Sue Bleakley, Mat Osmond, Belinda Whiting, Karen Lorenz and myself had a great time installing our show last Monday. I had taken the overnight coach from Penzance to Victoria, meeting Karen en route in Torquay just after midnight. We had breakfast in the university cafe, which was great. It was a beautiful morning, sunny and mild, and Greenwich felt spacious, airy and inspiring.
We spent some time placing the works and in the end each artist’s work was displayed together, but each body of work spoke to all the others in many ways.
The Opening was very well attended, and we are all very pleased.
Kate Walters’ curator’s statement
- Being at the Edge: The Edge of Being March 2013
My aims with my work, and as the curator of this show, centre around being attentive, fully present in the body, in the moment, and how this can effect a new kind of knowing.
It is to do with paying attention, noticing, being awake, as if death is behind you.
My work comes into being because I am attentive to tiny changes, little glimpses, little breaths, the tiny voice. I am fully present in my studio. It’s about seeing relationships, even if they appear slight or tenuous, initially. For me the edge is where my hand stops and the world begins; my hand is a kind of hinge. It is also about the senses of loss and trust I feel when at work in my studio. It is Eros, a throbbing inside the body, sometimes installed in the body by the sight of a precious face.
Working at the edge of one’s bodily awareness shows me how animal we are too. In Penny Florence’s essay she mentions Elizabeth Grosz “who understands the definition of art as profoundly animal. Through the intensity of sensation accessed in art, our bodies are able to effect transformations, not only of ourselves, but universally. Experience is transformative, and it connects with our animal lineage. Art is not only about what the artist wants of thinks; art is expanded thought-in-sensation.”
I was inspired to put this group of artists together when by chance Mat Osmond sent me an example of his recent work. I was amazed by the text and the drawings; they recalled experiences I had had with a hare on top of a mountain in Italy. I was already familiar with Sue’s amazing animalizing sculptures, Karen’s exquisite films and drawings and Belinda’s beautiful and haunting photographs.
We had many meetings where we discussed the themes and we met in each other’s studios. There follow extracts of texts which developed from these conversations.
Mat wrote that for him
“The work approaches bodyspace as the visceral seat of imagination; it reads the body as neither ‘me’ nor ‘mine’, but the givenness of life from one moment to the next, and as such, inseparable from the surrounding world. It sees bodyspace as another word for imagination – the all-embracing element within which our lives’ various stories surface, interweave, subside. The work conjures a mythic space within which embodied experience can thus be turned over, re-presented, fathomed. It has an interior quality, but approaches interiority not as something pertaining to the individual as against an ‘exterior’ world, rather as something intrinsic to the world itself, and to the process of being dreamt by the world as a dependent, contiguous element within that greater life.
The various compromises and contradictions that arise within even the most mundane levels of experience, and the sense of my own limited and fallible resources in the face of such dilemmas, are the fuel for the work. It turns to imagination as an act of embodied prayer, and it is this gesture of imaginal prayer that is the most basic ‘geography of practice’ for me; likewise, the experience of limit and finitude that provoke that movement of reaching beyond the self is the inescapable geography of place that I carry with me everywhere.”
Sue spoke about an idea for a video: pouring blue-john crystal rock aggregate onto a surface/ floor perhaps, filming children’s knees and hands as they handle it, investigate it. The spontaneous lives of the children’s hands provide the upward pulling spirit that works against the tug of the crystals that are the bones of the earth.
She also spoke of drawing lines, of a dream of winged lines – thinking of Agnes Martin – lines and edges: things being filled, things being empty. So you see what you get: as in Sue’s sculpture, which works with filling things.
Sue said she understands that we live our personal body ‘spaces’ only in the sense that these interact with our physical environments. The environment ‘affords’ particular stimuli to which we respond and we are shaped accordingly. The environment is also a gradient – from shallow to deep.
For example, in West Penwith at the far western reach of Cornwall, there is a unique deep environment – a majestic granite boss that has erupted from below the skin of the earth and left its mark as a surface electromagnetic field. It is impossible to escape from the influence of the deep granite, especially as an eye-line where it runs away in perpendicular stepped cliffs to an ever-changing seascape.
If the granite is thought of as the affordance of solidity, overlaying this is the opposite – the transience of bodies. West Penwith is a giant Neolithic graveyard, as if the skin overlaying the granite bed is a death caul. Here are numerous burial sites once containing the bodies of Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples, as a form of literal sedimentation of history, their artefacts buried with them. Contemporary people, in their body spaces, live on top of these burial sites.”
