mind over matter

the surfaces of the sculptural ‘woodwork’ pieces have progressed which has in turn inspired something else…

sculptural relief wood panels in art studio

see previous states of this work in progress here: on making art again and not a painting, not a sculpture.

on the much smaller panels (gesso on wood), there is a deep bloom of patina, quite muted and monochromatic at the moment, with the illusion of atmospheric depth (if it is a given that painting is always an illusion).

patina on gesso wood panels in art studio

and inbetween things, some sketchbook drawing…

in the new year i decided to watch three tarkovsky films almost back-to-back (a feat of visual endurance) with some sideline dipping into ‘sculpting in time‘. it was interesting to compare tarkovsky’s writings on art and film to the ‘the non-object through painting‘ (with only six illustrations!) – slow looking, slow narratives, subtle signs and symbols that we wait (or wish) to discover for what they might reveal to us about the perilous course (and meaning) of life – allusions and analogies aplenty.

art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art.

andrei tarkovsky, sculpting in time

there are always books of various kinds ‘open’ here, as art seems unavoidably connected to various strands of philosophical thinking – artists are natural thinkers although we may take some time to arrive at any clear conclusions.

last week i read an excerpt of foucault’s the order of things; back in 2007 a work colleague had mentioned this book, because of foucault’s critical discussion of the interplay of analogies or ‘similitudes‘ as he terms them, to communicate and construct a universal ‘taxonomy’ of knowledge (inspired by a story by borges). this resonated with me:

the interplay of duplicated resemblances to all the realms of nature; it provides all investigation with an assurance that everything will find its mirror and its macrocosmic justification on another and larger scale; it affirms, inversely, that the visible order of the highest spheres will be found reflected in the darkest depths of the earth.

michel foucault, the order of things

i found some of foucault’s textual expressions quite poetic (obviously in translation) but mostly it seemed too convoluted in its reasoning and argument to grasp it fully. i could see how my work colleague found this book a stimulating read, as a collector of things, how someone working in art or education could create new taxonomies, creating new meanings and connections out of collections of things. you can read more about foucault’s concepts here.

however, foucault’s reference to ‘nature’ drew me back into thinking once more about the miniature world of lichens, and also to many years back, when i worked for a while in a herbal dispensary, learning more about various healing plants and their connections to organs and functions of the body. i recall the ’story’ my boss told me of the plant usnea (a type of hairy lichen, also known as oak moss), how it was once harvested from the rotting skulls of dead soldiers and then used to treat the wounds and infections of the other (alive!) soldiers in the battle field. i am not sure how true this story is although the plant is known for its antibiotic properties. extracts of willow bark reduces pain & inflammation and oak bark is a powerful astringent, suggesting that their ‘nature’ or constitution (such as willows near flowing water) somehow aptly signifies their medicinal benefits.

thinking of weeping willows and oak trees and the history of herbal medicine (many herbal cures & remedies originate from china) draws me back to the non-object through painting again and to the notion of the ‘holistic’. the inter-connectedness of nature feels to be one of one vast, breathing organism, a symbiosis of forms and space, between being and non-being, as he describes:

true resemblance lies in the allusivity to the invisible dimension that permeates the concrete particularity.

françois jullien

the ambiguity that resides between space and form, between the real and the imagined, the perceived and the invisible is difficult to express in art without some outward expression of an object, a physical, lasting presence – which leads me back to materiality of process and the making of art in the physical absence of the ‘thing’ that it represents, and that in time the ‘thing’ will make itself visible again. is this the difference between western reasoning & eastern spiritualism..? that a form need not have to represent (or depict) the original form (a look-a-likeness) to be truthful, but could appear as a re-representation in a new form/space, as an emblem or a symbol for it, or (as i have understood from the book), a ‘transcendence‘ of it. in essence, one need not  ‘picture’ the whole form to ’see’ it whole.

also fascinating to watch a while back, was the bbc documentary ‘the strange science of decay‘, how slime mould so efficiently & intelligently ‘grows’ and maps out a network in the search for nutrients for its survival, a pattern mirroring modern transport systems – and thinking along similar lines, how certain cells in the body when observed under the microscope function like miniature cities, or how the network of blood vessels mirror the spreading branches of a tree. this is not the stuff of science analogy, it is the stuff of life and the cosmos (but i am not a scientist).

mould seen through a microscope

last summer i took some photographs of grape mould through the lens of a cheap (a child’s) microscope…

mould seen through a microscope

and a couple years ago, while photographing some lichens, i also stopped to gaze at the miniature landscape of mosses growing on a grave. who wouldn’t find such micro-landscapes fascinating to observe?

moss landscape

moss landscape

i was reminded of a more reflective, spiritual path in art earlier this week on hearing about the death of the catalan painter, antoni tàpies. for the media to describe tàpies as an abstract painter (abstract reduced to the expression of a style) rather misses the material complexity and the philosophical, symbolic content so evident in much of his work. i first got to know about tàpies’ work when i was an art student and his work regularly appeared in the high-end galleries of london. around this time, the work of the artist anselm kiefer also started to become more widely known and there are many similarities in their work.

for all the ambiguity of my painting [et amicorum, 1978], i wanted it to express a central theme: it signifies both a symbolic gift to all friends of painting – only they really know that its beauty belongs only to those who love it! – and a homage to my best friends, books…

antoni tàpies [in tàpies, andreas franzke]

3 Comments

  1. Sarah Wilde
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I admire your powers of endurance, I have yet to be persuaded to sit through one Tarkovsky, let alone three, though I’m sure it would be a rewarding experience if I did watch one. Reading your post reminded me of ‘I do not know what it is that I am’ by Bill Viola – which I found enthralling and which explores the correspondences found in nature – veins=tree roots=patterns water leaves in the sand amongst others – and wondered if you’d seen it?

  2. Jazz
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    thank you for the comment, sarah – thinking about it, there are quite a few film/video artists who have explored similar themes – i know of bill viola’s work and (since you supplied a youtube link via twitter) will try to search out an appropriate ‘clip’ to append this post…

  3. Jazz
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    there will be series of bill viola film installations in norwich from may to july 2012

    http://www.scva.org.uk/exhibitions/forthcoming/?exhibition=93