Ryan Lewis

Research Student - An Ontology of Images and Painterly Subjectivity: Towards a Bergsonian Philosophy



Ryan is a PhD student in Philosophy.

Research Topic

An Ontology of Images and Painterly Subjectivity: Towards a Bergsonian Philosophy


Professor John Mullarkey & Dr Todd Mei



Ryan's research topic for his PhD thesis is 'An Ontology of Images and Painterly Subjectivity: Towards a Bergsonian Philosophy.'


My thesis aims to evaluate the conceptualization of ‘image’ from Henri Bergson’s philosophy to primarily support a philosophical context for a theory of the material creativity and perceptual difference through painting. From this notion of ‘image’, towards a variant Bergsonian conception of art, I argue for the consideration of a process ontology of painting, whereby painterly conditions may be regarded as the site for intellectual and philosophical practice. I propose that in the rendering of physical images, from among the processes of the perceptual and material becoming of painting, there is the necessity for conditions of pictorial subjectivity.

I look to the theoretical writings of Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee to establish a comparative basis for exchange between Bergson’s original thought and its influence towards contemporary Bergsonian discourse, in relation to, the historical precedents of these artists’ practice, theory and the developments from them leading to contemporary visual arts practice.

Regarding the Kandinskian conception of abstraction and ‘internal necessity’ and the linkage between the Kleeian notion of ‘rendering visible’ , I maintain that painting, as a mode of ‘imaging’, must be compelled by an intuitive vision into ‘the very life of things’, and thereby, also regarded as an activity of inexhaustible rendering of images in terms of the continuity of life and the plurality of its difference. I claim that painting is imbued with durational rhythm, embodies qualitative multiplicities, and is the potential for the expansion of our sense of visuality as well as an affective means towards the opening of life.

Throughout this work, I remain focused on the contemporary discourse of Bergson’s thought, and the challenges of its application to an aesthetics of painting in relation to phenomenological accounts of art. Considering painting specifically in terms of a Bergsonian account of image, I aim to contribute to a practice-based philosophy of painting which considers painting as a prescriptive means of life’s elaboration, as a visual and tactile process towards the becoming of visual affectivity and divergence.

Research Interests

Phenomenology and Contemporary Continental Philosophy

  • French figures: the work of Henri Bergson, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Henry
  • German figures: the work of J.W. Goethe, A. Schopenhauer, E. Husserl, M. Heidegger
  • Anglo-British/American reception: D. Hume, W. James, A. N. Whitehead, John Dewey


  • Philosophy of Painting: practice-based art, performance art
  • Aesthetic theories based on the works of Paul Cézanne, Paul Klee, Franz Marc, Wassily Kandinsky, Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter
  • Philosophies of Image(s): Theories of visual perception, iconology, imagery, Politics of the Image, Social Imagery
  • History of Print: theories of progressions or ‘developmental forms’ of printed media, theories of the Analogue and Digital Text



Teaching Assistant - Philosophy, University of Dundee:

  • ‘Reading and Thinking Philosophy’ - course PI11003 (2008/09, 2009/10, Fall 2010/11)
  • ‘Foundations of Modern Philosophy’- course PI12004 (2008/09, 2009/10, Fall 2010/11)

Teaching Assistant - Philosophy, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, USA:

  • ‘Introduction to Philosophy’ - course Ethics103 (2006-2007)
  • Graduate Instructor - Media & Communications
  • ‘Introduction to Public Speaking’ - course Speech401 (Spring 2006)

Teaching Assistant - Philosophy, University of West Florida, Pensacola, Florida, USA:

  • ‘Introduction to Logic’ & ‘Modern Logic’ - course Tutor (2004)

Media and Writing Consultant and English Language Teacher, Leipziger Stadtbau AG, Leipzig, Germany:

  • Business English Language course, proofreading and editorial services (April 2011 to September 2012)

English Language Teacher, Sprache & Wirtschaft - Institut für Fremdsprachen Gmbh, Leipzig, Germany:

  • Business English & Professional Language teacher, English Grammar development (October 2011 to September 2012)



‘Differ to Difference: Wyndham Lewis and Henri Bergson’s theory of time’, for The Journal of Wyndham Lewis Studies, (2012 issue)

