The Peasant

My practice expands painting by addressing its materiality and circulation through the relationship between painting and the figure of the peasant.

The figure of the peasant is important as she-who-must-be-excluded in order to construct modernity.(1) This exclusion is both real and symbolic. In representing the peasant, the bourgeois subject constructs the self through what she is not, either denigrating the ‘backward’ peasants or romanticising the ‘old way of life’. Either way, in Western European thinking, the peasant is pushed into a distant past despite the millions of contemporary peasants currently in conflict with modernising projects around the world.

Expanded Painting

In order to genuinely answer recent calls to expand painting into its networks,(2) one must think painting decolonially. This means that the very notion of what painting is, including representation itself, is up for discussion. The Western European bourgeois tradition will be found to be just one provincial occurrence among many. (3) By expanding painting through its materiality, following the network of histories and interactions, and treating the pigments as actors in themselves, one can begin to paint decolonially.

Peasant Painting

Amerindian thinking is based on the notion of perspectivalism. (4) In contrast to the dehumanising tendencies of modernity/coloniality which separate nature from culture, Amerindian perspectivalism holds that all things are human (animals, plants, minerals), but what separates them are the differing perspectives articulated by their bodies. Therefore, learning from others involves an attempt to inhabit their point-of-view. (5)

I take this Amerindian research methodology into my practice, by growing the plants for pigments. I re-enact the imagined peasant-painter perspective through the interaction with the plants, earths and pigments. Consequently, the painting necessarily expands into performance.

In my conception of the peasant-painting, rather than being a passive figure serving to construct the bourgeois, modern subject, the peasant becomes a point-of-view: the peasant paints.

© Sigrid Holmwood