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 I’m borrowing from my Withdrawn:scribing Nancy series, from the Greek images, and from the even earlier drawings of birds.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.
How much of one’s everyday life remains silent, that time-in-between?
I’ve changed the scale of these new drawings. I like the way that working on larger images engages the body differently, not only in the process of working, but also later in the viewing. Text fragments borrowed from Nancy are still here in these drawings. His words continue to engage me, and I find that as I continue to read, new ideas from outside, from other authors, attach themselves. But, I always feel that I have to go further, that until I finish this book, or that book, I won’t really have understood anything. And so it is with drawing, until…
I am working with my archive of inscribed rose petals—the white ones, and with the classical figures, but as with the Nancy text, the figures are fragmentary. Dissolving into memory, they become distorted and removed from the original perfection of form.
On Friday I had my first foray into the stacks at UBC, to start the process of returning the inscribed rose petals to the books in my “Bibliography.” (please see the page on this blogsite for further info on this project).
To say the least, the experience was a delight – enveloped in the smell of books, searching through endless rows, finding familiar titles and meeting new ones, pulling books off shelves and thumbing through their pages; looking for evidence of previous readers – marks, notes, underlining and anything else that might give away the presence of former touch. And, there was that added thrill of knowing that I was there to intentionally add something to that collection of physical evidence.
I had no idea how long it was going to take me to find each book, search through its pages, make notes, place one inscribed rose petal somewhere into the book, photograph the page or book cover and return the book to its original spot on the shelf. I certainly could not anticipate how engaging it would be to read sections of the books – the heavily underlined and “used” pages especially. What did other readers find important? What preoccupied their reading? Who were they? Truly, each mark, each trace, a “world…on the doorstep” to use one of the Nancy text fragments. It’s going to take me a long time to get through my bibliography.
Of the books that I explored on Saturday, 3 discoveries stood out – one was finding Foucault’s essay on “The Meninas;” another was coming upon a receipt of checked-out books from 2007 which included the book that I was looking at, at that moment; and the third was the discovery of a lovely tiny dedication, perched in the corner of the first page of an essay written by Mieke Bal. The dedication reads, For “A” in loving memory.
It’s been some time since I’ve written in this blog. I have been working consistently, but at the same time, feeling like I was in transition and simply not ready to commit anything to print (however virtual). I have started a new project in the intervening months, one that brings the Withdrawn:scribing Nancy series to a close. The project is called “Bibliography: the return” and I’ve written a little bit about in a page on this blogsite. (please check it out).
On July 5th, one of my favorite artists, Cy Twombly died. The scribbles, drips, scratchy integration of text, drawing and paint, the vast canvases and the re/interpretation of antique literary sources and modern poetry are some of the aspects that drew me to his work. Twombly painted flowers several times throughout his career, the most recent in 2008, a series of roses that incorporated some fragments of text from Rilke’s own addresses to the rose. Since I’ve been working with rose petals these past two years, I thought I’d name this recent series of 12 white-petal drawings, “12 for Cy.”
Still searching for ways in which to use the mark-making qualities of the rose petals, I’m continuing with the rose skid drawings, this time making rose shapes (go figure), and then taking them to another state with over-drawing, watercolor staining and drips. The rose marks are not indelible, so they too drip and run in the process. The text fragment is yet again, a theft from J-L. Nancy.