I have been collecting botanical specimens for some time now. The idea of ‘collection’ as a form of knowledge is of interest to me. What happens when one attempts to recreate nature by bringing as many objects as possible into one space? How can renmants and fragmentary things represent the whole or the real?
I haven’t been able to do much of my own work these days, obligations and various issues have kept me out of my studio, but very recently, in the small moments of solitude I’ve managed to keep, I’ve started to explore the amazingly beautiful world of pollen and the pollen loads that honeybees collect, carry and store in their hives. Not too long ago, a new friend and colleague of mine, LW (that would be Lori Weidenhammer, the mistress of all things bee, ie. Madame Beespeaker) and I, feverishly examined (and drooled over) a rare book by Dorothy Hodges, the artist, beekeeper and researcher. Written in the 1950’s, it’s a collection of exquisite drawings of pollen grains, plus a 120-plant color chart of honeybee pollen loads. The color charts are so rich and enticing. Who knew that pollen came in so many colors? Lori did, but I didn’t. So for me, this book is proving to be yet another priceless learning experience. Hodges used Windsor Newton watercolors for her color charts; the swatches are hand-tipped and only 200 copies of the book were printed. This is a rare book and a delicious pleasure to explore!
I’m recreating the color swatches that Hodges made and I’ve tried a variety of different media, but so far, the buttery and rich Schminke soft pastels are my favorite.
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…
“What is thus sought, what the painting is seeking, is the mutual visitation of a spectator and a painting…so that we might know how to see the invisible and bring about an anamnesis that arises before birth (or at the far end of death).” Jean-Luc Nancy, “The Visitation”.
Nancy is talking specifically about the painting by Pontormo (The Visitation), but the relationship of viewer to the art work is, I think, always one of a “mutual visitation” – an examining, an experiencing, a becoming aware. Does the object stare back? Can it? What does it want?
There are no ageing bodies in Greek classical art. Eternal youth, proportioned to perfection, graces the corridors of that ancient history, and interestingly enough, does it not continue to haunt the contemporary mind? It was with relief, that I found a poetic fragment by Sappho that actually speaks of the ageing body. (text fragments of Sappho; Carson, A. 2002).
The M-Webster dictionary gives the following definitions for threshold
“…a physical marker, like the plank, stone or piece of timber that lies under a door. The end or boundary, the place or point of entering or beginning; the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced. A level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not.”
The point of interest for me is that portion of that definition that speaks of the “end or boundary, the point of entering or beginning,” that ambiguous point that is both beginning and end, true and not true, real and unreal – and one which can be considered physically, psychologically or symbolically.
I think perhaps Nancy, with his poetic play on words, intimates the possibilities of the word – threshold – and places our involvement with the image in these multiple realms of experience, for (I have found) Nancy never leaves a word with one bound meaning, but enjoys the layered and shifting sense that each word can invoke.
This set of images represent a re-interpretation of the opening phrases of Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay “On the Threshold,” from his text The Muses. Nancy examines a painting by Caravaggio, “The Death of the Virgin,” (1605-6) and utilizes the complex spaces, colors and forms of this work to explore ideas of the relationship of viewer to image.
I have chosen to do this transcription in white with tones of grey, in order to examine this in-between space, this threshold.
I have the honour of working with a video artist, Cindy Mochizuki on a project that explores and expands upon my text-based drawing/inscribing project Withdrawn: scribing Nancy . We are taking the project into an entirely new direction for me, video. I think of this direction, this process, these video objects as ones which engage the viewer in a multi-sensorial experience of space: the projector, the screen, the expanse of floor and wall, the dark, and then the light that fills the space between these objects, the sounds, the flickering images and the simultaneous distension and restraint of time, combine to push the viewer over the threshold and into the space of the image:
” The image throws in my face an intimacy that reaches me in the midst of intimacy – through sight, through hearing, through the very meaning of words…the seduction of images, their eroticisim, is nothing other than their availability for being taken, touched by the eyes, the hands, the belly, or by reason and penetrated. The gaze impregnated with color, the ear with sonority.”