Michael Whittle, Map of 100 Diagrammatic Artists from the last Century
Diagrammatic Thought in Contemporary Art
This thesis examines notions of diagramming within modern and contemporary art. It proposes that the diagrammatic format allows artists to create work which mediates between subjective, metaphoric self-expression and the detached, intellectual rigor of objective scientific investigation, in a style that I refer to as 'Romantic-Objectivism'.
This study incorporates selected highlights from historical and pre-historical diagram creation in order to position the diagram as a fundamental mode of human knowledge production and communication, yet one that has been overlooked in terms of its importance to art where there is a distinct lack of critical discourse concerning its role.
A philosophical and semiotic analysis of the diagram aims to show how its relationship with the goals and techniques of the scientific project gave rise to the refined, skeletonized aesthetics of inter-connectivity with which it is now associated.
Over the last one hundred years, artists have employed a variety of strategies to take advantage of the unique visual and conceptual properties of the diagram, allowing then to apply key features of the semiotic code of science and mathematics to the aesthetic code of art.
This approach allows artists to achieve a distinctive objective-subjective resonance in their work, leading to the creation of some of the most important and challenging art works of the modern, postmodern and contemporary periods.
The thesis also explores the development of my own symbolic vocabulary of diagrammatic objectivity, as a practicing artist with a background in biomedical sciences. Representative works from my praxis over the last twelve years are correlated with key symbolic themes from the romantic period, to present my work as a Romantic-Objective meditation on our contemporary relationship with nature.
With art’s incorporation of diagramming as part of its tools and techniques of conception and production, we can see not only the transformation of artistic practice via diagramming, but also a transformation of our notion of what the diagram is itself.
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