‘The Structure in the Falling’, 2011, is an exhibition of 21 ink and collage works on paper, (30cm x 40cm). Some titles are individual and others follow a sequential order, although these are not necessarily grouped together on the wall. The title ‘Whose Sleeves?’ is taken from 16th century Japanese screens of that name (‘Tagasode’). The screens are a representation of women, and we feel their physical presence in lingering sensuousness, not through literal figuration, but through their clothes that appear, draped over clothing stands, as signifiers of their identity. In my work too, identity is abstracted. I use an abstract iconography of forms to follow a narrative of the handmade and the built world. I choose to work on a relatively small scale, building tension between intimacy and the tightly conceived and strong formation of interweaving structures.
The title of this exhibition invites an exploration of how we can reconcile our existence from a universal and necessary position of isolation. The ‘Structure in the Falling’ represents a metaphorical descent from the pinnacle of creativity, where things exist in their most ordered state. Yet all things move towards a kind of disorder. Somewhere in this disorder the meaning, value or beauty is revealed through disintegration. Perfection if frozen would mean that like death, everything stops. The really interesting stuff of life happens as things are put together, in terms of understanding and creating meaning. This process of finding meaning has no end, since we are always seeking to understand, through endless points of departure. An artist attempts to capture the particular trajectory of a kimono folded over a lacquered stand. The artist has to choose one moment in telling this story from many points in the story’s unfolding. One narrative of the kimono and its owner is depicted. The viewer too, must try to make sense of this movement, disintegration and change.
I have chosen to represent the narrative this way: I am interested in pattern as a humanistic and universalizing element within cultures and throughout human history, and of course, women’s modes of expression in particular. I value the significance of pattern as an expression of desire. I use pattern in a celebratory way, as a show of the individual’s affirmation of the desire to be creative. There is a conflict in these works between the concreteness of colour and form and the simplification of flattened abstract shapes, condensed and yet coming apart. For me this tension describes the opposition inherent within female experience, that of the outsider and the participant in the world.
We reconstruct the world as we go, from what we’ve observed. Of course the tendency for all things is toward sameness, flatness or disintegration. We cannot experience everything we perceive – we have to select and combine to make sense of things. This involves a loss, because we have to give up the other things that we do not select. Living does not advance in a ‘flow’ rather, we are constantly separating things out, choosing to regard this or that, more or less consciously. This is in contradiction to the powerful myth or illusion that life flows on as one singular narrative. When one reflects on experience there is a process at work of picking out specific elements and ordering them into a structure. A structure is revealed in things, like a sculptor reveals form from a block of marble. The grand narratives of history and art depict humans fighting against the elements and the nature of things. We hold the achievements of the past in awe for this reason – in their uncanny ability to survive everything nature and history can throw at them, we are humbled. But what is it about the monuments of the past that impresses us so greatly? In spite of this emblem of human achievement, it is in the pathos of the monument that the nature of the universe is revealed. For the monument too, is on its way down. The ruin presents a challenge to reconstruct it. Ruins reveal this most powerfully because they hold the illusion of having been there for all of time. We find it difficult to imagine that they will end up in a state of disarray like everything else. Taking stock of the ruin, what we experience subjectively is the leftovers of events. It is a necessarily solitary experience that the individual must redeem, this experience of life that cannot be fulfilled by anyone else.