Towards a Concrete Art
: A Practice-Led Investigation

  • Geoff Lucas

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This study aims to identify a consistent position for Concrete Art, relevant to an understanding of, and highlighting its vital importance in, contemporary practice.

    As a practice-led study, its primary research methods have drawn upon the curating of series’ of exhibitions, hosting of discussions and production of publications at the Highland Institute for Contemporary Art (HICA: HICA is an artist-run space that I co-founded in 2008. Its exhibitions are particular examples of relevant practice and vehicles for the further exploration of ideas. They have included artists such as Boyle Family, the Noigandres poets, Daniel Spoerri, and Liam Gillick.

    The diversity of understandings, artistically and philosophically, of the ‘concrete’ reveal the contradictory states a concrete art may be desired to occupy. Theo van Doesburg’s Manifesto for Concrete Art, of 1930, for example, appears to call for both opposite Realist/universal and Nominalist/particular understandings of artworks. Van Doesburg’s seems a monist position overall though, uniting contradictory elements as counterparts or ‘contrasts’; a position which, by extension, may better define the intentions of a general ‘concrete’ tendency apparent throughout modern art.

    Exploring relevant developments from the beginnings of modernism as the background to contemporary artists’ considerations of the concrete, the study reflects on how such phenomena as the universal and particular, form and content, or mind and matter, may currently be understood as unified, and as material. These considerations readily connect thinking in relation to Concrete Art to a shift in understanding from classical to modern physics.

    The study, developing a resulting focus on our general aesthetic experience, as our part in pervasive formative processes, concludes with a proposal of a new term; the ‘quancrete’, which aims to provide a contemporary sense of the concrete, consistent with these new understandings, and indicative of an on-going development, basic to ideas of modernism; connecting both its earliest experiments and its current diversity.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsWilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust
    SupervisorMurdo Macdonald (Supervisor) & Graham Fagen (Supervisor)

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