Published Cover Image, Graphic Art from original painting, entitled, ‘Composition In Time: Structuring Between Greens & Blues, charcoal, acrylic, and ink on paper’, 1.58m x 1.86m, May 2010, private holding, Dundee, Scotland, (c) Ryan D. Lewis, for Spinoza Beyond Philosophy, (by Beth Lord, Edinburgh University Press, July 2012)

GRUND Lit. zine’, Issues #1-25 (2009-2011), a monthly art, literary, and philosophical serial publication presenting contemporary ‘community’ compilations of philosophical writings, images, and ideas, Issues #1-25 (2009-2011), GRUND Publishing, The British National Library holdings (U.K.)

‘GRUND Lit. zine #5’, (2009), The Floating Zine Collection, Collections and University Archives, MsC 331, Collection Dates Special: 1995-2011, Box 1, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, IA, USA

Conference Papers

Paper Presented titled, ‘Differ to Time: Wyndham Lewis and Henri Bergson’s theory of time’, at Wyndham Lewis: Networks, Dialogues, and Communities, international academic conference sponsored by the Paul Mellon Centre for studies in British Art, Hosted by the Institute of English Studies, University of London, 30th November - 1st December 2012.

Commenter and presented work in progress entitled, ‘Image, Movement towards Painting’, at Penser le mouvement, postgraduate colloquium proceeding with contemporary Bergsonian research and scholarship, Hosted by Université Paris-Est-Créteil, France, June 2012.

Paper Presented titled, ‘Time is the Locus of Art’, at Spaces of (Dis)location, international Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Conference, Hosted by the College of Arts, University of Glasgow, Scotland, May 2012.

Paper Presented titled, ‘The Becoming ‘Image’, Expanding Perception, and The ‘Conversion’ of Philosophy: A View from Bergson’s ‘Perception and Change’ Lectures Towards Practice Based Research in Art and Philosophy’, at The Perception of Change: Space, time, and mobility after Henri Bergson, symposium to mark the centenary of Bergson’s Oxford Lectures, Hosted by The Technological Natures Research Cluster School of Geography and Environment, Mansfield College Chapel, University of Oxford, May 2011.

Paper Presented titled, ‘A turn of a kaleidoscope’: Henri Bergson’s theory of ‘image’ and the variable ‘images’ of abstract painting’, at Henri Bergson and His Immanent and Postmodern Legacies, Hosted at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, February 2011.

Paper Presented titled, ‘A Conflict of Images: From Qualitative Impressions to Quantitative Expressions - A consideration of Gustav Fechner in relation to a psychology of art at odds with subjectivity in Expressionist theories’, at Creative Conflicts: 8th Annual English Postgraduate Conference in collaboration with the 17th Annual Scottish Word and Image Group, Hosted by the School of Humanities, University of Dundee, June 2010.


‘Diffuse Time: an exploration of the perception of time through collage’. A solo collage exhibition (Ausstellung), at the Kapitaldruck Buchhandlung & Cafe, Roßplatz 11, Leipzig, Germany, May 2012.

‘Derived and Distilled: on the Architectonic of Images’ I-XII- (12), 594x420mm framed image-collage presented and displayed for the Symposium marking the centenary of Bergson’s Oxford Lectures, at the Mansfield College Chapel, University of Oxford, hosted by the School of Geography and Environment, May 2011.

‘Fragments and Scattered Subjects’ I-XVII- (17), 420x297mm prints and collage presentation during Session 5 presentations, ‘Bergson and His Immanent and Postmodern Legacies’ conference, hosted by Courtauld Institute of Art, London, February 2011.

‘The Tree Towards ‘I’’, blind review selection and exhibition of painting for the Forfar Gallery of Art, Winter Exhibition, Forfar, Scotland, November-December 2010.

‘Abstract Formulation: The synthesis of concept, plane, line, and colour from the affective experience of bicycling the Tay’, Painting Series exhibited for the GENERATOR project, Dundee’s sole artist-run, independent gallery and project space, Annual Members Show 2009, Dundee, Scotland.

Invited Expose and Presentation of ‘Grund Lit. zine, art/literary publications’, Portland State University International zine Symposium, Portland, Oregon, U.S. of A, July 25th-28th, 2009