumscribed (perigraphontai) but whether it can be painted in
an image (graphontai kai eikonizontai).

One should not confuse the natural and the artificial image. The
artificial image can not capture, circumscribe, the model
substantially, it only draws (graphei) its visible aspect. Graphe
causes the visible of what is being represented to be present.
To paint is not the same as to circumscribe. Graphe, related by
resemblance to the prototype but separate from it, has its own
existence, its own temporality. A painted image makes a thing
recognizable, not according to circumscribability, but according to
its ability to be painted.

A thing is circumscribed by place, or by time and beginning, or
by apprehension. The existence of circumscription is the existence of
what it circumscribes, it is a characteristic tied to the one possessing

By making a distinction between graphe and perigraphe, Nicephorus
recognizes ‘the autonomy of graphe’: visual art has a domain of
its own.


The imprint has low definition, the image
is ‘frozen’, there may be no referent…
[there is] work done on the surface:
the physics of production combines with
the pragmatics of interpretation
differently from a mirror. It is a painting.

Umberto Eco

Resemblance is not identity. The distinctiveness of the particular
(ectype) overrides the metarule (archetype). There may be excess of
difference or excess of resemblance where the particular is identical to
the metarule (Smith). The extreme of mimesis is the consubstantiality
of image and archetype, but two things occupying simultaneously two
disjoint domains can not be identical.

The plane mirror reflects a virtual image. The mirror faithfully reflects:
vertical mirrors do not reverse or invert although at the conceptual level
the deceptive illusion of reversing is encouraged by self-identification
with the person ‘inside’ the mirror. The mirror shows absolute congruence
while a printed photo does reverse the image to give an illusion of
reality. The mirror provides an ‘absolute double’ of the stimulating field,
the object being the image referent. A catoptric absolute icon is not an
icon but a double. The mirror is a prosthesis-channel. In a distorting
mirror, the image gives information about the channel, not the
object (Eco).

In order that the antecedent might become a sign of the consequent, the
antecedent must be potentially present while the consequent is usually
absent. The mirror does not refer to remote consequents. Mirror images
are not signs and signs are not mirror images. The photo is a ‘freezing’
mirror although the imprint is heteromaterial and in any imprint generic
characters ultimately prevail over specific ones.

In a painting generic characters prevail over specific ones and there is
no guarantee that there is a referent. Aesthetic perception should focus
not only on the content but on the way the channel is used (Eco).


When children play, they come…under
the spell of absolute obligation and
under the shadow of the possibility
that the game may be lost.

Hugo Rahner

The iconographic system is strongly codified, historically changing, a
one to one relation of signifier to signified where convertibility of visual
and textual signs is relatively easy, e.g. Ripa’s ‘Iconologia’ (Eco).
Its signifier is an iconic system by itself. The iconic code, iconic image
signs, can no longer be explained by linguistic rules. Levi Strauss’
iconic signs – graphic codifications in the sense of the transformation of
object perceptions – have no natural analogy with the referents, they are
culturally conditioned conventions. The referent rests on cultural
units (Eco).

An iconic code refers to a previous perception code, the iconic sign gives
a perception of the object, after this was selected on the grounds of
recognition codes and clarified on the ground of graphic conventions:
equivalence between a graphic sign and the relevant traits of the
recognition code. The iconic sign constructs a mode of relations,
structurally similar to the perception code. Iconic signs are sign
functions (Eco). It is a graphic elementary grammar, the flat surface
can be changed, there are more possible variants in an iconic code than in
a verbal one. Iconic signs/images appear to be natural, when in fact they
include interventionist devices which are not always apparent: treatment
effect can be considered as a form of coding – style.

At the level of syntax, the articulation layer, the pictorial, compositional,
marks structure (Levi Strauss’ iconic figures, semantically empty), forms
a graphic visual continuum: a closed syntax and a semantic openness - to
date, only the Chinese and Japanese have codified the asemantic
brushmarks and textures used for painting and calligraphy – where there
are infinite ways of coding the nascent iconic signs.

A painting is undercoded. Iconic signs may become iconic utterances or
revert to iconic figures. There are complex visual ‘narrative’ structures
or a system of iconic utterances when the iconic code becomes a sign in
the context of that system where doubtful signs may fit, a selection at work
to locate the most likely, culturally codified, semiosis system, where the
referent, real or not, is a cultural unit (Eco). The iconic utterance is an
idiolect that builds a code for itself, an idiolect of iconic signs, a code that
gives meaning to its analytic elements (Eco).

