The Word “Fluidism” And The Art Of Classifying Art


I question artists who use the word, “fluidism” too lightly to categorize their creations.

FLUIDISM Original Painting ALL THAT REASON CANNOT FATHOM by Robert G. Kernodle
FLUIDISM Original Painting ALL THAT REASON CANNOT FATHOM by Robert G. Kernodle

From The Beginning

Toss a cup full of paint against a wall. Allow the resulting splatter to run naturally. Wait a bit for its shape to stabilize. Now study what you see, and try to paint an exact representation of it.

I dare say that even the best realistic painter would have to concentrate intensely, in order to paint an accurate picture of what Nature has already painted perfectly and randomly. Nature needs no brain-based concentration beyond an artist’s relatively unskilled manipulations of colored liquids on selected surfaces. Nature simply paints such paintings faster and better than any thinking being. In these cases, artists are collaborators with the cosmos.

When I use the word, “fluidism”, therefore, I am referring to Nature’s paintings. I am referring to artworks that occur as a direct consequence of how liquid paints run, spread out, collide, divide into streams, or otherwise behave, without a thinking person’s formal intentions.

“Thoughtless Logic”

The universe has a thoughtless way of shaping liquids that I sometimes call “the logic of liquid”. The logic of liquid produces streams, splatters and other wet dynamic shapes. These shapes arise unpredictably. They are spontaneous expressions of human sensory reflexes. These shapes, thus, are primitive expressions of the universe itself.

Flowing fluids reveal the fundamental nature of physical reality. The ways in which fluids behave, in fact, are the causes of human anatomy, human physiology, ... human existence.

Each human body is well over 50 per cent water. The planet from which all human bodies arise is approximately 70 per cent water. From an evolutionary point of view, human beings are carbon-based bags of seawater that walk upright on bony stilts. When we paint with water-based paints, therefore, we do so with the basic substance of ourselves.

Artist Tom Byrne

Tom Byrne... has suggested that, because his art inspires philosophical insights about fluids, he can label his style of art with the word, “fluidism”. I strongly disagree, because I believe that he mostly inflates the word, “fluidism” with clear conceptions without substantiating his conceptions with clear visualizations of fluidity. He, thereby, robs the word of its usefulness in classifying paintings whose substrates themselves are the subjects that visualize the meaning of “fluid” far more effectively.

Tom implies that I am unjustified to criticize his choice of stylistic label in my article, ... FAKE Fluidism--Artists Claiming Fluidism Art NOT Real FLUIDISM Artists. ... He further insists that he was the first person to coin the word, “fluidism” to classify art.

At best, both Tom and I arrived at this word independently. The question is, however, “Who has put this word to better use for classifying art?” My suggestion is that I have put the word to better use. My artistic claim to this word is based on an attempt to formulate a clear etymology for it. Etymology deals with the true sense of words, and I believe that my use of “fluidism” helps establish such a true sense of this word in the art world.

When I criticize Tom, therefore, I am not, in any way, questioning his skill or excellence as an artist. Instead, I am questioning his choice of a label to categorize his style of art.

Visualization Versus Conceptualization

My goal is to use words in ways that inform viewers and historians unambiguously. Consequently, anyone who claims that the word, “fluidism” applies equally to my style and to Tom’s style is misguided. There is perhaps a better word to describe what Tom does, and he is more distinguished (with less confusion), if he chooses a different “ism” to categorize his art style.

Tom’s style might very well do what his artist statement claims, “reflects our temporary corporal forms as well as the eternal quantum foam of the universe, both forever in flux”, but his actual paintings do not fulfill this claim visually. Rather, his paintings fulfill this claim only conceptually. In other words, my artworks PRESENT a clear VISUALIZATION of the fundamental fluid nature of the universe, whereas Tom’s artworks REPRESENT an underlying CONCEPTUALIZATION of this fluid world-view.

The Basis Of Words

Freely flowing masses of liquid can be both art subjects and art substrates simultaneously. A number of artists in the past and in the present have dealt with this sort of art subject/substrate. Elsewhere, I have named contemporary artists besides myself who engage in the process of negotiating such works. All such works have a similar appearance. Specific details of these works might differ, but they still present a distinctive artistic style worthy of a clear label. I have chosen the label, “fluidism” very carefully, independent of anybody else’s use of this label to describe art. This label clearly and directly captures an unmistakable visual quality, by way of a deep connection to the true meaning of the word, “fluid”.

FLUID PHENOMENA by Artist Robert Dickman
FLUID PHENOMENA by Artist Robert Dickman | Source

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Comments 6 comments

Alladream74 profile image

Alladream74 5 years ago from Oakland, California

I generally have a problem with the whole idea of classifying art. Terms can be employed in their physical association with the subject or in their metaphorical sense.It all boils down to semantics from my point of view.And as a practising artist, there is nothing that frustrates me more than intellectual jargon on artwork done purely for the artists sake of sharing experiences or whatever other reason.

