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Spatial Narrative in Expanded Painting
-- On the creation of Somewhere Only We Know


When cameras were invented in 1839, Paul Delaroche, a famous French painter said, ‘Painting has died since today’. The boundaries of sculptures, found objects, and paintings are blurred when mediums are being hybridized in contemporary times. According to Delaroche, painting has been led to live a new life rather than has extended its forms and definitions. This probably means that the “painting” we know is changing its appearance. "Extended Painting" has been used over the past decade to discuss the spatialization of painting. It combines installation strategy, object and design to explore the concerns of painting and highlight the relationship among work, environment and audience. This article outlines the situation of expanded painting in the context of contemporary art, peeks into the contemporary consciousness of expanded painting narrative from the case of contemporary artists, and combines the author's 2020 work "Somewhere Only We Know" to discuss the spatial narrative potential of expanded painting in materials, visual elements and installation.
Keywords: expanded painting; spatial narrative; material; visual composition


1. Expanded Painting in the context of contemporary art

From being painted in caves to being painted on buildings, from flat surfaces on easels to three-dimensional forms of multimedia, painting renews itself in every era. Contemporary culture has a repertoire, that is, people often come out to announce that something is about to die, or has died. People use "death" as an expression of disappointment at the prospect of certain art, and painting is one of those things that is repeatedly declared dead. However, repeated obituaries over the past century indicate that although painting has entered into repeated self-questioning, it has not gone to the grave pits that many art movements have dug for it as expected. Beginning in the 20th century, artists began to focus on the form of works, speculating and questioning traditional art forms, trying to redefine art forms and achieve a leap in media. Installation art came into being. However, installation art is a very broad formal term. “Almost any arrangement of objects in a given space can now be referred to as installation art” (Bishop,2008). The form of installation art is almost all-encompassing, borderless and infinitely saturated, which makes its appellation as a medium general and Blurred, lost some tension. All these disparate discussions suggest that the discussion of spatial practice is expanding and includes areas of art that were previously excluded, such as painting. 
Since the late 1960s, artists began to focus on the physical structure of paintings. Painting has extended considerably, and it has also developed alongside sculpture as an expanded practice, merging with new media, film, ready-made, sculpture, installation, performance and architecture. However, until the 1990s, from the definitional level of painting, the characteristics of installation art: environmental, interactive and participatory, object-based, collage, time-based, etc., still seemed to be regarded as a departure from painting. There will always be people zealously preaching the death of painting or the obsolescence of painting. The rational part of this statement lies only at the end of a certain stage in the art of painting—a certain form of painting is about to be or has become a thing of the past. The question of whether history and art will end or die is far less important than the question of how it will survive and develop. Whether it is text, objects, space, or time, when painting appears to be able to absorb these things, the painting itself is equally likely to be absorbed by these things.


Danish art historian Anne Ring Petersen has defined expanded painting as being “the name for an exploration and extension of [certain] implicated conceptual and physical resources”(2010, p.25). One of the earliest descriptions of painting as an expanded field is in Donald Judd’s 1965 essay “Specific Objects”. Judd refers to the expansion of painting when he discusses several contemporary American artists, whose practices began in painting and exploring spatiality in their work (2005, p.181-189). Judd defines what he calls ‘this new three-dimensional work’, which he does not directly label expanded painting, as resembling or being recognisable as sculpture more than painting, but as being nearer to painting (2005, p.183) .Expanded Painting has been mentioned in certain platforms and exhibitions such as the Prague Biennale, Art Basel Miami Beach. The Castellón International Expanded Painting Prize in Spanish has been trying to evoke contemporary art discussion in this field. However, its definition is still spontaneous and even prone to misappropriation. Mark Titmarsh describes it as “do not yet amount to a sighting on the radar of theoretical categories or movements” ( 2012,p.43). As a term that sometimes is recognized as “the expanded field of painting”, expanded painting is waiting for more testimony for its existence .