The idiolect may be the invention of a new code within its own context
- redundancy and surprise: artistic pictorial structures work as open semantic
structures, it is here that one looks, to see how it is done (Eco).


I do not believe in the religious
picture. It is man who must be

Alfred Manessier

The image passes itself off as reality. It is artifice, an illusory universe,
an artificial spectacle. The image can not convey anything al all
about truth; in an image-message, misunderstanding is the rule (Schaeffer).
It is a question of creating pictorial equivalents. The pictorial image will
rely on form, it will become not a recall, but a nascent
signification (Bachelard).

The holy as trace (Heidegger) – replicas are supposed to have the same
power as the original image; if an image acts as mediator of the holy,
to have a myriad mediators means to dilute it to the point where it
ceases to be efficacious. Along with differences, temporal
relations –the befores and afters – have been distorted.

For physical reasons, no painting can be duplicated. Even replicas made
by the same artist who did the original, are different from the original;
the size, the materiality, the colors, the environment where they are
located, are not the same (Gilson). The annihilation of object meaning
is achieved through mass production: printmaking is popular because
a pseudo mass produced object is also artistically rare and
individual (Mueller).

Benjamin’s ‘distracted perception’ operates in an area of disseminated
duplicates: scarce, permanent, versus rationalized, popularized images
where the goal is efficacy – an inflation of images in the media
(Baudrillard’s simulacra), an interminable parodic game of mirrors
mirroring, of deteriorated signs, imitations of imitations, that become
more important than the original; new technologies of reproduction
as the means by which the masses are constituted as an organized
consensus at a low and weak level. Film and photography collapse
the difference between original and copy as they have no original and
reproductivity is constitutive (Vattimo): a totalized ‘simulacrization’
and uprooting, the death of art as utopia, as kitsch, as
silence (Vattimo).



Signs are placed in totalizing and
determined schemata which can be
reread according to certain laws.

Jan Patocka

The gaze focussed on the image has as goal not its reality as image
but the image’s subject, where reality does not coincide with the
reality of the image. One has to make a deliberate effort to focus
on the form, and even so there is a tendency to reverse and focus
on the content (Jamieson).

In the imaging synthesis, the present reality is left aside and one’s
gaze is busy with the unreal. There is always a certain ‘play-space’
between image and the thing it is image of. To each image
appartains the conscience of the distance between appearing-image
and appearing-real (Patocka).

The apparent immediacy of a material image, confers upon it a kind
of magical quality, an assumed reality: image and archetype are
not merely experienced together or one after the other, but
there subsists between them a felt unity, not a rational or logical
connection (Husserl). The image discloses one thing with the help
of another. The image is an imperfect sign which quickly
becomes loaded with subjectivity: the tendency of the sign to
transform itself into a thing, of value in itself, which sets off
reactions without the intervention of signification (Maritain).

In an image, one has to distinguish between its imaged object, and
the way in which the object is given by the image. Grasping the
imaged is based on rules concerning the given image structure:
sender/source and receiver/viewer/receptor must share a common
code, the receiver’s system of references may produce an
interpretation not envisaged by the sender – the unpredictability
of decoding (Jamieson). Communication media, e.g. visual art as
a communication medium, are symbolic codes that set rules for
the way in which signs can be combined (Luhmann). Hereby
they also assure the transmission of selections.

Figurative scenes are the iconic transposition of narratives, they
reproduce an initial verbalization. The semiological problem
would be to investigate how this transposition is carried out,
what are the correspondences from one system to another and in
what measure there is correspondence between signs (Benveniste).
There is, in fact, a principle of non redundancy between systems,
one is not able to say the same thing with words that can be said
with music (Benveniste): systems are not interchangeable, and
the value of a sign is defined by the system that incorporates it.

An anagogic –guide to a higher reality – conception of the image
depreciates it in favor of the reality of which it is a mere suggestion.
The visible image points to the invisible truth. In a religious
painting, the artefactual image is at the same time a painting,
a human figure embodying features of the human species, an
image of a biblical character, and a pointer to the mystical


The true rule is that which applies to
instances singly turn by turn, by
making them all one with it.

