Monday, December 13, 2010

‘Extreme Beauty: Approaches To The Real’

Like a partially cooked cake, Ellen Pittman’s ‘Fold’ (2010) a plaster cast of an artwork has sunk—the picture has submerged to expose a human like form. An artwork, a painting, framed in a shadow box lies face up on a plinth. The painting’s image, the portrait’s face or the landscape’s ruin is replaced by a sinkhole that looks like an armpit. The basic bodily source at the origin of our interest in the form Pittman casts represents desire formed through fascination with bodily orifices and sensory stimulation associated with these apertures. Pittman evokes the unseen. The squishy abstract cave like form suggests the hissing noise of escaping air, an exhale, or a pulse or thrill—the body replaced by its functioning, its noises, its excesses and its voids. Its void is some kind of erogenous zone.

Elizabeth Newman’s ‘Untitled’ (2010) with its domestic geometry of off cut fabric could be considered in relation to Melanie Klein’s notion of creativity. The soft folded smalt blue shape which is defined by a diagonal cut across the artwork’s image has the quality of an evening shadow. The artworks stripped white borders evoke the discolouration of household paintwork noticed upon removing an artwork. The picture poetically defines the absence of an artwork. In Klein’s essay ‘Infantile Anxiety Situations Reflected in a Work of Art and in the Creative Impulse’ (1929) this empty space, this lack, is what motivates her melancholic heroine to become an artist. Klein portrays the Danish modernist Ruth Kjär, as a beautiful and urbane woman, who collected modern art and decorated her home with taste and sophistication. Kjär also suffered from depression. She described an empty space inside her which could never be filled. One Christmas a treasured artwork is removed from her collection. The empty space on the wall triggered the void inside to cause her deep and inconsolable sadness. Her symptoms were overcome when she replaced the painting with her own accomplished maiden artwork.

Janet Berchill’s ‘870 (Emily Dickinson c. 1864)’ (2010), a series of seven brightly coloured hessian panels’ explores the nature of the trophy. The text in one announces the ‘Third, Expedition for the Golden Fleece’, in black on gold. The trophy is an object of desire which is fundamentally related to personal achievement—guaranteeing the prestige of the self image. The trophy like the void is an object of symbolic identification—an object that can bring into reality a conscious state of being. Possessing the Golden Fleece allows a heroic self image just as filling the void on the wall allowed Kjär to fill the void inside. The exhibition’s curator Kate Briggs asserts “Their work designed not merely for acquisition” but for a fantasy acquisition an incorporation with the psyche through acquisition. ‘Human Landscape II’ by Maria Kozic depicts a breast. It is an object of beauty, of pleasure, nourishment and plenitude. Yet it is only a “partial object”. In the Klienian sense it is only part of the body. In the Lacanian sense it is the object of partial desire—a desired body part through which only a temporary satisfaction attained. A work of art can always be said to depict desires. However, the creative process will inevitably defer the attainment of the object of desire. Desire, by its nature, must continually take new forms.

These artworks all seem like they will silently insert themselves into our psyche. Pittman’s ‘Fold’ seems to cast our unconscious urges. Berchill’s work seems to represent our desires. Newman’s depiction of light now seems turned inward as the symbolic form of Kjär’s suffering. Beauty is turned inward. Artworks on the walls in the lounge face inwards to someone walking up the drive.

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