The Speed and Flow of Matthew Ritchie

[I offer this essay as an example of non-exemplary reading or what I call immanent reading. This is the topic of my soon to be available book, Reading the Way of Things: Towards a New Technology of Making Sense.]

Arrows are informational. They inform us about things we can't see, telling us where to go when we can't see the road ahead or what direction unseen forces  — such as wind — are moving. They presumably sit outside the action, telling us about the action but not part of the action per se. I suppose we can say that arrows are meta, that much loved word of our day.

Look at Matthew Ritchie's arrows. What are they telling us? What is it that's flowing this way and that? At least in part, it seems to be the movement of the forms, the colored shapes that are sprawling in different directions simultaneously. In this case, the arrows inform and warn us: Here come the forms!

These arrows seem to inform about other things, too. Is it the trajectory of an explosion? Of percepts flying? Or might they suggest the movement of other forces, as well, such as affect? In that case, the arrows aren't showing the future state of the forms but the present state of the invisible forms or forces that are flowing with the forms.

But these arrows are not only informational. They are themselves constitutive of the painting, of the very material of this world. Which is to say, the arrows here are not outside the fray — are not meta — but are of the fray, in the slosh of form and percept and affect. They may mark the direction of flow but they themselves flow, as well.

And so it is with the meta. There is no outside. The map is part of the territory, another perspective. Take away these arrows and the painting is still moving, although more slowly, less frenetically. The arrows not only give information; they accelerate the painting.

What of those forms? They are clearly in motion, at once dissolving and forming themselves. This is a portrait of life creating itself. I read it in line with Cézanne's still lifes. Which is a funny word for them. As Burroughs writes: Cézanne shows a pear seen close up, at a distance, from various angles and in different light...the pear at dawn, midday, twilight...all compacted into one pear...time and space in a pear, an apple, a fish. Still life? No such thing. As he paints, the pear is ripening, rotting, shrinking, swelling. 

Ritchie here gives us an extreme close up of Cézanne's apples coming in and out of being. Or else he gives us a cosmically wide lens view, the apple as one speck within the teem of existence. But, like Cézanne, Ritchie gives us the very formation of form, its multiple trajectories, its lack of an outside concept, of anything determining the form other than the form's movement. As with Cézanne, Ritchie doesn't use outlines. A thing's center and outline run through the whole of the form; one might say, with Deleuze, that the outline is in the middle.

Ritchie gives us the very flow and formation of the world, form drifting into being, into becoming, into dissolution only to become form again and anew. This is time and space either sped up or slowed way down.

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