Apostle Jack profile image

Apostle Jack 5 years ago from Atlanta Ga

Abstract all the way.

Robert Kernodle profile image

Robert Kernodle 5 years ago Author


You wrote:

"And as a practising ["practicing" mispelled] artist, there is nothing that frustrates me more than intellectual jargon on artwork done purely for the artists ["artist's" needs an apostrophe] sake of sharing experiences or whatever other reason."


Your phrase, "intelectual jargon" is the very thing it accuses itself of. Using words at all is a self-defeating endeavor, if you really take the stand that you are taking.

You use words, as I do, to make an assessement and to share your experiences. Again, this seems self-defeating, given your use of words to condem words.

If you are really committed to your own stance, then you cannot use words at all. You cannot even convey your message, because conveying messages or conveying understandings requires words.

There is nothing that frustrates me more than visual artists who refuse to accept the fact that the medium of words is an art form too, and this verbal art form can extend the impact of its related visual art form.

Language exists for a reason, and historians have to use language to tell stories about human experiences or accomplishments. You, therefore, cannot escape the use of words. Trying to do so leaves you mute to the world and obscure to future generations.

Your problem with classifying art is YOUR problem, and it does NOT have to be a problem, when you realize that all words are NOT evil. ... The post-modern deconstructionists tried to push the agenda that words ARE evil, ... using words to explain themselves, I might add.

I encourage you to use words as well as you can. Make words your friends, NOT your enemies. You are here on hubpages (a place designed for words), and you are using words to criticize my use of words.

Do you see what a circle of self-defeating contradictions this causes?

You imply that visual art is immune to precise language. Clearly, this is NOT true. I bet you could easily pick out an impressionist's work from a pointilist's work. I bet you could pick out a classical work from a contemporary work.

I suggest that the class of works I call "fluidism" has an equally clear distinction, and this class of works can maintain its distinction in historical accounts, if the word, "fluidism" is not inflated so much that it looses any visceral, functional value.

Trust me, my art came first, and my words to classify my art errupted from the art itself, in as clear a fashion as I could achieve.

Another thing that frustrates me is visual artists who manipulate words as putty that they can shape and present haphazardly any way they please. Such artists practice a careless habit, spawned by a flippant attitude that is falsely anchored in the failed post-modern deconstructionist condemnation of categories and shared word meanings.


"Terms can be employed in their physical association with the subject or in their metaphorical sense."


I agree. But in a CLASSIFICATION SCHEME, stretching words in such manners disables their precise uses in instances where they unmistakably clarify the objects and categories in the world to which they refer. ... If you produced what you knew differed substantially from another artist who used the same language as you to classify his art, then you probably would not like history as seeing both of you as one and the same distinctive style.

You have got to BE different, in order grasp the need to be SEEN as different.

Clearly, different artists are using the same label ("fluidism") to classify their works as distinctive. Metaphorical use of language here is empty, where real-world functionality is needed to fulfill an accurate description of what an artist actually creates.

Civilization operates on definitions, categories and classifications. Do you have a problem with the whole idea of classifying species of the animal kingdom? Do you have a problem with the whole idea of classifying different nationalities?, different ethnic groups?, different college degrees?, different professions?, different human beings?, .... ?

Would you prefer that I address you as "Hey, buddy", or would you just prefer that I address you as "Ug", like a grunting cave dweller who has not developed a complex, descriptive language?

tombyrne 5 years ago

so my friend can you explain to me in your world what you think cubism is

Robert Kernodle profile image

Robert Kernodle 5 years ago Author

French art critic, Louis Vauxcelles first used the term "cubism", or "bizarre cubiques", in 1908.

Cubism breaks up familiar objects and re-assembles them, in order to depict them visually from a multitude of viewpoints, and to represent them conceptually in a greater context. Surfaces of represented, familiar objects intersect at seemingly random angles, depriving them of a real-world sense of depth. Figure planes and background planes interpenetrate to create a shallow ambiguous, make-believe space.

Cubism paintings have a chopped-up look, very angular, sometimes like pieces of a mirror reflection broken and put back together in relationships impossible to view in the real world.

Robert Kernodle profile image

Robert Kernodle 5 years ago Author

By contrast, "fluidism" does not begin in the world of formal, categorized objects at all. Fluidism begins in the tangible, physical substrates of fluids themselves, presenting the most appealing fluid dynamics patterns as artforms.

In fluidism, the fluid substrate is the formal subject. Formlessness is revealed as the basis of form in actual, real-world flows. Fludism, thus, is more real than cubism.

Cubism starts with representations of formed objects and DE-forms them, sharply and angularly, whereas fluidism starts with actual formless objectlessness that self-organizes into appealing forms, spontaneously and curvaceously.


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