Giovanni Gentile


Let us direct the gaze towards an image taken as a merely physical
pattern: the object perceived is no more an image of something.
As soon as it functions again as an image, the characteristic of
its ‘representation’ undergoes a total change, the physical pattern
enters into a new intentional unity (Mohanty).

The figure can stand out because there is a perceptually vague,
yet essential, background, against which the figure appears,
but the figure can recede into the background. Only in the light
of a known pictorial code the structurally permitted relations
appear as representable. The image does not resemble, as totality,
its subject: between image and object there is not a resembling
rapport as between two things. The image has to contain certain
marks that make it susceptible of being interpreted as a
quasi-aspect of the thing (Patocka). One can think of this difference
as a complexity gradient in which the archetype is always more
complex than the system itself: the system becomes one of
pictorial equivalents (Lhote).

The strategies by which a system can use relatively few responses
to compensate relatively many inputs constitute the system’s
selectivity – the capacity for reducing complexity (Luhmann).
The construction of the system is effected by means of
conventions, e.g. rules of formation, that are not arbitrary.
The choice is influenced by practical methodologies:
simplicity, elegance, etc. When the rule system changes, the
validity conditions of the configurations formulated in it also

Figurativization/iconization/representational image is the creation
of a spatially extended correlate from a model. This is achieved
by creating a patterned construction in a given materiality.
Under perturbation the shape breaks up into locally stable
elements as certain features are structurally more stable, and
the shape is degraded more and more by the proliferation of
accidents until it ceases to be recognizable (Thom).

Rhythmically structured Gestalten appear from relatively simple,
amorphous, meaningless, but impressive, ‘Vorgestalten’, as a
tensionfull event. A Gestalt appears as a whole and structures
itself in natural parts. A Gestalt appears already configurated.
From independent Gestalten comprehensive wholes are

When attention ceases, parergic objects fill the field of one’s
sensibility. The sojourn in the parergic sphere may be prolonged
in indefinitum (Patocka).


The act of making the general come forth
is not the rejection of something, but
the reserving of place for variations.

Felix Kaufman

Peirce states that anything that can be isolated, then connected
with something else and interpreted, can function as a sign.
To be a sign is to be a sign for something.

The representing iconic sign’s graphic likeness with the perception
model of a referent, a model that in turn is based on manifold
processes (Eco), may show a higher or lower level of iconicity
that depends on degrees of likeness or abstraction of the
iconic sign. Iconicity is relative to a given culture. The
producer submits to the rules for constructing a cultural
pretending. It may be questioned whether all icons are likenesses
or not. The piercean hypoicon is a material, however
simplified, figurative image or diagram (Thom).

Representation is relative to sign system. Whether a sign is
representational depends not upon whether it resembles what it
denotes but upon its relationship to other signs in the
system (Goodman). There is no degree of similarity that is
necessary or sufficient for likeness (Peirce). The limit of the
similar is the identical.

Image and archetype are not congruent. One sees more than is
actually present. Only the Gestalt properties that form an
organized whole are dominant – the strongest pregnant
Gestalt – and come into play. The image functions as a sign
if a formal identity enables it to be issued again and to be

    “When one sees an object as only representing another, the
    idea one has of it is the idea of a sign. This is the way one
    looks usually at maps and paintings.” (Logic of Port Royal)

An interplay of absence and presence (Derrida): the absence
withdraws in the act of presencing, the way the mode of
projection of a map withdraws and does not appear itself as
part of the map, the way the mode a painting depicts that which
it is a painting of seems to withdraw or not be in the painting.
The map is seen and read. All maps exaggerate certain marks and
erase others (Georges Jean).

The iconic sign must be preserved: by erasing it in order to
discover what is behind – the content – one looses both the
art and the meaning.


Remember that before…telling any story
whatsoever, a painting essentially
consists of a plane surface covered with
colors assembled in a certain order…

Maurice Denis






[from the verb eiko related to video] appearance
as perceived, known/image/similitude/pattern/
according to Przywara the eikon is located
between the image of its archetype which it
re-presents by making-present, and the appearance
(Schein), the visible sensible that must be seen
through to obtain/reach the concept

[homoios – to be like] likeness

to copy/to mirror/to show itself as an eidolon, a
little eidos, which is but semblance (that which
shows itself as something which it is not itself)
of pure appearance (that which announces itself
in something that shows itself)


The image is a ‘coming to the fore’, ‘showing itself’, ‘coming to
presence’ (Heidegger). Unfortunately, the relation between image
and likeness is commonly ruled by the mimetic assumption.

