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1994 I portal I project art space I wollongong, australia


Painting meets philosophy, Dr. Margaret Grafton.

Alan Spackman engages with a philosophical dilemma; a belief system dominated by the oppositions of Aristotelian logic.


His drawings in oil pastel, and his paintings mirror this perplexity, of how to trade with the law of contradiction, with the binary pair, in every-day life. One term of this pair has a positive status, with the other as its negative. Non-reciprocity is the ‘hallmark’ of Aristotelian logic.


Spackman offers the viewer the possibility of another perception. He introduces a vertical and diagonal element to the paintings and drawings, which obviates the strict separation of form and matter. The vertical dimension may be seen as the source of self-hood, whatever that may be in the spectator’s self imagery. It could be a non-anthropomorphic representation, a divine energy, or a non-dimensional difference, the play of energy or force that instigates difference in its multiplicity.


The construction painting Portal, touches on the elements of philosophical thinking that has emerged from antiquity. Not just the question of discerning a way between the rigidity of oppositional thinking, for this mode of thought is but a couple of years young, but the timeless and pressing question of knowing our origin, or our beginnings. The two panels of the painting are the binary opposites, of any one of the pairs of the Pythagorean/Aristotelian table, such as the culture/nature opposition, or sweet and bitter, or good and bad; in other words, the A and -A of logic.


Spackman offers the viewer a way through between the two poles, a way which leads back to the sixth century BC, when thought is changing from an acceptance of a flow between simple pairings, and where there are plenty of differences between A and B, (and no -A,s at all). In the fragments of Parmenides writing (540BC), there is an indication of the dualism of (our) future, expressed in the poetic meter of this early philosophical work. Parmenides writes of his journey to find the Way, and how this leads him onto the divine road to truth. He is brought to a portal, from within which the divinity speaks, and recommends to him a double Way, of two things together, neither the ‘truth’ of logic, nor the opinion of experience, neither one nor the other, but both together:


Here are the gates of the paths of Night and Day,

and a lintel and stone threshold enclose them......

......And the goddess graciously received me,

......’Young man,.....You must learn all things,

both the unwavering heart of persuasive truth

and the opinions of mortals in which there is no true trust’.


The conspicuous point in this early thinking, is the voice from within the gates, the third thing between the opposing poles, and this synthesises Spackman’s project. He offers an alternative scenario to the oppositional thinking that western culture has developed since Plato.


To a certain extent the spectator may choose how to interpret this third (or fourth) thing; it may be the realm of poetry, or some form of transcendence, or more to Spackman’s (and Parmenides’s) taste, a divine energy. Separation is a prime factor in this series of works, but there is always offered the healing element of the beyond.

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