Within the carnal: re-reading Merleau-Ponty through the language of drawing

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Farrell, Helen
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University College Cork
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In order to present visual art as a paradigm for philosophy, Merleau-Ponty investigated the creative processes of artists whose work corresponded closely with his philosophical ideas. His essays on art are widely valued for emphasising process over product, and for challenging the primacy of the written word in all spheres of human expression. While it is clear that he initially favoured painting, Merleau-Ponty began to develop a much deeper understanding of the complexities of how art is made in his late work in parallel with his advancement of a new ontology. Although his ontology remains unfinished and only exists as working notes and a manuscript entitled The Visible and Invisible, Merleau-Ponty had begun to appreciate the fundamental role drawing plays in the making of art and the creation of a language of expression that is as vital as the written or spoken word. Through an examination of Merleau-Ponty’s unfinished manuscript and working notes my thesis will investigate his working methods and use of materials and also explore how he processed his ideas by using my own art practice as the basis of my research. This research will take the form of an inquiry into how the unfinished and incomplete nature of text and artworks, while they are still ‘works in progress’, can often reveal the more human and carnal components of creative processes. Applying my experience as a practitioner and a teacher in an art school, I focus on the significance of drawing practice for Merleau-Ponty’s later work, in order to rebalance an overemphasis on painting in the literature. Understanding the differences between these two art forms, and how they are taught, can offer an alternative engagement with Merleau-Ponty’s later work and his struggle to find a language to express his developing new ontology. In addition, by re-reading his work through the language of drawing, I believe we gain new insights which reaffirm Merleau-Ponty's relevance to contemporary art making and aesthetics.
Merleau-Ponty , Phenomenology , Drawing , Painting , Ontology , Visual art
Farrell, H. 2015. Within the carnal: re-reading Merleau-Ponty through the language of drawing. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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