Things without pretentions, satisfied to be merely themselves, sufficient in their suchness, not acting a part, not trying, insanely, to go it alone, in isolation from the Dharma Body, in Luciferian defiance of the grace of God. (Huxley 1971: 33)
I have been crawling on all fours, delving into bins and scanning pathways and verges. This is not my usual daily habit. I am looking out for things, ambiguous things, things without a name. These could also be things that perhaps used to be something else, that are now unrecognizable.
On its own, a piece of chewed gum is obviously a piece of chewed gum, but because I found it interesting to draw and considered it to be a thing that would normally be overlooked as a thing to draw or indeed to contemplate for its aesthetic beauty, it became an exception. It is ambiguous enough for my intentions and I believe that the process of drawing this thing ‘recovers some of the perceptual innocence of childhood’ (Huxley: 1971: 23).
So that I am not too restricted and to add another level I have decided that two familiar named things combined that don’t naturally come together create a nameless, undefined thing. For instance, I found, in the bin, a clear plastic bag with a piece of chewed gum stuck to it – These two things together create a nameless thing of interest.
I shall not be naming these things, which in itself yields to a broader scope for interpretation. A drawn piece of chewed gum could become a myriad of different things. I suppose that is part of the point.
All things appearing here are just things. Any resemblance to things possessing a noun is purely coincidental.
When drawing these I was reminded of the work of the Berlin-based artist Ivan Seal. I have had his work in my head since purchasing the album An Empty Bliss Beyond This World (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LL998ajnjN4) by the experimental musician The Caretaker (aka James Kirby). The music on this particular CD consists of looping samples of dusty old ballroom records. It explores themes of memory and decay over time and is at times reminiscent of a scene from The Shining. On receipt of this CD in the post I opened the envelope and was confronted by this small painting by Ivan Seal. It has been prodding me ever since.
With song titles such as: The Great Hidden Sea of the Unconscious, Increasingly Absorbed in His Own World, Isolated Lights on the Abyss of Ignorance, Mental Caverns Without Sunshine, Pared Back to the Minimal and I Feel as If I Might Be Vanishing it, it is small wonder that Ivan Seal’s paintings adorn each one of The Caretaker’s works. Its one of those musician/artist marriages made in heaven, like, for example, Stanley Donwood and Radiohead, but with less exposure.
In an online review from The Guardian Skye Sherwin describes Seal’s work as darting ‘back and forth between reality and the distortion of things remembered.’ In fact there are many quotes about Seal’s work that could just as well be quotes for The Caretaker’s music. Another example from the Aesthetica Magazine’s online bog:
Seal’s still lifes range from the instantly recognisable, to the distorted version of the familiar, to the entirely abstract. Each subject exudes an unsettling quality, underscored by the ambiguity with which the background plain is rendered…The subject remains undefined and undefinable, dislodged from everyday space and time…Instead of the mournful contemplation of the inevitable passage of time, he opts for an approximation of a memory… http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/blog/ivan-seal-in-here-stands-it-review-bristol/
It is this, as Skye Sherwin puts it, ‘spirited game of interpretation’, that fascinates me, where imagined things have been placed in a void for us to contemplate. The space around the objects only adds to the fascination in the interpretation of something ambiguous yet familiar.
A few more of my own things…
Huxley, A (1971) The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell Penguin Books Ltd