For John of Damascus an image is a likeness of the prototype,
except for the stipulation that they are not like each other in all
respects; the image has a mnemonic function, it is a sign and a
reminder (Parry). In fact John separates eikon and homoiosis, for
even a bad likeness can realize the function: natural image
(physike eikon) and artificial image (technete eikon) are similar,
but not necessarily congruent/commensurable/coincident. A bad
drawing may function as representation of something.

Theodore of Studion , Nicephorus and Photios introduce and
utilize Aristotelian logic terminology. They start by separating
the image from the likeness: kat’eikona and kath’homoiosin.
Theodore of Studion suggests that the extent to which the painter
captures the likeness is not the prime consideration: the
typos (image/imprint) may not have the same shape (isotypos)
as the prototypos. In fact there may be a difference between
circumscribed original (archetypos), which thus can be a
prototype (prototypos ipso facto), and the copy/image (paragogos).
For Nicephorus, likeness, as intermediate relation, mediates
between the person portrayed and the image/portrait.
Photios mentions that likeness is not even necessary, as an
extra-art clue (inscription, monogram, epigraphe) can play an
identifying role and assign a communicative function to the
work (Pelikan). Of course, within a mostly non-literate culture,
the inscription turns into an abstract design.


Once integrated with a painting,
real objects cease to be natural
things, they are assimilated by the

Juan Gris

A painting reaches the viewer at second hand – the painting’s
reality that no longer effaces itself, symbolism of the way of
painting, and the viewer’s own reality: the ‘aesthetic boundary’.
Receiver aesthetic experience is loaded with many factors: rarity,
antiquity, fame, associations of ideas which are at work in the
estimation of works. The receiver/viewer wants legibility, what
the painting represents, the anecdote or allegory, ideas better
expressed in a book (Gilson).

    “The masses…react by reducing articulate discourse to a
    single dimension, where signs lose their meaning and peter out
    in fascination”. (Baudrillard)

Luhmann defines ‘meaning’ prelinguistically, as a referential
context of actualizable possibilities, that is related to the
intentionality of experience and action. It is meaning-intention
which constitutes the essence of ‘expression’ (in Husserl’s sense)
as contrasted with a meaningless sense of marks. Meaning is
a dispositional property of the sign, a disposition towards
something (Stevenson). A sign sets up in the receiver the
disposition to react to a designatum (that which the sign refers
to) in the way in virtue of which the sign is a sign to the
receiver/interpreter/receptor under context determined

If imitation and image likeness are the essence of the work to
be done, this imposes limitations upon the maker and the work
may be an indifferent work of art. The art of painting and the
art of making images, making (painting) and knowing (image):
the art of imaging is more of a particular case of language.
The image points out something else. The painting points to
itself. By treating a painting only as a photograph, an image of
something, it may be lost as a work of art (Saraiva). If imitation
were the end of visual art, why not deception, trompe l’oeil,
which is the perfection of imitation?

The copy appears as the object of an impossible pursuit, a
concept which vanishes when an attempt is made to define it.
It resolves itself into inducing an illusion, which presupposes
an artificial faking (Maritain).

In painting there are no morals. Everyone is at liberty to build
up his/her own form. All that is required of him/her is that
he/she must state his/her methods clearly and give syntactical
rules instead of pseudo-philosophical arguments. Inflation occurs
whenever art adopts a posture where the artistic selections, in
themselves media-conforming, are so arbitrary (Luhmann),
that they can no longer appeal to receiver.



In the realm of the imagination,
everything that shines is a gaze.

Gaston Bachelard


The ideology of color, Hesychasm and the pictorial color of
light, return color to pure movement, to its power of
undefined mutation, each tint reacting upon the next, the
ongoing work being able to change key continuously:
transposition (Duthuit), improvisation that rests on an
implicit knowledge (Sperber), where colors in differentiated
structures combine with and result from cultural
contexts (Sahlins). Pictorial polyphony: the effect of colors
applied flat where some jump and some retreat, overlapping
planes simultaneously implying spatial recession and asserting
surface flatness, illusion of volume through the fluting effect,
the shifting of hues by mixing with a dominant – emphasis on
color-light, presentation rather than representation.