Katharina Grosse, Untitled Trumpet, 2015, All the World Futures, 56th Art Biennale, La Biennale di Venezia 02.11.2015 acrylic on wall, floor, and various objects, 660 x 2,100 x 1,300 cm / 259 x 826 x 511 in. Photo: Nic Tenwiggenhorn Copyright: Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

Expanded painting is an emerging field of contemporary practice as well as a release of painting in overcoming its nature. The coordinates of it come from installation art. “As a result, contemporary expanded painting is shown to be a radical revision of art, a moment of ontological ‘presencing’ favouring spatial environments and temporal events that reveal ‘what is’ and ‘what matters’ in a contemporary techno-scientific age ”(Titmarsh, 2012,p.42). Artists turned their attention away from what was happening inside the frame and instead considered the nature of the frame itself. In a specific time and space environment, the consumed and unconsumed substances in human daily life are artistically selected, utilized, transformed and combined. With the specificity of three-dimensionality and spatialization, expended painting has gone beyond the framed surface of the canvas and its boundaries, emphasizing "space" and "human experience". At the same time, site-specificity is an important element of expanded painting, as it requires clever combination and configuration, even considering the physical and political aspects of the exhibition site, which is in stark contrast to traditional easel painting. Imagery and representation are separated and applied to specific materials and situations, deducing new forms of painting. And the burden of narration has also shifted from the content of the image itself to the experience results that people get in the space.

Thus, in this case, how does the narrative of painting in space? How does expanded painting cross the boundaries of the medium without leaving the painting itself? What role do artists and viewers play in this? What drives us beyond the habitual experience of painting?


2. Space, view, and Narration

Narrative is a basic spiritual and cultural activity of human beings. In the 1960s, narratology as a subject began in the field of western history and literature. Until the end of the twentieth Century, narratology began to turn to space research and then formed spatial narratology. Narrative has a very close relationship with time and space. Due to various reasons, in the past narratology research, there is a phenomenon that time gets more emphasis than space. As spatial narrative becomes a new research perspective, the linear structure of classical narratology has been broken. Disciplines such as architecture, gardening, urban planning, film and television, design, and painting have also joined the discussion of narrative space, emphasizing the construction of a system or a set of systems through three-dimensional space, so that the viewer can obtain a more comprehensive view with space imagination. 

As a product of space and a way of space production, expanded painting is both a subject and an object in its relationship with space. For this reason, its spatial narrative is complex and multiple. Human spatial perception includes sight, hearing, and touch. With the help of these three senses, the relationship between people and space can be indicated. In the book Spatial Narratology, Long Diyong divides the "space" involved in "narrative" into four categories, namely "story space", "formal space", "psychological space" and "existence space" (Long, 2008) . The story space is the place or place where the story takes place. The  formal space is the overall structural arrangement of the narrative work (equivalent to the "composition" of a painting), which is presented in a certain spatial form. The psychological space is a certain spatial characteristic presented by a writer's psychological activities (such as memory, imagination, etc.) when he creates a narrative work. The space of existence refers to the place where the narrative work exists, that is, the specific space in which the story is told. For expanded painting, space exists on the one hand as a place of structure and action, on the other hand, remains completely in the environment. Therefore, the concept of “space” includes internal space and external space, and the viewer is located in it or placed outside it, depending on what kind of positional relationship the viewer sets himself in. Is he a spectator, or a participator?



2.1. As visual art takes place in space

As art takes place in space, the way of viewing expanded painting decides it has a strong connection with human perception. It is not difficult to find that most of the expanded paintings are presented in unusually bright or even flamboyant colours, which makes them leave a strong visual impact on the viewers. Human eyes have the absolute function of mixing depth, colours, boundaries in two-dimensional tableau or three-dimensional space. That is the basis of Impressionism, Optical Art and Optical Illusion exist. In painter Paul Cézanne’s sight, there are uncountable “hidden links” under the surface of the daily sense. Thus we can see he used lots of geometric shapes to conclude and purified the elements in his paintings, with which he weakened perspective and evidenced the mixing function of vision. As a painter, sculptor and philosopher, Alberto Giacometti paid attention to the research paradigm of vision aesthetics throughout his life and made bumpy sculptures to explore the depth of space and its representation. Both Cézanne and Giacometti were questioning what is “the actuality of vision”, which is not “the reality of vision”. Because human vision has different sensitivities to different colours and their combinations and contrasts, artists can take advantage of this by choosing to soften or accentuate spaces. If this operation cooperates with some environmental factors such as buildings, lawns, or objects with different reflective properties, it can influence the viewing sequence of the viewers, or disturb "the actuality of vision".
Mieke Bal distinguishes between the concepts of space and place in Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative (Bal & Boheemen, 2009). The space corresponds to the story, and the place corresponds to the "fabula". Fabula refers to the chronological sequence of events, understood by Bal as the "material" that makes up the story(Bal & Boheemen, 2009,p.218). In many cases, people act as bystanders rather than participants when describing artworks and forming personal interpretations, using the space in the work as the object of description rather than the location where they generate their own behavior. Therefore the space is not seen as the place of action. In this case, all materials are appendages of the space. However, expanded painting is an art that uses space as material from the very beginning. These are two different affiliations. One is "this thing happened here" and the other is "this thing exists here". The different activities of people in the space are interpreted as different storylines, and the understanding of the ontology of the work not only includes the space but also pays attention to the participation of people. Space is an "induced event"—that is, without an event, there is no work. Painting in expanded fields and narrative make their connections by being connected by people. As the main body, different events occur due to different activities in the space, which can make the space very different. 

