Immateriality in Painting and Architecture


Fig. 01. Internet downloadFig. 02. Internet download

Fig.03. Internet download 

Immaterial architecture is more a state of mind than a tectonic quality. Architecture theory leans towards abstraction, virtuality, immateriality, the representation of what is not tangible; while the practice of it remains based on materials properties. The term is also related to the architecture in a state of “disappearance”, a building simplified and reduced to its essential elements; lightness, transparency. In Architecture and painting, since the advances on digital painting in the 90’s, the term recalls an analogy between software design and architecture; even virtual reality as a reduction of the physical and immaterial worlds. But this is not the rule….There are many possible representations for the purposes exposed here, but we recur to two paintings and one picture only, as they are very significative.

René François Ghislain Magritte (November 21st, 1898 –August 15th, 1967) was a Belgian surrealist artist. His work frequently displays a juxtaposition of ordinary objects in an unusual context, giving new meanings to familiar things. In Magritte’s paintings, the rose (fig 01) is realistically painted, but suddenly the object is denied when we understand the clue: it is too big for this room, it reminds us the almost complete occupation of the interior space, the room is there, but is hidden; the rose is highly sensitive for the viewer, in its color, texture, and smell. It becomes so important that the room loses significance except to emphasize the rose’s huge scale. These Magritte’s domestic objects (fig 02) are out of context too, what immerses us in uncertainty; they invade the space we suppose interior, but we are not sure, as exterior view is superimposed to the interior; the walls are the sky, or even better a representation of it, given the corners and the ceiling are materialized showing a certain kind of techtonics. A similar situation is shown on Robert Mottar’s picture, New York 1959 (fig 03). The construction provides the frame and people provide the materiality. This conjunction allows us to consider “a building” in itself. In a strict sense, the building has no materiality. People is the building’s soul. Without people, this building would be nothing else that the configuration of a structure.

It seems to me that in the examples shown, we have an invitation to “look at”, but not to look at any specific thing, we have to ignore all particulars to appreciate the total gestalt. An element could dominate the scene, but it is impossible to reduce the artistic and architectural concepts to that specific picture. This is a kind of “apperception” of space.

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