The idea of painting being a three-dimensional art came out of a discussion with students in my design workshop today about the effect of texture on composition. It struck me that no matter how thin the paint, painting is applying physical material onto another material, and therefore a kind of sculpting.
Painting is inescapably physical and three-dimensional, however much we talk about 'flatness'. In fact, you could go further and say that flatness is a kind of depth.
You could also go the other way and say that sculpture is high-relief painting.
"We prefer the multicolored distractions of illusionism on flat surfaces" to the literal three-dimensionality of sculpture, says Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times in a recent article lamenting the dearth of major sculpture retrospectives.
It's true that we never seem to tire of the illusion of space on a flat surface. It's the best, most compelling magic trick ever invented. Yet sculpture is no less an interpretation and no less an illusion of reality, albeit a solid one with front, back, sides, top and bottom that we can walk around.
Lately I've been incorporating some 3-D elements into my paintings. It's a natural extension of collage, but it's a slippery slope. From here I see Rauschenberg Combines with chairs and beds and goats, and from there it's Sarah Sze, with room-sized installations involving scaffolding, piles of candy, hot glue and twisted ladders. It's only a few steps to billowing Christos in city parks, and after that...art on the moon.
The best trick ever invented - another journal post.