«Things Without Names»
La Boîte I Galerie de l’ISAM Gabès
Texte de Polly Brooks
Things Without Names is an exhibition of small scale work including drawings, paintings and micro sculptures.
My first show in Tunis, States of Mind, was held at La Boîte in October 2018 and the pieces in Things Without Names come from the same body of work. This is a body of private studio work accumulated over the years and which has recently grown an additional “limb”.
Tunis Story is a new series of works on paper made in the period following my return from setting up that show. Named after a series of photos taken during my stay which was a personal record of what for me was a very intense encounter. When I got back to my studio, it was impossible to take up the work I had been doing previously to my departure because I was no longer, emotionally and mentally in the same place.
Sometimes the work seems to come very much from the heart, other times more from the head. In this case there was certainly a need to give a shape to feelings, but what are feelings? What shape do they have and what names?
So in the show there are these clusters of drawings. Each time a “cluster” happens or a series emerges, the forms change. It’s always the same story and always different. It can simply be “this is how I feel right now, this is what life is saying to me right now”.
In a series of drawings, I made in 2016, Eyes and magma, a kind of imagery emerged. Egg-shaped eyes, heads that were hearts, apples that were hovering or seen upside down could be sitting on their shadow- a strangely cartoonish dimension which surprised me by its familiarity. This was a bit of an anomaly because I usually tend to push figuration away- it’s lurking but not manifest.
Over the years, I’ve noticed certain forms return with insistence; I recognize them but am unwilling to give them a name. These may be furniture-like, body-like, house-like, cloud-like but at the same time they are not really these things.
In the five small oils Dream Sequence, there is also a kind of enclosed space in which to place things and move them about, they slide around, merge, separate… hence the title. They are very much about a dream space, maybe a lost garden hidden somewhere in the mind … a place you are always trying to get to but never reach. When I use oils there is a kind of frequency change.
The medium of oil paint allows you to go deeper, but it’s a very powerful medium, very highly charged, difficult to control. It can go very wrong. With Ink, and this is very fine Japanese watercolor ink, you have the option of doing a lot of work very fast. It dries very quickly and the color can be both strong and subtle and has both graphic and painterly qualities so it allows you to make a kind of instant impression or “print” of a transient state, or mood or thought. Some of them are on grey printing paper, others are on manga paper, while the rough yellowish paper is the kind used to wrap food in Italy and is very absorbent.
I’m very interested in the idea of using accident, because I don’t really believe in accident. There is always a reason for a choice even while that choice may seem to be determined by chance circumstances.
Although the human figure is mostly absent, there is, I think, a human presence. Volcano Drawings (2016) derived from some painted sculpture work I made in newspaper pulp. When I put these paper volcanos on a rough wooden table and touched them up with a little pigment, I found they acquired a certain charisma…like actors on a stage.
The three micro sculptures present are a merging of the drawing practice with object making. The wire is covered in restorers’ paper which is very delicate and sensitive and adheres to the underlying form or structure forming a skin which is then enhanced through the application of ink.
There is something very compelling to me about painting on three dimensional forms, you can tweak them by highlighting or hiding details, you can deepen shadows or tone them down. It’s bit like applying make-up to a body…
There is some kind of paradox at play.