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Painting as drift: Roland Barthes’ paintings and the pleasure of the margin

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paper

Publication date30/03/2015
<mark>Original language</mark>English
EventRoland Barthes at 100 - Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Duration: 30/03/201531/03/2015


ConferenceRoland Barthes at 100
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


The pleasure of a work (and its process of production), that operates aslant, in the margins, or ‘offstage’ is entirely evident in Roland Barthes’ many drawings and paintings, made in the 1970s alongside his writing practice. This paper responds to these visual works in relation to Barthes’ writings and explores what they suggest about the role of writer/reader, or painter/spectator as part of his challenging position to the view that the writer is active behind the text while the reader remains passive before it.

The pleasure of the text, for Barthes, takes the form of drift and this surfaces in a number of his writings, as a means of remaining mobile, detached, capable of ‘contemplative duration’. The paper considers Barthes’ paintings and drawings in these terms, and explores their qualities of graphism, colour and spatial construction with reference to works by other thinkers on these subject, in particular Hubert Damisch’s Theory of /Cloud/.