Jessica Stockholder has a conclusion of her thought that both the structure of our perceptual apparatus (eyes, brain, size) and the given nature of the cosmos are the foundation for thought and understanding. "I BEGAN, AND STILL DO BEGIN, with a love for color and unrelenting interest in the intersection of a pictorial way of looking, (or thinking,) with the physical matter of the body and the materiality of things in space." is the first sentence of Stockholder's artist website. She never stops to explore the new possibilities of vision, material, colour and space. The vitality of her works is always full of "visual-language" duality and rhythm. She gives new life to things that seem familiar and common in our daily life, making them all reflect, respond and talk with each other in a new role that is almost impossible, which leaves people a very deep impression. No matter how they become, they will never be unimaginative. Jessica's world is more made up of associations than traditional forms of analysis-if we gaze at a form carefully, we may get more than we expect. That's why she could extend her work into space while keeping the strong visual impact as her early paint on canvas. 

















Jessica Stockholder, Angled Tangle, 2014, Miami Basel: Public,
Bollards, diamond plate steel, light fixtures, steel, electricity, copyright@Jessica Stockholder / Stuff Matters LLC



2.2. The importance of the spectators 

How can a work enter into the dimension of the real? 
As a three-dimensional art, expanded painting needs to be viewed comprehensively. The task of watching can only be handed over to the spectators themselves, and only when the viewers exist can there be watching. In addition, as mentioned above, from the visual level, the perspective of space may be confused, and what the naked eye sees is also subject to environmental conditions. For example, low-contrast colours are easy to weaken the depth of space, thin lines are easy to be hidden, and the structure of the backlight is easy to be unclear. Therefore, a work that is not observed can hardly be called a complete work, and it is difficult to enter the real dimension.



Hélio Oiticica’s series work Spatial Reliefs uses the manufacture of positive and negative shapes to make a requirement towards the viewing of the spectator. A set of constructions folded with spaces are hung. Various panels are folded, overlapped and intersected at angles in various tones of bright colours like orange, red or yellow. The “gaps function as negative space” through which light can pass and which are only seen when people walk around the work (Mataraga, 2012,p.49). Ramirez believes the Spatial Reliefs as being at ‘the crossroads of architecture and painting’ by ‘fully and uncompromisingly’ entering ‘the dimension of the real’ (Ramirez & Figueiredo , 2007, p. 49).











Hélio Oiticica, Spatial Relief (Red), 1959, polyvinyl acetate resin on plywood,

62.5 cm x 148 cm x 15.3 cm. 




Hélio Oiticica, Spatial Relief No.20 (yellow), 1959, painted wood construction. Image: Gallery Lelong at Basel/Miami Artfair, 2007. 

For expanded paintings, the viewer and the artwork remain as separate entities but compose the entire work. Expanded paintings are narrative vehicles organized by spaces, events and activities, not just the material structure of the work itself. We cannot get a complete feeling of the work on a single plane like observing traditional easel paintings. Instead, we need to piece together the space fragments in our minds first. Therefore, we cannot conclude that what we see from a single angle is “the actuality of vision.” Painting frequently explores spatiality either through installation practices or through painting as an object (Petersen, 2010) .From colour to different textures Objects, from the positive and negative shapes of the images to the light and shadow, the Expanded painting works have different compositions at different angles. Just like sculpture, the form of each space in the expanded painting is considered by the artist, because it needs to be fully observed by the audience. The narrative results cannot be presented along with the linear clues and must be accompanied by the spectator's sense of space. For expanded painting, being seen means the work is finished. Spectator and artwork are still separate entities but constitute the entire work.




