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 I have started a new project in the intervening months, one that brings the Withdrawn:scribing Nancy series to a close.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).
I’ve done two more of the large pastel-over-white-inscribed-rose-petal drawings. I print the images myself to the largest paper size that my printer will accommodate and then tape the pieces together to form the large petals. The pastel I use for the over-drawing is Schminke. It has a buttery texture, easily crumbles into a powder and the colors are super intense. I’m ready to do more drawings, but I’ve run out of the Schminke pastel, have to wait for an order to arrive, and reluctant to change to another brand of pastel in the middle of a series.
Working on these large drawings is such great fun. The cerulean and cobalt blue are colors that I’ve used for over-drawing since I started the rose scribing process, but here I get to use the colors on a larger scale. The idea for the blue comes from Jean-Luc Nancy. In the essay, “The Image – The Distinct” (Ground of the Image), he says that “Every image has its sky even if it is represented as outside the image or is not represented at all.” I was intrigued by the statement, and thus decided to use ‘blues’ as trace references to Nancy’s text.
When I first started working with the red rose petals in January of 2010, (cf. Withdrawn: scribing Nancy for that project) I looked for other ways of using and documenting the roses beyond the scribing and tattooing of the petal surface. I explored the petals as a possible drawing medium, to see what kinds of marks the rose dye could make. I filled several long rolls of drawing vellum with ‘rose skids’ (each petal crushed and smashed and dragged against the surface of the paper). Using every single petal of each rose – including the yellowish stamens and pistels – the work also served to document/present each rose in an alternate manner.
I posted 2 blogs on these rose skids early on here (see entries for January 4 and 6th, 2011, “Side Things” and More Rose Skids”). I’ve taken that initial work a step further and used it as the space to explore new drawings. Flowers have been used by some pretty heavy-weight artists (just to name a few I admire – Georgia O’Keefe, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Cy Twomby). So, I’ve acknowledged the precedence set by the above artists directly in my drawings. This I have done as text scribbles. Of course, I’ve also added Jean-Luc Nancy’s name since I’ve been appropriating his work for almost two years now.
In this essay, Visitation (Jean-Luc Nancy), which I have been exploring for some time now, Nancy talks about painting – as painting (another visitation, another “site of conception”). In fact, as I interpret Nancy’s words – he sees Pontormo’s work as pure painting, beyond its religious content: pregnant with birth – but another kind of birth – that is, of painting itself. “This mêlée begins and ends in the painting, and as a painting,” he says, describing the unfolding and the interweaving of color and cloth and light and figures.
I have been thinking about drawing – and what drawing as drawing would mean? Cy Twombly comes to mind – mark, gesture, scribble, color, paint, texture, surface and script. No attempt at representation, yet his work is laden with references, to art history, to literature, to poetry. I think also of Elizabeth MacKenzie’s iPad work (cf: Scribbles and other entries on her site). There too is the act of pure mark-making. Even her portraits, dissolving in puddles of inky color, straddle the tense space between recognition of a face and the blur of ambiguity.
The text in the drawings below comes from the Coda of Nancy’s essay.
Cloth, light, flesh and color are again under discussion in Nancy’s engagement with Pontormo (as it was with his exploration of Caravaggio; cf. my posts of March). Air and voice become the vehicles of the invisible, the hidden, the secret. The ample robes of Elizabeth and Mary float and swirl around the solid forms, the spirit incarnate, a moment frozen in mid air. Bill Viola, in his video re-interpretation of this painting, “The Greeting” of 1995, picks up the metaphor of the swirling cloth – figures and garb moving in extreme slow motion, placing the weight of the meeting on the flutter and movement. Viola also adds a enigmatic voice to Mary, “Can you help me, I need to talk with you,” Mary whispers to Elizabeth, leaving the viewer puzzling over the message.
This blogging project based on drawing and text, using a variety of drawing media including the inscribed, tattooed white rose petals creates a space that in turn allows for elaboration and exploration in other directions. Here is a new project I’ve recently undertaken which has arisen from the essay I’ve been working on for the past while, “The Visitation,” by Jean-Luc Nancy.
In the biblical tale of the Visitation, the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth affirmed the physical presence of the double miracle – the virgin conception and the equally miraculous pregnancy of Elizabeth, a woman already past childbearing age. From that meeting, came the iconic Christian prayer, said to have been spoken by Mary upon greeting Elizabeth – the magnificat. The prayer speaks of love, of duty, of the handmaiden chosen and exhaulted above others: “…from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” It is a beautiful, patriarchical document of belief that focuses on the power of the father and positions Mary as a vehicle of divine will. I have chosen to explore some of these ideas – love, the body, the concept of the feminine as creator, and have begun a project that reinscribes into the original words, a new voice, made of even older words, those of Sappho, along with my own dialogues that address my own realities of embodiment – via memories and present experiences of ageing.
This work in progress, I am producing on my studio wall – utilizing the inscribed petals as vehicles for the texts, and, as a counterpoint, I am drawing with graphite and acrylic onto the wall.
Here is what Nancy says of art and memory:
“No anamnesis rises up within it, but every gesture of art strives toward its irruption, approaches to the point of brushing against it, and if necessary, to the point of burning itself and tearing itself apart.”
The drawings of hands I’ve taken from Botticelli’s painting of The Three Graces, and Bill Viola’s video, The Greeting. Both works are mentioned in Nancy’s essay. Viola’s video piece (1995) is a contemporary re-interpretation of Pontormo’s work: a “restaging and re-presenting,” to use Nancy’s words. And the Botticelli, Nancy adds, influenced Pontormo’s composition of the figures.
There are several themes in Nancy’s essay, “The Visitation,” that capture my attention. The presence of the body, birth and pre-birth (metaphoric and physical), the gesture of sharing, the concept of visitatio and interpretation as awareness, and the relationship of art to memory and the immemorial. My two recent postings are my initial forays into these ideas and I will continue to look at them in the following weeks. For me, these postings with their text, sketches and the scanned-scribed petals are a kind of visual note-taking, a learning process and a space that then allows me to take the images further into different forms and media.
Just a note though – the essay has far more to offer than the themes I have chosen; as it is yet another scaffold for Nancy’s close exploration of Christian painting. But, what always strikes me with Nancy’s writing (despite his complexity), is his beautiful poetic style and how, his opening paragraphs are always exquisite and complex ruminations on a dominant theme.