Dan Combs on 'All-Overness' in painting

Dan Combs explains why all-overness rather than representation is what makes a painting a painting
My old friend, the philistine, is most impressed by realist painting. “Why can’t you paint a tree that looks like a tree?” he says. I try to point out that painting never looks real to me, its just a set of devices that aspire to be more than the sum of their parts. My friend wants something he recognises, that he can believe in. I remember when every film I watched seemed real, now none of them do. “What is painting for?” he asks. Its quality, I say, is beyond comprehension, and the most difficult thing to achieve isn’t realism – that’s something any old hack can achieve – its all-overness. more

Sigmar Polke, Bikini-Frauen, 1999, acrylic and dispersion on printed fabric, 126.5 × 156.2cm Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014

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