2.3 The guidance of artist's will to spatial narration

As mentioned earlier, in expanded painting, the viewing of the audience means the completion of the work. This shows that the viewer's will to watch plays a decisive role in the presentation of the work - the viewing angle and viewing method that the viewer chooses determines the amount of information and narrative content about the work he obtains. Watching is a process of discovery, as well as a process of discovering the "viewing relationship". This relationship usually starts with specific elements of works, which can hint the viewer to realize the presences of themselves when he is watching at the work. Only the “viewing relationship” is found when the presence of the viewer himself and the work is realized in the viewer's conscious or subconscious. Otherwise, this would just be a one-way objective behaviour. Then, the artist's choice of the elements of the work, the way of collage, the way of composition, and the way of installation in the environment during the creation process is an indication method. It points to a guide for the audience to watch and the spatial narrative of the work conveys the will of the artist.
The Self Portrait series of photographs by Vivian Maier (1926-2009) is strong proof that the artist's will can have an impact on the audience's spatial imagination. It can be seen that this viewing relationship is not exclusive to expanded paintings or any spatial works, but can also be expressed in other mediums. Of course, as in the medium of photography, not all works have this function. The reason why Maier’s is used as an example here is to explore the commonalities between it and expanded painting, one of which is the flavour of life, the other one of which is the limitation of viewing angle.










Vivian Maier, Self-Portrait, 1955.
VM1955W02784-03-MC Chicago





















Vivian Maier, Self-Portrait, 1954.
VM1954W02936-11-MC Chicago



Works with materiality often have the narrative ability from the beginning. Maier’s portraits capture the highs and lows of everyday life. Street View's storefronts, arcades, and aerial photography use shadows and reflections to capture the impromptu moments that make up a community. Sparkling metal armrests of furniture, abandoned toys, diaphanous curtains, all set the scene as families and commuters go about their daily affairs as well as the silent story behind, which are closely related to people's lives in the 20th and 21st centuries. This further promotes her photography's powerful ability to empathize and induce the viewer's spatial imagination. In the existed works of Expanded Paintings, living materials abound. Old sofas, big red buckets, plants that lost half of their leaves, tangles of electric cables, old warehouses with rusted tin roofs...Compared with traditional painting, which is more sophisticated in techniques, expanded Painting pays more on the combination, such as: combining pigments with buildings to highlight the ups and downs and potential visual effects of architectural structures; using the shape, color, texture and other attributes of daily objects into "point, line and plane" in painting, and collage together with the surroundings into new community corners. 


















Katharina Grosse, Rockaway, 2016, Acrylic on wall, floor and various objects, MoMA PS1’s Rockaway! series, New York, USA

600 x 1500 x 3500 cm.
Photo: Pablo Enriquez Copyright: © Katharina Grosse und VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2016 Invent.#: KG/I 2016_4003




Objects take people's memories and emotions, some of which even involve common senses of one generation. From building corridors, city parks, open markets to the seaside, in addition to galleries, the most popular places for artists to choose for expanded paintings are community spaces. In the environment, immovable things, such as trees, columns, bungalows, street lamps; as well as those elements that change state at any time, such as sea in gray on cloudy days and blue on sunny days, transparent glass get illuminated by street lamps at night will be considered in the color configuration and structural combination of the work. As such, this medium has the full potential to trigger the viewer's awareness of personal existence or the connection of living experience between the individual and the content of the work when viewing the work. The selected objects and installation locations convey the motions the artists wish to express or their expectations for communication with the viewer. And it highlights the relationships between private and public, between individual and community, between people and objects, between objects and objects. With the characteristics of material and participatory, expanded painting is born with the ability to be close to people. It is attached to the material world, different from life but close to life.
Maier’s photography uses light and reflections to arrange ingenious compositions to document her presence. The results presented by this kind of shooting constitute a kind of hypnosis, which often makes the viewer unconsciously and spontaneously assume, imagine and even measure Maier's position at the time of shooting and her viewing relationship with the subject. Although photography is only a two-dimensional medium, it can still induce viewers to try to determine their foothold in the current real space in this viewing relationship. Just imagine that when we pass through any reflective surface after watching Vivian Maier's photography, will we also have the urge to lift the camera and take a picture of ourselves in the mirror? 















