Painting in Transit: A re-mapping of painting’s changed terms of reference

As a painter, my paper supports image making in a transdisciplinary context. In doing so, it contends that painting can be identified in a range of material exchanges and associations that accommodate exchanges between painting and non-painting contexts to take place. This is achieved by materially extending and conceptualizing painting beyond its traditional, material definition of medium.
By exceeding the bounds of painting’s material conventions and extending or problematizing an ontological conception of painting we are presented, associatively, with its re-enactment or re-staging in a different form. My paper examines the relation of nomination, readymades, the exemplifying properties of metaphor, characteristic resemblances that exist between different domains, and the self-differing aspects of mediums. What this paper presents is a re-imaging of painting across boundaries that, traditionally, have been ‘materially defined’.

To clarify my position, I question conventional terms of reference i.e. the material traditions (common denominators) that historically, are familiar to specific art forms. I contend that terms such as ‘disciplinary definition’ (as noted in the call for abstracts) are unspecific, misleading, and at worst prescriptive. This paper stresses the folly of viewing disciplinary boundaries today as markers of an outmoded, materially led ideological framework. The folly of this is highlighted by the notion that, as a discipline, painting today is no longer bound to its former material tradition, a tradition that, until the twentieth century, had historically informed its terms of reference. The acknowledged ‘boundaries of disciplinary definition’ rests, I believe, on an outmoded idea of discipline, evades the bigger issue of what the term discipline may now entail, and echoes an essentialist view of disciplinary boundaries (Greenberg?).


Stephen Little’s art covers a range of media and explores a variety of different approaches to painting. His methodology could best be described as a refusal of traditional means. Little utilises video, photographs, mirrors, vacuum cleaners, mops, brushes, gestural hand movements, tents, and text works – one of which was left on the planet Mars in 2004 with the NASA Mars Rovers. He is currently Subject Leader for Painting at the National Art School in Sydney.