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Art, aesthetics and supplementarity: Re-evaluating the distinctions between the work of art and supporting material

Walton, Jeremy Stephen


Jeremy Stephen Walton


This thesis analyses the importance of supplementary material for art history and philosophy by addressing its shifting and problematic relationship to the ‘work of art’. Through the use of philosophical and critical theories, including Heidegger, Benjamin, Adorno, Deleuze and Derrida, the nature and status of artworks are explored through different uses of supplementarity that are identified and developed in order to re-evaluate the cultural significance of supplementarity itself. This theoretical analysis is complemented by a cultural history that demonstrates, through a discussion of changes in artistic practices, theoretical perceptions, markets and ‘cultures of display’, the ways in which conceptions of the work of art and supplementarity are historically contingent.

The main body of the thesis is composed of four case studies. In the first, Heidegger’s distinction between art and equipment and his notion of causality is used to analyse Henry Moore’s maquettes, plasters, and bronze works, in order to distinguish preliminary and preparatory material from complete works of art. The second focuses on hierarchy and supplementarity, developing Deleuze’s concept of the simulacrum by showing how the drawings and sketches of Antonio Sant’Elia can be considered works of art, despite being traditionally identified as supporting material. Walter Benjamin’s theory of aura, and Theodor Adorno’s notion of enigmaticalness, are deployed in a third case study that analyses the significance of the relocation of Francis Bacon’s studio from London to Dublin, and the use of biographical material to foreground the creative process. The final case study deploys Jacques Derrida’s analysis of Antonin Artaud’s works on paper that problematises prevailing classifications of art, and Derrida’s interpretation of Artaud’s notion of the subjectile, in order to emphasise the often ambiguous status of ostensibly supplementary material.

Overall, the thesis re-evaluates the cultural significance of supplementarity for aesthetics by analysing the ways in which supplementary material affects how works of art are experienced and understood.

Thesis Type Thesis
APA6 Citation Walton, J. S. Art, aesthetics and supplementarity: Re-evaluating the distinctions between the work of art and supporting material. (Thesis). University of the West of England
Keywords art, aesthetics, supplement, technology, display, curating, creativity


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