Elusiveness and the Presence of Essence: Rethinking Trappler's 'Notions of Being/Moments of Being' from a Heideggerian Perspective.

Author:Okoronkwo, Ikechukwu
Position:Jill Trappler, Martin Heidegger - Critical essay


It is possible that the body of work that constitutes Jill Trappler's Notions of Being/Moments of Being was inspired by Virginia Woolf's autobiographical book entitled Moments of Being. This is evidently captured in the first part of the exhibition's title as stated above. Considering the similarity of purpose which presents the latter as a visual materialization of the former and a certain coterie connection existing among artists using the verbal and the visual mode of expression, one will have no choice than to infer that Trappler may have read the book. There appear to be a represense of essence from Wolfe to Trappler. The artist had contemporized the essence of notions of being through a painterly experience by evoking the energy of paint materials in order to transform the idea of semblance into the realm of reality. Our task however in this essay, is not to compare or interrogate Trappler through Wolfe, rather, we are interrogating Trappler's Notions of Being/Moments of Being' from the framework of Martin Heidegger's theory of 'Being'. In this paper, we adopt the descriptive tools of iconography-iconology as well as Heidegger's hermeneutic method to interrogate the essence of 'being' as it is reflected on Trappler's 'Notions of Being/Moments of Being'. This framework allows us an adequate paradigm towards understanding the hidden contents of Trappler's work beyond the beautiful organization of the elements of art.

Presenting Heidegger's Notion of Being

For Heidegger, art is a reflection which leads to the understanding of being as 'Being'. This is the route through which Heidegger overcame the limitation of aesthetics occurring in Plato and Aristotle metaphysics. Through this, Heidegger invalidated Plato's denigrating role of the art as an imitation and his planned expulsion of artists from the utopian republic. Contrary to Plato, Heidegger is of the view that art is not an imitation or limited to aesthetics, but that art leads to 'being'. This view was complimented by Nwodo (1977) when he observed that, "art and technology are epochal manifestations of Being, both being rooted upon the essence of truth as aletheia" (p. 18).

Heidegger (1976) sums up the idea of a work of art by noting that, "there must always be some being in the open (the clearing), something, in which the openness takes its stand and attains its constancy" (p. 61). The above indicates the essential relationship between the work of art and the essence of truth as unconcealment. 'Being' from the Heideggerian perspective becomes simultaneously elusive and accessible. Thus, this forms the basis for understanding the unconcealment provided in Trappler's work as emanating from the effective organization of the elements of art by the artist in order to create special things. We maintain that these special things as 'being' are cultural paradigms. A cultural paradigm collects the scattered practices of the group, unifies them into coherent possibilities for actions and holds them up to the people who can then act and relate to each other in terms of such instances.

A work of art as a cultural item performs this function not merely as representations of objective reality, but also produces a template by which readers within a community attach their experiences as the concretization of truth. It is within this sense that Trappler's 'Moments of Being' expresses the rubric of Heidegger's position on art in 'Notions of Being/Moments of Being' that unconceals the truth about the situations painted by the artist when she notes that:

The act of painting, mixing color, the rhythm and the poetry is as important as the "things" painted. Painting is an image of itself; it has an objective existence of its own. It does not need to contain an object and does not need to represent anything. As a painter, I seek the inner life of the painting. It may simply be a place in time where the viewer if anything may attach a dream! The painting is the something not necessarily about something. The works of some abstract impressionists and some rock art have influenced my practice and approach (Trappler, 2009, p. 2). 'Being' as a referential state in the artistic form refers to the presence of energy. It is an essence that carries tangible and intangible presence and is not limited to the description of concrete reality for expression. The work of art stems from the artist's inner space, bridges the outer and inner worlds, and materializes them as realities. The above notion is congruent with the thought that "the art is born of the spirit and it is of spiritual nature, but in the work of art the spirit reaches the non-spiritual, the sensible/material" (Pozo, 2012, p. 823). From the ongoing, our focus on some selected works from Trappler's solo exhibition mentioned above is with the aim to present a materialization of Heidegger's perspective on the philosophical subject of 'being' to understand the being in her paintings as an essence that "sets truth to work" (Heidegger, 1977) and creates the 'thing' through which truth emerges.

'Moments of Being' states the co-presence of the thing (physical or mental) and the something (organization of artistic elements) that makes the being to be presented through painting. This is embedded in the symbolism that lines, textures, rhythms, and colors evoke on the viewer's sensibility. Works in 'Notions of Being/Moments of Being' "ask the viewer to immerse the eyes with color and surface, to swim lightly, in and out, up and down, back and forth in the line and tone, rhythms' and poetry of the...

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