Chuanzi Kate Huang, Focus, 2020
Acrylic on wood, giclee print


The appearance of work can inspire the viewer to look at it in a particular way as it turns out. In an earlier work named Focus, I verified this operation. It was a picture with a frame and a frame in front of the picture. The frame in the picture was as large as the actual one. The frame in the picture was incomplete. When an equal-sized frame was placed in front of the printed picture, people had the subconscious of perfecting the incomplete image. This inspired viewers to try to find the most suitable angle to make the two frames overlap. At the same time, I intentionally set this to be a floor-based display and the photos were also posted at a height not far from the ground. When the work was shown to the public in an exhibition, it was very obvious to observe that to find the perfect angle of the frame in the picture, viewers all tried to squat down to watch consciously. This work was also a conscious manipulation of people's inner subconsciousness. At this time, the blurred image in the center of the frame in the picture has been multi-gazed (by the photographer and the spectator). The action of shooting itself means a gaze. Just like Jonh Berger said in Way of Seeing, "Every image embodies a way of seeing” (2008, p.10). Even a photograph. For photographs are not, as is often assumed, a mechanical record. Every time we look at a photograph, we are aware, however slightly, of the photographer selecting that sight from an infinity of other possible sights. 

3. Somewhere Only We Know

Somewhere Only We Know is a work series made in 2020. The work includes elements such as the image of window, bright colours, mirror and community view. The combined angles between each accessory are designed and matched from each surrounding perspective. By viewing the work from different angles, the framed views and the compositions of structures in spectators’ vision keep changing. 
Expanded painting can magnify the connection between paintings and the space, which intends to display the symbiotic relationship of objects and the environment. As discussed in the previous two chapters, expanded painting is a combined expansion form of painting and installation. With its characteristics, expanded painting has contributed to its ability to spatial narrative and space production. For its spatial narrative, visual perception, public participation, and artist guidance constitute the form and structure, while the selection of materials, colors, elements, and installation methods and locations play an auxiliary role in content. This chapter will take specific elements in Somewhere Only We Know as an example, combined with the author’s personal creation experience, continue to discuss the topic of the article, and confirm the previous point of view.




































Chuanzi Kate Huang, Somewhere Only We Know II, 2020
Acrylic on wood, mirror, screw, nylon cord




3.1 The image of window


Since ancient times, people have had many poetic imaginations about windows. It not only manifests as an architectural function but also as an associative function; it has the function of isolating the inner and outer spaces and also has the linkage function of presenting different parts of the space. Quite often the window opening would become the center of events in many painting works. In most cases, this architectural detail served as a source of light in the pictures. The window is like a picture frame, a screen, and a frame that constitutes a scene. I have kept exploring this image in my works. The windows do not often show in highly recognizable appearances but abstractly simplified geometric frames. Geometric structures painted in bright colours can simplify the interference from materials and mediums as well as manifest their independence of them in space. Once perspective becomes part of our mind about how we represent things, the frames fragment from the material world. With other research questions, I have kept questioning: what can or cannot people physically, interactively and optically access? 
The "window" itself is an interactive port, even with philosophical colour and the meaning of enlightening cognition. Windows are objects that we can see everywhere and an indispensable structure in architecture. This makes it easy to remain in people's living places for many years. Song Dong likes to use daily necessities or furniture as creative elements to describe his understanding of the connection among individuals, families, life and objects. A series of Song’s works were built by old window frames, such as Doing Nothing, A World in A Well, Usefulness of Uselessness. He keeps using window frames to do a 3-dimensional collage in space, which is a kind of deconstruction and reconstruction. Old windows bear the real imprint of humans' lives, and once served as a ventilation, lighting and viewing function. Song trans-shaped window frames into new installations. The grills put space into small factions. These fragmentary or deconstructed shapes let the window regrown, which adds an eternally faithful meaning to objects.
In my earlier work Through, I have started to discuss the question in the above paragraphs with the image of window. It is a work specifically made for the show “Immurement” in Crypt Gallery, London. The Crypt Gallery is a place with no window, accompanied with long history and mystery, which even has the legend of a tomb. A window is given the meaning of the hope of living, the kindness of human nature, the probability of imagination and so on. Bringing the object meaning of window into the space and raising new dialogues for such a claustrophobia basement are expected. So I contemplated the idea of adding windows for the gallery. The angle of hanging each frame and the interworking between frames and spotlights were meticulously designed. The shadows highlighted the geometric meaning, which acted on the work's visual effect directly. I tried to use the grills and structures to limit spectators' perspectives, in the meantime allowing them to walk freely and gain their definitions of the best view. When the installation becomes a part of a space, everything that happens or happened in the space becomes a part of the installation. The way of installation becomes a narrative way as well as a carrier of events. Therefore, when these virtual windows were attached to real space, do they separate the space or connect the space? Since people started to walk around these frames, a conversation among history, space and people themselves has started. 















