Review

Maxwell’s Demon

“Entropy, from the point of view of the rational imagination, is disorder and is indeed its field. Actually, we have been as busy, as violent and as concentrated as the ant-heap. We are torpid only because we feel glutted with energy and feel it only as trouble.” R. P. Blackmur, Reason in the Madness of Letters, 1956

With his Maxwell’s Demon series, Jonathan Field has resurrected the concept of the history painter. Why should we continue to paint historical events rather than rely on the sophisticated recording technology that is now at our disposal? For the same reason that we should continue to write history rather than simply allowing news reports to represent the cumulative history of our time. It allows history to be more than just data; it becomes knowledge.

Field has re-invented history painting so that it is relevant for our time. He places himself in the position of Maxwell’s Demon (a counter-entropy machine), self-consciously selecting and re-presenting images from art history and the media to portray our troubling times. Field is an artist, he is an historian; and his work questions the role of the artist and the historian simultaneously.

Steve Aishmann, Art Relish