Paul Uhlmann

To see the world clearly: – painting, the camera obscura and the lens of Spinoza

Abstract:

My practice-led PhD research project seeks to find ways to create immersive painting installations to invoke contemplation of immanence, interconnectedness and impermanence in the mind of the viewer. In this paper I will discuss the methodology of my practice-led research as it relates to the concept of sensation (Deleuze) in relation to the body and to painting. In addition to this I will outline ways in which Spinoza’s monist concept of ‘one substance’ has illuminated and influenced my thinking and work. Central to this concept is the notion that mind and matter are not two separate things but one thing. Spinoza (1632-77) was a philosopher who was exiled from his Jewish society at the young age of 24 and was forced to grind glass lenses in order to make a living. I am interested in how the lens may be seen to be a powerful metaphor for perception. Spinoza wanted his philosophy to enable others to ‘see clearly’. Living in Holland, in the time of Vermeer (1632-75), sharing the company of artists and having an active interest himself in the mechanics of drawing, he no doubt was aware of how his accurately ground lenses could be put to good use to create cameras obscura. Although the knowledge of this simple optical device is ancient, it still has the power to bring wonder back to our distracted, fractured lives. If we are able to find ways to pause and contemplate the world anew, then we will understand at a deeper level our profound interconnectedness to all living things. We will therefore think and act differently, for we will realise that what we do to the environment we do to ourselves.

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Paul Uhlmann:

Paul is an artist who works across many areas of investigation including; the artist’s book; drawing; printmaking; painting and photography. All of these areas of focus intersect with each other to at times, create new hybrid forms. He is currently a PhD candidate at the School of Art, RMIT. His practice-led PhD research project seeks to find ways to create immersive painting installations to invoke contemplation of immanence, interconnectedness and impermanence in the mind of the viewer. Paul has exhibited both nationally and internationally. He graduated with a BA (Visual Arts) from the Canberra School of Art in 1983 and was awarded a DAAD scholarship to study printmaking in Germany (1986-87). After graduating with a MA (Visual Arts) from ANU in 1993 he was awarded an International Samstag Scholarship in 1994 to study painting in Holland (1995-96). In 2005 he participated in a national survey of printmaking, ‘Print Matters, 30 years of the Shell Fremantle Print Award’. In 2006 his work was curated into a national survey of painting at the ‘TarraWarra Biennial 2006, Parallel Lives: Australian Painting Today’. He has recently exhibited at the RMIT Project Space / Spare Room. He has lectured in Visual Art at the Australian National University (1989,1991-93), Monash University (2007) and Edith Cowan University since 1996 and is currently coordinator of printmaking studio at Edith Cowan University in Perth.