Marcel Duchamp, Fresh Window, 1920
painted wood frame, and panes of glass covered with black leather,

30 1/2 x 17 5/8" (77.5 x 44.8 cm), on wood sill 3/4 x 21 x 4" (1.9 x 53.4 x 10.2 cm)



In people's subconscious, there are directional expectations for windows and the combination of frames and natural scenes. Windows often frame views within a specific range, creating specific passages between the two spaces. If this feature were changed, the meaning of the window would also be questioned. Marcel Duchamp was preoccupied with the themes of vision and perception. Windows had a significant place in his work. In the work Fresh Widow, Duchamp covered the glass panes with panels of black leather because of his will of obstructing the metaphorical view through the window that is associated with illusionistic painting. Analogously, in my work Focus, the scene within the frame in the image is processed to be blurry by Photoshop. A physical way is used to make the viewer's eyes cannot focus on the picture. When someone is gazing at an image that is in a focus position but was out of focus, the expectation in one point perspective would be struck, which makes it impossible to be concentrated on. According to the audience, this experience is “unnatural” cause It “violates human visual habits and psychological expectations of viewing.”

















Chuanzi Kate Huang, Through, 2019
Oil paint on wood, acrylic on canvas, screw, nylon cord





Chuanzi Kate Huang, Through, 2019
Oil paint on wood, acrylic on canvas, screw, nylon cord



The main structure in Somewhere Only We Know I is rearranged from a unique folding screen of a flat where I used to live in. Lots of experiences of mine happened in that flat. When I am walking access the installation and rolling it, the disorder of space brings me back to that magic flat. In Chinese Feng shui, also known as Chinese geomancy, a partition screen behind the door is used to be seen as a room divider, which can prevent the indoor geomancy and aura from being influenced by negative things from the outdoor. Thus the screens are inaccessible baffles. In the folding screen of my flat, one of the leaves is made into an openable door. A new channel is unexpectedly produced in the space when the door is opening. In the first version, the door is revised into an accessible frame. The middle leaf is made into a rotary structure, both sides of which are replaced by mirrors. When the audiences turn the structure, it gives play to a partition screen or a window. The image within the frame of the structure sometimes shows the scene behind the screen, sometimes reflects the surroundings and sometimes composes things behind and in front together. Somewhere Only We Know II is an extension of the first vision. Frames are added in a more complicated composition. The installation site was chosen in a community park. For each additional frame that can be traversed visually or physically, a new space is created. When adding several frames at the same time, the generated space will increase in multiples. The way the participants and the space communicate will also increase.


In addition to the object meaning, the window has a visual meaning. Windows are sometimes compared to eyes. During the Renaissance, the priority of the "spiritual" vision of the artistic world (and the windows are known to be the "eyes of the soul"), established by religion and the church and reigning in the Middle Ages, changed. At that time people united with the material world through a window. Leon Battista Alberti discussed linear perspective in On Painting. He likened a picture to a“window”: when a viewer looks at a picture, he is looking at the world through the “window”. Thus, Alberti set the ideal of "reproducible image"(2011). The world is framed by picture frames or window frames, and the reality of the world is also framed. Based on the world of subject and object, the world is framed, and the painting exists because of vision. This can be linked to the famous window mentioned in Mr. Palomar, which is a 1983 novel by the Italian writer Italo Calvino. Mr. Palomar struggles with the relationship among "I", the ego, a looking world and a world looked at (1985) . In the end, he finds the world looks at the world itself via human eyes. To discuss the relationship between vision and perception, pictures are compared to windows, and windows are compared to eyes. As for how to explain what happened in the space and the result of the exposition, it depends on who is the subject and object of the narrative. When I use windows as elements in Somewhere Only We Know, it is a spatial production activity that happens in an objectively integrated space. This expanded painting installation makes the "isolation" happen, the "passage" is established, and the space has "this side" and "that side". 






