In this paper the question, ‘what is the mode of thought of which painting is the stake?’from Yves Alain Bois's Painting as Model (1990) is shifted to what is the mode of attention? Informed by current cognitive and neuro-psychological research, paintings combative art history is assessed through the lens of attention. The unravelling of modernist painting is proposed as a conflict between models of attention, and divergent attentional expectations. Modernist values of immediacy, presentness, wholeness are considered conditions of an ideal attentional experience, one that attempts to hold back a partial, fragmented and distracted counter experience of modernity. ‘Painting as Model’ argues for painting’s specificity, pulling away from a formalism that reduces painting to the visual, and theoretical structures that bypass the made object. This paper proposes an attentional-specificity for painting; the limits of attentional capacity, distinctions between focused, distributed, and divided attention correlating with the cognitive complexity held by the structural, spatial and material conditions of painting.
Presented at 'Painting as ReModel: Painting as Model Revisited' at Camberwell College of Art, June 2018. Due to be published in the Journal of Contemporary Painting in 2019.