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Art & Philosophy: Borduas and the Existential Drama of the Visible (Audio)

March 7th, 2012

Paul-Emile Borduas, Résistance Végétale, 1970.

Paul-Emile Borduas, Résistance Végétale, oil on canvas, 114.2 x 147.2cm, Bequest of Charles S. Band, Toronto, 1970, Copyright Art Gallery of Ontario

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David Ciavatta
Recorded: Wednesday, February 15, 7 pm in Jackman Hall
Duration: 01:34:57

What is it that we actually see when we take the time to linger with one of Paul-Émile Borduas’ abstract paintings?  The paint on these canvases does not completely efface itself for the sake of allowing objects to appear; but nor is the sheer materiality of the paint–rich as it is–the primary object of our gaze.  In this talk Ciavatta draws from the philosophical insights of existentialist phenomenologists Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, to suggest that what these paintings make visible is, in the end, the expressive movement of existence itself:  through these paintings our eyes bear witness to the spontaneous emergence of a pre-objective sense and purpose out of the contingency of the world’s sensuous materiality.

David Ciavatta is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ryerson University, Toronto, where he teaches seminars on Existentialism, Phenomenology, and the Philosophy of Art.

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