This PhD by published work contributes to debates regarding aesthetics versus art history and theory. It provides a contextual review of anti-aesthetic legacies of pop and conceptual art developing from an understanding of modern art as de-humanized. The research is concerned with why, how and what to paint after conceptual art and proceeds by making a distinction between postconceptual painting and a return to painting. These themes are tested in the first of two of the author’s solo exhibitions titled ‘Four Circle Paintings’. The show consisted of lo-fi mechanical mono-chrome copies of gestural painting and promotes a conclusion that the label postconceptual painting is applied to artworks that are representations of painting and as such are not real painting. The thesis argues that in its urgency to distinguish itself from (authentic) painting, postconceptual painting demonstrates a contradictory appeal to aesthetics, which prevents the artwork from becoming merely a sign. Therefore, at risk of the same return to painting, the postconceptual painter values sensibility with the intention that the “fake” painting––or sign––is vexed by a ‘real’ aesthetic.
In an attempt to circumnavigate the requirement to validate medium, the second exhibition titled ‘Handmade Colour Pictures’ argues for a categorical shift from the making of ‘paintings’ to ‘pictures’. The show consisted of eight mid-sized works, using painting conventions––oil paint on primed linen stretched over rectangular frames––to produce images, derived from a hunting theme, that brought attention to their own pictorial conditions. The author, having outlined visual attention as a premeditated motivation, concludes that the “there” and “not there” quality of the picture that must be consciously switched between to see it as either image or object, provides an “experience of meaning” that is significant for the artwork in its distinction from an anti-aesthetic dominance of rationality.