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Writing for Other Artists

Something that Was Not a Bird

The Uses of Transformation in Contemporary Ekphrasis

INTRODUCTION

I am about to present for you a series of three texts which demonstrate my on-going investigation of metamorphosis as a linguistic, narrative and imagistic device in writing about visual art.

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Lotte Gertz

Gertz’s latest series of paintings and prints were made in a studio that occupied the same space as her general living-area and are full of the sense of immediacy that results from an artist’s direct response to ‘close-at-hand’ materials and objects.

Gertz’s sources include those items she ‘stumbles-upon’ again and again in the intimate chaos that surrounds her as she works: a space where ‘living’ encroaches upon ‘making’, where  discarded playthings (a stuffed panda-toy or a wooden Pinocchio-figure) might be found side-by-side with DIY tools, painting and printmaking materials, half-eaten slices of fruit or cheese, still-to-be-drunk cups of tea, and photographs of famous artworks from books and magazines. Read more →

Pearlescence and Patience: some thoughts on writing for ‘The Flight of O’

I’ll start by introducing the background of my general approach to art-writing, prior to addressing how I dealt with the specific challenge of writing about Zoe Williams’ work. I came to creative and fictional writing from a background of writing criticism, and to critical writing from a background of making visual art, which I continue to do alongside my literary practice. I’m an unusual example of a visual artist who doesn’t mind writing and talking about art.  But whilst this is an advantage in some respects it can also be a challenge. The attraction to language in the context of visual art can, because of it’s association with explanation or interpretation, threaten to circumscribe the autonomous development of the visual outside functional or rational parameters. It can be hard to avoid making work that simply illustrates a preconceived idea or theory. One of the ways that I dealt with this conflict in my own practice was to subject language itself to an irrational transformation, drawing inspiration from literary and concrete poetry, as well as dadaist and surrealist experiments with language.  This approach has also informed my role as an art-writer when responding to other practices. Read more →

Divine Hangers: on the critical rigour of the Q-Q

Clare Stephenson, Genet Portrait, 2003, pencil on paper, 43.5 x 32 cm

Clare Stephenson, Genet Portrait, 2003, pencil on paper, 43.5 x 32 cm

They are lifeless lay figures pulled about by wire; they are cleverly put together, but the wood and the steel skeletons support merely stuffed puppets with whom the author deals most cruelly, jerking them into the strangest poses, contorting them…cutting up their bodies and souls – but because they have no flesh and blood all he can do is tear up the rags out of which they are made; all this is done with considerable historical and rhetorical talent and a vivid imagination; without these qualities he could not have produced these abominations. (qtd. Lukács, 1978: 94)

Goethe

Lukács, sceptical of the extent to which Zola had adhered to the ‘scientific’ model in the realisation of his greatest fictions ultimately welcomed the failure.  The ‘scientific” method’, he insisted, ‘always seeks the average, and this grey statistical mean, the point at which all internal contradictions are blunted, spells the doom of great literature’ (Lukács, 1978: 91). Nevertheless he called it “a strange element of tragedy’ that ‘Zola, who criticised so vehemently the romantic lapses of his peers could only escape the counter artistic consequences’ of his own dogma through a romanticism of the ‘Victor Hugo stamp’ (Lukács, 1978: 91). Read more →