Chuanzi Kate Huang, Somewhere Only We Know I, 2020
Acrylic on wood, mirror, screw, chair


As Boris Groys wrote, "The artistic installation is a way to expand the domain of the sovereign rights of the artist from the individual art object to that of the exhibition space itself...The only function of such a space is to make the art objects that are placed within it easily accessible to the gaze of the visitors." (Groys, 2010) In the process of making a work, the artist is undoubtedly a spectator as well as a producer. In my works about the exploration of the image of window, the geometric frames play the roles of the perspective limitation to the spectators is a manifestation of my will as an artist. The structures are used to lead spectators to view the material world from my way of seeing and gave them possibilities to compose a new tableau through their eyes. 

In both of Somewhere Only We Know I and II, the structures exist with the function of filters. When they are framing things, they are showing my way of seeing them as the artist. The compositions of structures and images that are shown within the frames display my narration and thoughts towards the objectively material matter. When I was considering the angle of photographing and the landscape for gazing, representation was happening at the same time. For spectators, the whole installation is an object, which can be seen as an elaborate coincidence as the artist’s narration as well as a pile of woods. After views are separated from the artist's forming, spectators build their thoughts and represent themselves. Thus, we can imagine that in the site, there are three ways for the spectators to get their final impressions of the work. This result of viewing and interacting is a mixed one. Somewhere Only We Know II was installed in the community. Because there are more viewers in the community, when they walk around the space to spectate at the work, they join each other's vision. As mentioned in 2.2 "the viewing of the audience means the completion of the work", the narrative results are being added.



3.2 The use of mirror


As a common theme, a mirror is important in art. On the one hand, because of the physical properties of its reflection, it can reflect light and bring the production effect of hyperspace to the work of art. The second aspect is because it brings "inward" activities to people in their gaze activities. The Mirror suggests that viewers should turn inward for self-knowledge, rather than outward to the natural world. This is why a mirror has been likened to the mind since humans have started to write, paint, sculpt, poetize. In both versions of Somewhere Only We Know, windows remain as frames. Some frames are accessible. Some are filled by mirrors, within which the pictures here are not ‘windows to the world', but the screen onto which something is projected. 



















Chuanzi Kate Huang, Somewhere Only We Know II, 2020

Acrylic on wood, mirror, screw, nylon cord 

As mentioned in 2.3, the "viewing relationship" is only established when the viewer is aware of the coexistence of the individual and the work while viewing. Then adding a mirror to the work is a way to directly implant the viewer into the work. In the main structures, when the upper mirrors are being turned, in some angles, people cannot see their faces but can still see their feet. The image within the mirror reflects the environment or those intricate wood lines with bright colours. In this case, new spaces are produced in the mirrors, and different spaces are opened up as well as connected. Viewers can form narratives on the same plane with the content of different spaces.









Song Dong, A World in A Well, 2016


If you give the mirror a real image, the mirror will give you a real image. You give the mirror an illusion; the mirror gives you an illusion. In the work A World in A Well, Song Dong replaced transparent glass with mirrors, which hindered the interaction between the inside and the outside. The lights inside were brilliant, mirrors reflected each other, and the space looked large, even infinite. The actuality of vision in the work was doubted. A mirror has the function of hiding and expanding space. The existence of one mirror can connect two spaces, so when more than one mirror exists at the same time and contrasts with each other, multiple spaces can be connected. The multiple mirrors present the effect of folding the contents of multiple spaces. In Somewhere Only We Know II, the number of mirrors and the complexity of structure have also been increased, making their reflective effects difficult to comprehend, and even a certain hallucinatory effect. This effect provokes the viewer's urge to find the projected path of personal behavior and to figure out what the image in the mirror is or is not an illusion. This makes the viewer have to pay more attention to the observation of the space, to participate more deeply in the narrative of the work.
As for the paint on the mirror, it is used to demonstrate my subjectivity as an artist when presenting my work and its transformation of the environment. Since it is hard to paint directly in natural landscapes, I achieve cross-plane collages by painting on the surface of mirrors. This way of "painting nature" is more flexible than paint on grass and trees. When the viewer comes to the painted mirrors, they only participate in part of the image cause any reflection of them within the frames is part covered by paints. 