On her sculptures, Sue said, “I have been aiming to produce objects that through their clean simplicity allow colonization, multiplicity, and infection, to occur in the mind of the beholder. A second theme is that the sculptures play with what is deep and surface, interior and exterior. They promise clarity but offer opacity. As you look into them, they appear to bounce you off. There is an allure of depth, but it turns out to be all surface. They open up as they seal over. They are perfectly in-focus objects that on closer inspection are out of focus. They look cold to touch, but are slightly sticky with warmth. The larger, clear silicone pieces look like morphing glass. If there is an encompassing theme, it is an expression of life forms based on silicon rather than carbon that at once want to express themselves as they shrink from view. Silicone is a compound of silicon and oxygen, and I imagine that the oxygen is the life force that allows the silicon to breathe. It is the breath of the silicone that the sculptures capture. These themes again capture the tension between the spirit that keeps us light on the earth and the soul that wants to draw us deep, to bottom and dense layers.
Karen is concerned with the surface as a place where people meet, where one thing meets another. As, for instance, the coastline, the meeting between the solid certainties of earth, and the sea, which is more tied to memory, to the past, to imagination. Having the enormity of imagination – sea – right there, but intangible, ungraspable, with the concrete world immediately juxtaposed.
She wrote that “I have always been interested in science and philosophy that ventures beyond the prevailing notion of deductive reasoning, I believe as we wrestle with phenomena and the perception of reality this predominantly western modus operandi based on logic, analysis and separation has lost touch with their equals intuition and feeling.
Yet there are scientists who urge us to learn from non-western philosophy which regards nature as being alive. I feel very close to the idea that every natural system has something that animates organism of all complexities, that geographic features, plants, rocks, water, etc. have a soul, consciousness, an inner life. It is through my practice, a hybrid between drawing, stop-frame animation and installations that I explore the human predisposition to animism.
The words of James Hillman, the founder of archetypal psychology, are very much at the core of my project in as much as,
“…animism is not a projection of human feelings onto inanimate matter, but that things of the world project upon us their own ideas and demands”, that indeed any phenomenon has the capacity to come alive and to deeply inform us through our interaction with it, as long as we are free of an overly objectifying attitude.”
“When I first used animation I was mainly concerned with how to de-frame an image. Yet an image being ‘instilled with life’ (from Latin ‘animare’) compares to the arrival of ‘the other’, and subsequently changed the framework of my investigation.
The question seems to have settled on the encounter with ‘the other’ and the space in which the encounter takes place. In the given context this ‘ambivalent between’ translates into bodyspace – a meeting ground charged with energy, possibilities and uncertainty.
More specifically I am curious about what ‘comes to the surface’, and the notion of an experienced, perceived, and projected reality.
The projection screen takes on a significant, though ambiguous role. Is it a membrane or receiver? Does it hold back or throw forth and disclose something from beneath, something previously unknown to the viewer? These are just a few recurring questions I like to play with. For me the screen is the edge of interactivity.”
Belinda wrote that “Personal issues are an integral part of my work since they have almost invariably been the starting points of lines of enquiry that seek to explore both internal states and the visible world simultaneously. In recent years the themes of memory, loss and the consideration of what it is to inhabit a body have been my central concern.
One of the underlying themes in my work is the relationship between presence and absence. It is a poignant motif that is also fundamental to the medium of photography. The image it presents us with, while affirming a particular and persistent corporeality, functions in fact to re-mind us of what has already been lost; a discarded trace of its subject.
I am interested in the process of erosion and change that plays out as we age and the accompanying fragmentation and dislocation in thoughts and experiences that follow – in particular in the small daily moments that make up our habits and the actions of our lives as we live them: the constantly shifting dance of repetition, holding on, surrender and loss.
My enquiry continues into such spaces as the indeterminate moment between actions; the awareness of the moment present and past; the confusion of things remembered vividly or as a dream; the search for the significant moment and the attempt to make meaning.”
From Rubem Alves – ‘The Poet, the Warrior, The Prophet’
“Don’t you know that a clear idea brings the conversation to a halt, whereas one unclear idea gives wings to the words and the conversation never ends?’ Maybe this was the reason why Lessing said that, if God had offered him, in his right hand, the knowledge of the whole truth, and in his left, the perennial search for truth, with all the dangers and disappointments that this entails, he would opt for the left hand… Lessing also loved more sailing across the ocean than arriving at the harbour. The ‘thing’ is neither at the point of departure or the at the point of arrival, says Guimaraes Rosa.
It is in the ‘going across’ (a coisa nao esta nem parida e nem na chegada mas na travessia’).”