After Modernism Formative Assessment
Stella used an ordinary house-painter’s brush to establish the width of the stripes and worked with commercial paints taken straight from the can. He wanted to dispel any interpretive reading of his work, commenting in 1964, ‘My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there. All I want anyone to get out of my paintings and all I ever get out of them is the fact that you can see the whole idea without any confusion. What you see is what you see.’ The title of Six Mile Bottom refers to a village in England, where the poet Byron’s half-sister Augusta Leigh lived. (September 2004)
“Six Mile Bottom” is a piece by Frank Stella created in 1960, he has used Alkyd paint on 3000 x 1822 mm Canvas. I wanted to analyse it in relevance to the debate of ‘What is a Painting’. In person this piece projects itself in an aggressive and powerful manor, the way it is expressed is so dominant due to its unity and order establishing an eye catching illusion by combining three dimensional aspects with accurate use of symmetrical lines.
This Piece is intriguing in the way it has strayed from the regular conventions and limitations of paintings and incorporated features that are often generalised with Sculpture. Throwing the usual 2D surface and rectangular shape of canvas that were said to define what a painting should be removes the boundaries and gives the artist much more freedom to express themselves.
This innovation has sparked debate as to whether this piece should actually be viewed as a painting, sculpture, or as an object. Donald Judd has weighed in on this debate by expressing that he values the idea of using shaped canvases so that all the required space can be used and the artist doesn’t have to leave anything black or unnecessarily filled in.
I feel that even though this piece partly falls into both the minimalistic sculpture and painting categories in ways such as possessing three dimensions, being monochromatic and painted on canvas, possessing the use of basic shapes in painting, yet also an irregular form of basic shape in its canvas shape, I still see it as a painting. Historians such as Robert Rosenblum and Barbara Haskell have expressed similar views.
In their comments they seem to focus towards referring to this piece as an object for example in their quotes on “Six Mile Bottom”, “The result was a picture or, in some ways, an object of extraordinary tautness and indivisibility, in which the area of pictorial illusion and the palpable boundary that defined this illusion were suddenly confounded.” 32 – Robert Rosenblum. A response from Haskell was more presence orientated than the technical analysis given by Rosenblum, “The result was so totally divested of extra pictorial significance that it seemed to be more an object in itself than a painting…This painting-object was as palpably present as anything else in the viewer’s space.” 34 – Barbara Haskell.
In conclusion I see it as a painting due to the nature in which it is displayed, in essence the three dimensional aspect only further contributes to the further implied depth portrayed by the lines of the image in the first place, the symmetrical lines following along with the hole in the middle of the canvas just exaggerate the effect of the illusion being portrayed. The irregular mediums that have been implemented just seem like an addition to what would have probably been a very ordinary painting excluding them, produce the much needed boost to the image that gives it such power and projection albeit it inspired this debate to be sparked regarding its artistic orientation.