In memory of a cherished friend and mentor, Cheryl Mezsaros. The force of time, almost ten years have passed.
I’m working on a variation of the what then series, this time starting from a lightjet image and then adding scribbles and text drawings overtop. This is the technique I’ve been using for 3 years now (cf. the Withdrawn:scribing Nancy series). The collaged bits of magic tape are new to this project, but not new to my working process. The tape adds another dimension to the petals, and gives me another opportunity for adding text.
The process of working on/with an expensive medium such as the lightjet print creates an interesting tension. There’s no erasing possible. The ink and dip-pen overdrawing has a will of its own, with dribbles and blobs an inevitable part of the process. Sometimes the blobs add their own charm, other times, I’m not so lucky. Regardless, it is this tension, this dialogue between medium and hand that keeps me coming back for more encounters.
I’ve been reading Nancy’s Being Singular Plural these past weeks and was struck by his argument for understanding ourselves as beings together, always beings—that before anything else, before individuality, before being in the world, there is plurality. The very essence of existence is plurality. There is no such thing as one, alone, existing in the world, in any form of life. I am of course, reducing Nancy’s complex ideas of relationality and ontology into a form that I can grasp, so my apologies here, but, this fundamental concept of our existence gets to the very ground of relationships. We view ourselves as separate individuals, and so we are, but at the same time, we are inextricably bound to one another through the very fact that life is always already together, and without that, there would be nothing, no world, no life. We try so hard to remain separate, I and you, we and they, one and others, my country, your religion, their class, her gender, his appearance, etc., the list is long. And at the same time, we try to negotiate togetherness within the perceived separations. A tricky balance.
Looking at the first 4 images that I recently completed and posted, I thought the seriousness of the blackness in this new series needed some lighter contrast (metaphorically, literally?) so I have added marks in blues and reds to the next group here, which add a more playful feel. The actual text tattooed on the rose petals is much harder to read in these black versions, and that’s fine. The text is visible only close up. I’ve also tried another variation of scribing—writing directly onto the surface of some petals with acrylic (while they were still fresh).
I was talking about drawing with a friend of mine, Karen Coflin (who is a wonderful artist). We were trying to define contemporary drawing and she said, “Well, it’s about mark-making.” That is a very satisfying description and I think that is what makes drawing so interesting, the infinite variation of personal languages (gestures and marks) that manifest through this art form.
I’ve been working on a new series recently. It’s going through various permutations, so basically I am at the exploration stage. Here are 4 images from the first permutation. Still rose petals, still Nancy texts, but dark petals arranged in doubles. They remind me of leaky lungs. (The petals have always alluded to body parts). The Nancy text fragments speak about existence and time – well, to me they do.
What a fantastic opportunity it was to be part of the Memory Festival program, and to be able to show some of the work from the Withdrawn: scribing Nancy series. My friend Elizabeth MacKenzie (artist and Festival participant) asked me what I considered the best aspect of the Festival week, and I said that being part of an exhibition with her and fellow artist, Cindy Mochizuki was definitely the most incredible part. Elizabeth and Cindy’s projects are incredibly beautiful, profound and unique explorations into memory, each investigation approaching memory from a private viewpoint—one that, at the same time, becomes greater than itself, expanding to relate to the larger public and a larger audience.
With Geist’s, (the founders of the Memory Festival), One-Sentence Memories of Vancouver, Theatre Replacement’s Movie Group performance, and my Inscribing Memory workshop, it was an an engaging and varied week-long exploration into memory!
Here are some shots from the Memory Festival installation of my work:
I’ve taken these words from the opening paragraph of Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay “Paean to Aphrodite,” (Multiple Arts, Muses II). Taking one concept, one name—Aphrodite, he traces an intricate map of the goddess and her trajectory (physical, linguistic, mythic) through her various appellations and manifestations. He asks, “But why does the beautiful never let us go? When everything is ugly, all that remains of it is a memory.” I am interested in that phrase, “what remains.” Renmants— unsaid, undone, unknown, invisible. What remains?
The text in the image above, I’ve drawn directly onto my studio wall. The small pile of objects that form part of this installation are the renmants of the dried, inscribed, white rose petals I used for the magnificat project that I did last year. (See my post of May 11, 2011, “re-inscription in progress”).
I’m putting together and arranging images from my most recent drawings. Still working with fragments of text from Jean-Luc Nancy, stuck as they are in my imagination, I begin with one image and then build around it, working on a narrative and expanding the initial text-idea. I’m borrowing from my Withdrawn:scribing Nancy series, from the Greek images, and from the even earlier drawings of birds. What is this? Drawing as a daily process and an eclectic search for form.
“What, then calls me into question most radically?
These are the beginning words of a paragraph in Maurice Blanchot’s The Unavowable Community – one of the books on my Bibliography: the return project list. As I was browsing through the book, reading snippets, looking through the chapters and searching for a place in which to place an inscribed rose petal, Blanchot’s question caught my eye – especially as he asks this question under the subheading of “Someone Else’s Death.” Intriguing concepts Blanchot puts forward – that of death, of witnessing, and their relationship to identity and community.
Blanchot writes the first part of the Unavowable Community in response to Jean-Luc Nancy’s work, The Inoperable Community. The thought of literally ‘returning’ a fragment of Nancy text back into Blanchot’s book – in the form of an incribed rose petal, made me smile.