2009-2010 - Burnt Series
Some Ideas about ‘Burnt‘ A series of 15 Photographs with collage and oil paint. – 2009/10
I decided to get rid of documents and records that referred to my past. I took all my filed documents – tax returns; banking statements; legal contracts; love letters; deeds of assignment; grocery lists; water and lights bills; address lists and business cards... and made a fire in my yard. I stood and watched it and photographed the fire.
The photographs salvaged something from a process that was cleansing, but also very final and hard. I was interested in the way bits and pieces of the lives described on those papers were exposed in the photos. I was fascinated by the exquisite way the fire ignited them and glowed and then dulled and left a grey powdery ash. It reminded me of memory and of the way remembering can bring back bits and pieces of experiences although the fullness of the experiences is gone.
The photos of the burnt things were important for the work I am busy making. They are about destruction – but they are beautiful. They are about loss – but they refer back like memories that sooth the loss. The photos of the burnt documents revealed words and fragments of words that tell about our past life and the hints and sometimes amazingly poignant references the words make, fascinated me when I discovered them.
I found the photos of the burnt documents so fine that I knew right away that they would become part of a series of works. But I needed to make some intervention into them.
I used collage to put down bowl diagrams. The books I tore up are some old and quirky encyclopaedias I have been using for chine-colle’ for a while. The text of the specific pages I chose all refer to the human body and mostly address illness and healing. This underscores the references I want to make to the fragility and ultimate transient nature of human bodies. The irony that engages me: everything is matter and nothing matters. I am completely caught up in the physicality of stuff and of life but it only makes sense in relation to things that are intangible and abstract – like love and longing and memory and hope. In my art making I obsessively indulge in the materiality of our existence. I make things and that in itself is such an affirmation of the physical - yet through my work I mean to consider this: we bear the weight of knowing about our death. The betrayal of the physical.
The collaged fragments of book pages correspond with the bits and pieces of burning paper in the photographs. I decided to ‘fill in’ the ellipse as a kind of sulky refusal of entry/exit from these containers of life. The spaces the oval forms create become arenas in which bits and pieces of my life are displayed. In the end I think the series can be read a little like an old fashioned museum display where each fragment is presented solemnly. They will be hung in a straight line along a wall, at eyelevel, with small spaces between individual works. The specificity of the painted objects – like personal memories – are clear, distinct and particular. I have selected images of objects that are weighty with vested meaning for me. But they are at the same time, random and haphazard because they have been sifted out from a store of experiences so that they can only ever refer in the most cursory way to the multitude of experiences accumulated over years.