    Within a room with windows made of colorless, transparent
    plates of glass, daylight is cool, bluish, while shadows and
    reflections are warm. In the mausoleum of Galla Placidia
    daylight is filtered through window panes of orange-tinted
    alabaster. The mosaics are mostly blue.

An Edict of Diocletian gives a good deal of information on
mosaicists’ workshops. It was incumbent upon the pictor
imaginarius to supply the model of the composition with the
iconographic data. The pictor parietarius transposed the
designs into the desired dimensions and adapted them to the
curvature of the wall. The musearius was the craftsman who,
on the basis of the color indications supplied by his colleagues,
chose the glass cubes or tesserae, two to ten centimeters square,
from a range of about two hundred colors, broke and
fashioned them with a hammer and inserted them at various
angles in the intonaco. The parietarius replaced later the
imaginarius. Turning to frescos, it was the parietarius who was
responsible for the entire work.

Color harmony is the reenactment of the central theme of
Byzantine philosophy, the relation of the multiple to the
One, a qualitative scale of the sensible where other units
may be situated as ‘transitions’, ‘nuances’, etc.
Charles Henri has shown that perception of color comes before
perception of shape. This brings about dissociation of color
and outline, e.g. Dufy, and modulation, i.e. the use of flat
areas of color (aplats) instead of chiaroscuro. One has
to choose between chiaroscuro, color and ornament. When
color is exalted, ornament is subdued and chiaroscuro almost
eliminated. During the process of painting, colors are
continuously changed, both in tone (lightness or darkness)
and in tint, by simultaneous contrast (Chevreul). Brushwork
texture (Renoir, Van Gogh) may also express the sense of form.
The Impressionist revolution consists of the resurgence of color,
the oscillation between color and trait, the recuperation by the
artist of ancient procedures.

Finally, limiting the commentary to oil painting, there remains
a matter of the greatest interest – the question of the use
of color. The painter uses paints, i.e. pigment ground in a
vehicle. An addition of medium may change the visual properties
of the paint. Materials often constitute long lasting limitations.

Complementary colors, used in proper proportions, have a
stabilizing power (Itten). A color stared at and the complementary
afterimage that appears as a halo surrounding it, are matched
by paints that neutralize each other in mixture, producing a
colored gray. [There are also the optical complementaries that
spin to gray on Maxwell discs, slightly shifting away from the
above matched paints.]


Every perceived pattern is dynamic.

Rudolf Arnheim

The eye discerns about 150 tints between violet and red and
about 200 light-dark gradations (Chandler). Visual perception
implies the formal coherence/good continuation/consistent
shape rule (Arnheim). One sees the hidden structural forces of
the surface (Kandinsky), direction, isolation, intrinsic interest:
    -perception gradients (depth);
    -texture (microstructure) gradients;
    -color gradients: often, complementary dyads and triads
     are perceived as forming a pattern which preserves the
     unity of the object and/or of the painting, although
     complementaries may be separated by passages (Cezanne);
    -gradients of light-dark contrast, e.g. the three traditional
     vertical planes parallel to the picture plane (Gibson):
     foreground, middleground and background.

The eye sees the global constructive law, the chromatic syntax:
    -temperature (cold-warm contrast);
    -surface size, i.e. a light, warm colored surface ‘irradiates’
     and seems larger than it actually is;
    -structural inversion: the subordinate color may become
     dominant in certain areas or in a different scale;
    -the principle of similarity: similar elements tend to
     appear on the same plane, units of similar tint and/or
     similar light or dark tone are perceived together –chromatic
    -the simplicity principle causes a perceptive scission (Arnheim):
     a colored spot appears located on top of the background, not
     within it; local color appears separated from the superposed
     layer of light and shadow: by a delimitation of light and dark
     areas (Braque, Hering); shadow may be replaced by a color,
     e.g. blue, complementary to light, e.g. orange (Cezanne), the
     complementaries tending to form a pattern resulting in
     dynamic stillness.


Painting begins over again with Manet.

Paul Gauguin

The works shown in this essay are conceived on the basis
of a consonant scale of imperfect complementaries, thus
producing a slight dissonance. Colors are selected from real
available paints. Paints are superposed as well as broken
by mixing together and/or by the addition of black and/or
white. The complementary of a given color may also consist
of either a mixed color or two/three colors that are the
equivalent of the complementary, e.g. the dyad cadmium
orange + Prussian blue: Prussian blue may be replaced by
viridian and, as dissonance, cobalt violet (Bonnard); the
dyad cadmium yellow deep + ultramarine blue: ultramarine blue
may be replaced by ultramarine green and cobalt violet (a
dissonant scale).