3.3 The movable colours

How to move a colour in space? There are two methods. One is to move the object itself to which the color is attached. The other is to use technology with projection, refraction, or reflection functions to move the "image" of the colour, such as a mirror and a projector.
Because of the visual illusion, objects and architectures, different sizes structures, blocks and lines might be composed, blended, compared and linked if they have similar colours. As human eyes have different sensitivities to different colors, the meaning of the work, the way of expression and the artist's demand for color functions in the work determine the artist's choice of color.

 Chuanzi Kate Huang, Somewhere Only We Know I, 2020

Acrylic on wood, mirror, screw, chair


Somewhere Only We Know I is installed in an indoor exhibition. The existence of the structure is expected to be revealed. The work chooses high-contrast red, blue and green, intending to form a certain degree of conflict with the other colours in the site. The space in the mirror is prominently framed, forming a composite structure with the reality installation. When all works are curated and set and the mirror is turned by the audience, colours from the space are reflected in the mirror. The "images" of the colours are moved. 

Compared to the former, the second version of Somewhere Only We Know adds different shades of blue, purple and green. Installed in a community park, the piece has a more complex structure and more variability. The work adopts a cool tone, not only because it has a sense of silence, tranquility and nostalgia, but also to match the green of the community and make it more harmonious with the environment. When nature is reflected in the mirrors, the work will not be too cluttered because of the kinds of colours. Since the human eye is relatively less sensitive to cool colors, if passersby choose to watch the work as a viewer, they will need more attention. This may allow the audience to subjectively filter out some interference from other uncontrollable factors and devote more attention to the observation of the work. If passersby choose to ignore the work, the existence of the work will not appear too obtrusive or even superfluous. 









 Chuanzi Kate Huang, Somewhere Only We Know II, 2020

Acrylic on wood, mirror, screw, nylon cord

At the same time, in Somewhere Only We Know II, in addition to the main structure, three components allow the viewer to move on their own. They are a hollow box, a solid box, and a rectangle with a painted mirror. Viewers can place them at specific angles according to their own perspectives. The purpose of placing can be to extend the visual length of a certain line, to adjust the density and size contrast of the structure in space, to introduce a green space in the air by using a mirror surface, to add random brushstrokes to the straight rectangle, or to enhance the mirror reflection in the sun. As colors and shapes are moved by the viewer, deliberate and coincidental are created by the viewer, and the narratives of the work are also written by the viewer.


In this article, I established expanded painting as the coordinate of enquiry. Through an overview of the development premise and historical context of expanded painting, combining my experience and taking the work Somewhere Only We Know as an example, the article finds that as an art that takes place in space and specific sites, the process of narration is always inseparable from human vision. The key to determining the viewing result of the painting has shifted from the content and form of the image to the experience people get in the space. In order to make the narrative continue into the space without the specific storyline, artists made conceptual changes in the painting language through the selection of materials and installation methods. Through the transformation of objects and the natural environment with bright colours, the objects have meaning and aesthetic value beyond their own, allowing the viewer to gain more experience beyond the habitual experience of flat painting in the past.

The spatial narrative of the expanded painting is based on the relationship among the artist, the work, the space, and the viewer. These four elements are indispensable. The artist is the writer, the work is the article, the space is the carrier of the narrative, and the viewer is the reader and narrator of the event. There are a thousand Hamlets in the eyes of a thousand people, which leaves the works with multiple open endings.

As "an art developed from art", expanded painting is the result of homeopathy. It not only needs to retain the characteristics of the painting itself, but also express its essence of overcoming its own development tendency - the two do not always live in harmony, and even sometimes contradict each other. In the context of contemporary art, form and content, image and representation are always shifting back and forth between distortion and revival, and prejudice and error recur in nonstandard definitions. It is difficult for us to say which definition is more accurate, and this is also an aspect that we need to continue thinking about contemporary installation art. To be sure, expanded painting is not a general concept, nor is it an art that must be accompanied by all the characteristics of installation art, "installation for installation's sake". It has its sincere and unique vitality, and it welcomes the viewer to return to the most authentic visual experience of art.


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Katharina Grosse
Jessica Stockholder
Spatial Relief (Red)
Spatial Relief (Red)
Spatial Relief No.20 (yellow)
Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier
Katharina Grosse
Somewhere Only We Know II
Fresh Window
Somewhere Only We Know I
Somewhere Only We Know II
A World in A Well
A World in A Well
Somewhere Only We Know I
Somewhere Only We Know II
Somewhere Only We Know II
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