It does of course but here I am referring to the rules I associate with my own painting. Or at least guidelines which, when followed, lead a certain direction. Who doesn’t like rules (probably lots of people, and good for them- rebel on)? Maybe a better question would be “Are rules useful?” For generating some types of painting, I would say “Yes.”
If you’ve been kind enough to read the words on this blog from time to time you’ll know I center the word formalism a lot. Formalists can have a lot of rules, I guess, or perhaps just a few. I think the general one we share is making our primary concern an attention to what our work gains from a focus on line, shape, and color. Surface should also probably should be on the list.
“But Sterling” you may say (or perhaps above was too boring to merit reading a third paragraph) “formalism sounds so empty.”
First of all- consider the viewpoint from which this argument is made (that a painting is an empty container that one must fill with something “else”). To this painter, that sound like devaluing the intuitive, the creative, the spontaneous, the impulse that is outside of words. In short- it assumes painting is more like a book than a song. I disagree, at least in the case of abstraction.
Perhaps consider this article by John Yau writing for Hyperallergic, one of the better Art e-rags around today, about the oustanding colorist Harriet Korman. Yau contends her work aspires to the state of music.
I also recently enjoyed this article by Laurie Fendrich of Two Coats of Paint (another outstanding source of art writing) where she discusses pleasure and beauty, with many references to the late David Hickey, in the context of the most recent Whitney Biennale. For the tldr crowd- there is a view of art (that I think applies broadly to abstraction) that our relationship to it is more immediate than words. The strange magic of knowing something this deeply is awe inspiring.
What does all this have to do with rules? Nothing more or less than noting that attention to and focus on the physical qualities of painting a) is a rule, b) is sort of outside language and c) isn’t “empty.”