The mixing of two colors located near to one another on the color
wheel produces a pure hue, e.g. green –yellow + blue - green = green.
Two distant colors produce a variety of grays.

The phenomenon of cyanotropy occurs when white is mixed
with a paint and the hue acquires a degree of blueness – for this
reason Rubens used ‘warm gray’ grounds. The exceptions are
some yellow-green hues that become warmer by mixing with
white (Marc Havel). A lighter scumbling over a dark underpainting
(white over red ochre) produces a cool hue.

Red mixed with black tends to violet, yellow mixed with black
takes a green hue. When black is mixed to orange, no cooling
occurs (Marc Havel ).

Opacity –

Translucence –

Opalescence –

Transparence –

underpainting (dead colors), covered by
opaque overpainting, although left uncovered
here and there (reserves), e.g. gray or red ochre
underpainting for blue

the effect of colored grounds or dead colors
when the overpainting is dominant, but,
depending on its thickness, its color will be
modified by the underpainting

an opaque, but thinly applied color (frottis)

the glaze; a color glazed with a similar hue will
be enhanced; a dark underlayer
may be glazed with its complementary, e.g.
brown -black covered by a blue glaze produces
a deep black.


The squirreler may be interested in comparing De Mayerne’s
notes on the painting of a yellow or orange area with its
‘translation’ into today’s paints, associated with the use
of the palette knife, its loading and scraping action, that
lets the bottom layer(s) show through and at the edges.

Superposition (combined with texture):


Everything I wish to paint is divine image.

Serge Poliakoff

A color scale, e.g. cobalt violet red + barium yellow or
nickel titan yellow, with the dominant yellow, will produce by
mixture mainly earth color tints which may be approximated
by actual paints – e.g. yellow ochre, Naples yellow
light, Sienna raw, green earth, raw umber, green umber -
and which also have their own complementaries. The
subdominant may become dominant in small areas.
In order to maintain isophany (same value on a scale from
light to dark), tints will have to be modified accordingly.
If more than one pair of complementaries is desired, it is
best to use those pairs located far apart, e.g. on (almost)
perpendicular diameters of the color wheel.

A second, subordinate color scale, may be added to the one
above. It will work in the same way, e.g.:
        either cadmium red orange + cerulean blue/manganese
        blue (mixing produces some interesting colors
        similar to cobalt violet deep/manganese violet/
        ultramarine red)
or    cadmium red light + ultramarine green (a range of
        mixtures including a color close to English red)
or    cadmium red medium + cobalt green light ( the last
        two scales produce a range of mixtures that includes a
        color close to cobalt violet red)

The first scale above, cobalt violet red + barium yellow or
nickel titan yellow, is situated close to the exception to the
rule, which is the green-yellow + purple scale. There is no
real purple paint. Therefore it is replaced in practice by
a red and a violet juxtaposed or, due to the fact that
colors tend to shift toward the extremities of the spectrum
when mixed with white (as observed by Vibert and Marc Havel
and applied by Bonnard), by orange +white (shifting to red) and
blue + white (shifting to violet), juxtaposed. This will produce,
by replacing cobalt violet red, a three color scale, e.g.
barium yellow/nickel titan yellow +cerulean blue + cadmium
red orange. When three colors are present, one must be at
maximum intensity, the second one diminished, and the
third one barely suggested (Lhote).

Modulation requires:
-    saturation of lights and attenuation of shadows; shadows
should be replaced by color; one should not divide shadow and
light on each object, but make up whole sections with the color
of shadow [also a darker nuance of light, tinged by reflections]
and other sections with the color of light [transformed by
surrounding shadows; black also may be color of light]; local
color may be altered by or may give way to ambient
color (Dufy);
-    reduction of secondary contrasts to musical modulations;
-    maintenance of perception of flatness of the work’s
surface; color area boundaries indicate distance, nearness,
melting into a two-dimensional plane, e.g. harder boundaries
indicate distance (Albers); isophanous parts [i.e. sharing the
same level of lightness or darkness] of two superposed planes
will meet farthest from the big concentrated contrasts of the
planes [e. g. the case of foreground, middleground, background
(Lhote)]; they may be separated by color traits (Byzantine mosaics,
Van Gogh);
-    precision in the delimitation of shapes should be equally
compensated by passages, i.e. melting of one shape into
another (Lhote).


