Why paint pictures? Some materials for an answer can be derived from the scenarios presented in preceding essays. It should also be stressed that the culture of painting has never been as distant from contemporary critical practice as it currently stands now. The possibility for some (modern) form of re-engagement with the high forms of art is a fascination or fantasy that continually accompanies the provisional enterprises of an art world which believes it can confront the culture of painting in ways that are conceptually and practically oblique.
It’s a conventional assumption of criticism that what is felt in front of a painting is what is expressed by it, and that this expressive content is somehow traceable to the psychology or soul of an artist. Surely this is because we are culturally and psychologically ‘predisposed’ to idealize an artist as a sort of actor—one who is sincerely moved by the reading of his own lines. The task of criticism then is to distinguish and characterise the mechanisms of production whose effects and meanings we ourselves have caused and produced, for in describing these we do no more than simply reproduce our culture and ourselves as its clients. This is to say that an adequate reading of a work of art will need to be reflexive as well as merely descriptive. The mechanisms of reading will have to be considered as they bear on the language of description. […]