Being Through Painting and Weaving: A Brief Commentary on Intuition (an Artistic Diversion from Writing)

Martyn Woodward

“In a forest, I have felt many times over that it was not I who looked at the forest. Some days I felt that the trees were looking at me, were speaking to me […] I was there, listening […] I think that the painter must be penetrated by the universe and not want to penetrate it […] I expect to be inwardly submerged, buried.”
(Andre Marchand cited in Merleau-Ponty, 1964, pp. 167-8)

In Eye and Mind, Merleau-Ponty speaks of the ‘inspiration’ of a painter in a literal sense, for him there really is ‘inspiration’ and ‘expiration’ of being, a process of respiration in which it is impossible to distinguish between who paints and what is painted. The mind and perception flows like air between the body and the world. In describing the genesis of human inspiration, psychology posits an ‘intuition’, a ‘feeling from within’; a somatic and affective hypothesis about the world encased within the boundary of the human body[1], such is tantamount to holding one’s breath. Human organisms cannot live without air.

What some may attempt to encase within the body, then, is never exclusively of the body, but extends into the milieu (environment). Within the Arts, painters are intimately aware that the activity of painting is a matter not of representing an external world, but of capturing forces, of rendering visible the invisible (im)material forces of the environment they are entwined within[2]. The weaver, also, encourages form to emerge through their engagement with a material emitting forces, resistances and tensions[3]. The human practitioner always works (moves, breathes and grows) within a field of distributed material and immaterial relations – a relational field of flows, properties, tensions, forces and lines of life[4], what I will discuss as an (im)material semi-autonomous milieu, an extended organism, in which the work is grown.

This presentation will not attempt to define the concept of ‘intuition’, nor will it discuss ‘creativity’ or ‘feeling’ directly. Rather, through reflecting upon the very distributed creative processes of painting and weaving, it will construct a model of human activity and practice which is not confined to the body, but actively grows through processes deep within the (im)materiality of the milieu. From such a framework, a very distributed account of intuition can be drawn, which will be as natural and regular as breathing and growing, both of which are essential to life.