Sentences on Conceptual Painting

Michalis Pichler


1.    Conceptual painters are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
2.    Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
3.    Irrational judgements lead to new experience.
4.    Formal painting is essentially rational.
5.    Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
6.    If the painter changes his/her mind midway through the execution of the piece he/she compromises the result and repeats past results.
7.    The painter's will is secondary to the process he/she initiates from idea to completion. His/Her wilfulness may only be ego.
8.    When words such as landscape and still life are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the painter who would be reluctant to make painting that goes beyond the limitations.

9.    The concept and idea are different. The former implies a general direction while the latter is the component. Ideas implement the concept.
10.    Ideas can be works of painting; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.
11.    Ideas do not necessarily proceed in logical order. They may set one off in unexpected directions, but an idea must necessarily be completed in the mind before the next one is formed.
12.    For each work of painting that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.
13.    A work of painting may be understood as a conductor from the painter's mind to the spectator's. But it may never reach the spectator, or it may never leave the painter's mind.
14.    The words of one painter to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept.
15.    Since no form is intrinsically superior to another, the painter may use any form, from an expression of words (written or spoken) to physical reality, equally.
16.    If words are used, and they proceed from ideas about painting, then they are painting and (not) literature; numbers are (not) mathematics.
17.    All ideas are painting if they are concerned with painting and fall within the conventions of painting.
18.    One usually understands the painting of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the painting of the past.
19.    The conventions of painting are altered by paintings.
20.    Successful painting changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.
21.    Perception of ideas leads to new ideas.
22.    The painter cannot imagine his/her painting, and cannot perceive it until it is complete.
23.    The painter may misperceive (understand it differently from the painter) a work of painting but still be set off in his/her own chain of thought by that misconstrual.
24.    Perception is subjective.
25.    The painter may not necessarily understand his/her own painting. His/Her perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.
26.    A painter may perceive the painting of others better than his/her own.
27.    The concept of a work of painting may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.
28.    Once the idea of the piece is established in the painter's mind and the final form is decided, the process is carried out blindly. There are many side effects that the painter cannot imagine. These may be used as ideas for new works.
29.    The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.
30.    There are many elements involved in a painting. The most important are the most obvious.
31.    If a painter uses the same form in a group of works, and changes the material, one would assume the painter's concept involved the material.
32.    Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.
33.    It is difficult to bungle a good idea.
34.    When a painter learns his/her craft too well he/she makes slick painting.
35.    These sentences comment on painting, but are (not) painting.




Sol Lewitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art,  0-9, pp. 3-5, New York 1969, and Art-Language (England), May 1969
Kenneth Goldsmith, Paragraphs on Conceptual Writing, Open Letter, Twefth Series, Number 7, pp. 98-101, Ontario 2005