Obliquity of the impastoed being

Soutine, De Kooning and Falque


  • João Paulo Costa University of Coimbra




impasto, embodied thought, Soutine, de Kooning, Falque, Hors phénomène, aesthetics, obliquity


In this article we will try to elaborate a reflection around aesthetic experience, more specifically a phenomenology of artwork (Soutine/de Kooning), in dialogue with Emmanuel Falque's thought. Even if the French philosopher has not yet dedicated an autonomous work to the aesthetic question, such reflection appears abundantly dispersed and sparse in his various writings. Among others, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud were Falque's artists of choice, their work most closely reflected his underlying philosophical thesis. The preference for the figurative, that which in us resists phenomenology, the incarnation as such, would thus bring the philosophical concept and the artistic intuition closer together. However, between figurative and non-figurative or abstract thought, is there not another possibility of thinking them together, without necessarily having to give primacy to one or the other or opposing them? The idea of an oblique incarnate thought (figuration-abstraction, resistance-deflagration, word-silence), or of the diagonal/oblique impastoed being (presence in absence, metamorphosed transcendental materiality, indirect ontology), might also be a third way of thinking about the great philosophical questions between realism and idealism, immanence and transcendence, visible and invisible, metaphysics and phenomenology. In this sense, the artistic work of Chaïm Soutine and de Kooning may be the aesthetic expression of incarnate thought, as a way of primordial access to being, to the world and to another, in the joining in act of the figurative and the abstract, as if multiple possibilities or dimensions of being inhabited in the same being (the articulation of the in-itself and the outside of the self, madness and normality, dream and reality...). Not by chance both were the subject of a recent joint exhibition, from which we propose this reflection, in dialogue with Emmanuel Falque's thought on finitude, which his most recent book radicalises. Our thesis, based on these two artists, aims to affirm that art, whether figurative or abstract, starts from an inalienable material dimension, that is to say, a sensitive dimension, the impasted (body) being, to the point that we may say that Hors phénomène maintains in itself this possibility of articulation between presence to the self and the outside of the self, distance and proximity, immanence and transcendence, even if here and there one can glimpse in its philosophical project an ontological preference for the figurative. However, in our view, what brings together Falque’s philosophy and the work of both artists is the fact that they are the expression of an embodied thought, whether through conceptual experience (philosophy) or through perceptual experience (aesthetics).


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