Susan Buret
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Visceral Consciousness: Pattern Perception in New Works by Susan Buret.

Susan Buret is known for her use of a cross-cultural visual vernacular. Her paintings conflate the rhythms of decorative patterning in Islamic architecture with the complex geometries of oriental textile design. Fiercely optical, her mathematical progressions take their point of departure from rectilinear grid structures and circles, resulting in a series of multihued forms such as hexagons and polygons that extend across the pictorial field, interlocking in an enigmatic puzzle.

 

Formally speaking, Buret’s geometries reference patterning across Islamic and Judeo Christian faiths that are employed in domestic contexts, as well as in places of worship to demarcate or territorialise space. However, this new series of works For the Love of Vermillion, represents a new direction in Buret’s practice that draws on a particular intellectual lineage.

 

In his seminal text The Phenomenology of Perception, 1945, French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908 – 61) locates the body as the seat of perception. This notion functioned in opposition to the Cartesian split between mind and body,[1] resulting in a different conception of consciousness. By contrast, human experience is theorized as being mediated through embodiment, and as such, our perception and understanding of existence is reliant on a kind of visceral consciousness – or what Merleau-Ponty termed ‘the flesh of the world’ (la chair du monde).[2]

 

For Merleau-Ponty, ‘Our own body is in the world as the heart is in the organism; it keeps the visible spectacle constantly alive, it breathes life into it ... and with it forms a system.’ [3] This notion is key to unpacking Buret’s artistic intention. Her large scale works demand to be viewed up close, to enable a corporeal encounter that produces a heightened sense of self awareness. Meaning is therefore derived from the ‘fluid reciprocal circuit between the author of the artwork, the artwork as an object in itself, and the viewer.’ [4]

 

In a similar manner to works by leading proponents of Op art such as British born Bridget Riley, these works play on the way in which the retina receives, processes and translates visual information. Buret’s geometric ratios extend in an all over composition with no central point of focus. Form tessellates in space, contributing to a sense of multi dimensionality. Just as mosaics in the Mosques of Persia are used to endow architecture with a sense of human scale, so too when applied in this context, can patterning reaffirm Merleau-Ponty’s notion of embodiment. This corporeal encounter is further enhanced by a tonal palette that includes repetitive notes of aqua, the warmth of vermillion, combined with earthy greens that deliver a rich sensory experience.

 

At first glance these works appear to be characterized by an ordered arrangement of components. Yet the perceived symmetrically of the various proportions and mathematical relationships are not as systematic as they seem. There is a subtle intervention here, an interference in the geometric field: a glitch in Buret’s encoded visual system that prompts our neurons to fire in a different way. Through a minor disruption in pattern, the subtraction of a tone, or the subtle discrepancies produced by the artist’s hand, Buret creates a slippage in our perception. This results in a shifting and unresolved image; like a question mark in a complex optical puzzle. Yet more than this, it prompts a heightened awareness of our physicality – and through becoming consciously aware of the act of looking we are reminded of our own embodiment.
Anna Briers 



[1] A complete explanation of Descartes notions around cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) can be found in 

  the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descartes-epistemology/#4

[2] Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith, London: Routledge, 2005, pp. 408

[3] Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith, London: Routledge, 2005, pp. 

   235.

[4]  Jones, Amelia. “Meaning, Identity, Embodiment: the uses of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology in Art History.”

   Art and Thought. Ed. Dana Arnold and Margaret Iverson. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003. pp 71-90.