Matisse’s La Danse: On the Semantics of the Surface in Modern Painting

Estetika 2 (2):173-183 (2008)
Since in Modernism inner meaning is doubted or believed lost, the question arises of what an interpretation ignoring the established dialectics of outside and inside and limiting itself to an exclusive surface would look like. Henri Matisse’s decorations’ raise questions about the differences between figure and background, appearance and essence, inside and outside. Instead of reference to depth under the surface, it is density and expansion, concentration and contraction, which determine the occurrence of meaning on the surface. Matisse presents himself as a flâneur of the surface, as if he wanted to show us, in the words of Gilles Deleuze, that ‘[i]t is by following the border, by skirting the surface, that one passes from bodies to the corporeal’
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