Two complementaries may be separated by colored traits,
by a neutral tint partaking of both, or by drawing them
apart through pure, saturated colors located between the
two that are opposed (Lhote, Dufy). It may again be interesting
to compare here the Byzantine layering for flesh painting
with Jawlensky’s ‘translating’ it into today’s paints. His
procedure may be best approximated by the use of two
pairs of complementaries: cadmium orange + Prussian blue,
and either madder lake deep + permanent/cadmium green light,
or cadmium red purple + permanent/cadmium green deep,
or cadmium red deep + viridian, tints being kept as much
as possible isophanous. Permanent/cadmium green consists of
viridian and cadmium yellow mixed in variable proportions.
Two thirds of the surface are half -tints (middle tints), the
remaining third consists of light and shadow summed up (Rubens).

Addition of a common denominator type relation, e.g. usually
same lightness, isophany, although there is a scale of different
intensities, and/or a constant hue overlaying a complementary
relationship – association of secondary and tertiary colors-, may
be achieved by adapting Villon’s system of three vertical
parallel planes , the traditional foreground (dark),
middleground (light), background (gray), and by assigning a
color, instead of a light value, to each plane, e.g. respectively
red, yellow, blue. The plane’s dominant color may be overlaid
by mixing [e.g. yellow +blue = green; orange + blue =gray
(complementaries)], by optical blending [ yellow & blue = colored
gray; orange & blue = rose], and by superposing layers.


    Parentheses set off paints approximating both the mixtures of the
    complementaries, white and black, and the complementaries of the
    resulting tints. Brackets are used for paint samples not on the chart
    or located elsewhere on the chart.


Barium yellow/
Nickel-titan yellow

(Naples yellow light

Naples yellow deep

Green earth

Yellow ochre

Raw Sienna

Mars violet

Raw umber

Green umber

-cobalt violet red

-cobalt violet light/
 ultramarine blue reddish

-ultramarine violet/
 cobalt blue + violet

-flesh tint/
 Naples yellow red

-[cobalt blue + Prussian blue]

-cobalt blue greenish

-cinnabar green yellow

-brown-red ochre/
 Venetian red)

Cadmium red medium

[Cobalt violet red

Cadmium red light

([Cobalt violet red

English red

Cadmium red orange

(Cobalt violet deep

Manganese violet

Ultramarine red

-cobalt green light

-barium yellow/
 nickel-titan yellow

-ultramarine green

-barium yellow/
 nickel titan yellow]

-cinnabar green light)

-cerulean blue/
 manganese blue

-cadmium yellow light

-zinc yellow

-cobalt yellow

[Cobalt yellow + ultramarine red produce in turn:

Naples yellow French

-cobalt blue deep/
 cobalt blue deep + violet

Yellow ochre, raw Sienna, raw umber])


Cadmium red deep

(Cobalt violet light

Chrome oxide opaque

Indian red

Sienna burnt

[Brown-red ochre/
Venetian red

Cadmium red purple

Madder deep


-cadmium yellow lemon/
 Naples yellow light

-madder rose dore

-cinnabar green deep

-green umber])

-cadmium green deep

-cadmium green light

Cadmium yellow medium

Cadmium yellow deep

Cadmium orange

(Yellow ochre 1/2 burnt

Flesh ochre

Brown ochre

Brown ochre mat

Burnt umber

[Gold ochre


-ultramarine blue

-Prussian blue

-cobalt blue light

-cobalt green

-viridian bluish])


Yellow ochre

Raw sienna

Gold ochre

Naples yellow French

Yellow ochre 1/2 burnt

Flesh ochre

-cobalt blue + Prussian blue

-cobalt blue greenish

-viridian bluish

-cobalt blue deep violet

-cobalt blue light

-cobalt green deep

Gold ochre burnt

Sienna burnt light

Sienna burnt deep

Brown ochre light

Brown ochre deep

Ocre des Anciens

-light gray

-light gray

-light gray

-light gray

-light gray

-light gray

© 2001 Stefan Arteni
& Myriam Arteni
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