For A Historie, it’s a matter of marks, dragging lines, draughtsmanship strictly bound by the sheet. In our post-Renaissance and -Romantic art, disegno is and remains ancillary to ‘painting’ or ‘sculpture,’ to be fleshed out, sacrificially, by colore, a schema for some other praxis. Chloe Piene, no handmaiden, recognized for the power of her figural artifice and resistance to restraints, responds spontaneously but is formal: ‘Drawing is the first and final medium; there is nothing inbetween [. . .] I have never painted. They are two completely different things where one is much more guttural and instinctive than all the rest.’
Piene’s œuvre lives, pulses in the now raking light of that legendary Germanic dawn of Hegel and Hölderlin when Greek seemed an Ur-tongue. For the ancients there was a greater ‘rest,’ the sacred pagan core marked by ritual ‘sacrifice’ in which every public act was embedded. The visual arts had no Muse of their own, nor a word for pictura, the ‘art of painting’, only the neologism zoögraphia, ‘life-writing’; their captors the Romans remained caught in the trope, along with so much else Greek, employing the term graphis for ‘drawing’, leaving the work of ‘shaping’ art to the realm of fictio. It was the contests of tragic drama, cult as much as culture and performed under the ægis of Dionysos, the most ancient of Greek deities, in his guise as Eleuthereus (Liberator), that focused the collective choral energies of the otherwise volatile and polemic polis to a performative white heat. Here mythic material offered ‘women words’, as the Oresteia had it, a transformative voice as nowhere else.
Piene conjures up a world of mythos not as Ariadne of the salutary thread, but a re-Diana-like Mistress of the Animæ, delving into the human wild in drastic cycles; figuræ from her polymorphous cosmogony — Valkyrie, Engel, King Night — render and re-invigorate powers of excess that logos has and will not. She achieves an art beyond ratio with that sharp instrument, a style, capturing the Æschylean ‘violent grace’ with which that higher being the daimon deigns us humans learning, mathos, only in suffering, pathos. Yet still, Ein Bild hielt uns gefangen ; late Wittgenstein devoted himself to the implications of this imprisonment by imago and icon, Zeichen and Zeichnung, our profound logical and moral dilemma. Iconoclasm, too, is a sharp tool, one that cuts both ways, but the radically different gut instinct of Piene fictrix, a true ’clast, to deploy disegno not merely as poesis, but as an organ for Denken, drives her art higher and headlong towards a notional and notational score for a new gnosis, an Affektwissenschaft for the future.