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PhD Project of Leena van der Made

Working title:

The Question of Abstraction in the Digital Age

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Michaela Ott, Prof. Dr. Hanne Loreck, Prof. Toon Verhoef

This research examines the question of abstraction in the digital age. It involves an investigation of the current challenges, possibilities and relevance of painting in a world of the overpowering presence of digital media.

Abstract art requires art critics and mediation to be understood, thus depending on art criticism, which allows it to be ruled by critics. Abstract painting is criticised for its arbitrariness, for the ease with which it can be politically instrumentalized, for its decorativeness and superficiality, for serving apolitical market conformity.

It could seem to have no opinion, to be uncritical, and open to any interpretation. The historical development of abstraction indicates its functionalization and symbolisation, highlighting the changing meanings allocated to abstraction and its subjection to various political and ideological creeds.

Abstract painting risks ideological abuse, its lack of position, is an empty gesture. The “timeless,” as a myth created by abstract painting, is questioned, instead the time-bound, historicity is emphasised. Abstract painting has suggested an emotional and spiritual quality (atmospheric), an atmosphere of utopia (painting as metaphor), a flight from reality into paradise instead of a confrontation with reality and its contradictions.

Further, the impact of the digital age on abstract painting is discussed, referring to the ever-recurring discussion on the death of painting. What is the significance or meaning of abstract painting today and can we argue for its relevance? Bois states, "the desire for painting remains and this desire is not entirely programmed or subsumed by the market: this desire is the sole factor of a future possibility of painting...."

Further, the research looks at the influence of curators and the presentation of artworks in a certain context and the impact this has on the meaning of artworks.

Personal background:

Van der Made studied Fine Art at the Akademie der Bildende Künste, Munich (Meisterschülerin, assistant to Prof. Zeniuk), Michaelis School of Fine Art, Art Academy of Cincinnati, U.S.A., and History of Art, University of South Africa..

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