“A poem should not mean but be,” a poet formerly famous once wrote: The line is a perfect example of one that does the opposite of what it says, since the dictum’s force lies in its all-too-seductively self-evident meaning. Language only begins to reveal its being when meaning trips itself up, when communicative urgency interferes with its own expression. The Dutch artist René Daniëls must have had something like this in mind when he coined the delightful portmanteau sputterancethe term denoting, apparently, an enunciation whose very resistance to completion or closure constitutes its significance. Today, amid insistent demands for clear and correct messaging in art as in culture more generally, it’s good to be reminded that painting, like poetry, can be most affecting when meaning’s misfires become the work’s substance. Taking Daniëls as his Virgil, painter Sanya Kantarovsky
Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.
Not registered for artforum.com?
SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*
* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.