Terraces Down the Woody Mountain Side
June 2017, exhibition and publication Rift at Exhibit Gallery, London.
This essay was written for the publication Rift as part of the exhibition I curated for artist Theodore Ereira-Guyer and Exhibit Gallery. Find extract below.
Artworks don’t speak. We imagine a conversation with them. Nevertheless, some people are keen to turn the act of seeing into intelligible speech. Quenching a desire to reveal, possibly to agree. Although there is no need of interpretation, as looking should suffice, translation into words might transform the mystery of art making into enchantment. In order to initiate into a body of work without lumbering on its appearance, this writing falls into a series of interrupted thoughts. It considers elements of Ereira-Guyer’s artworks as a swampy terrain for infiltrations. They are the edge of conversations. The following fragments fill up narratives with different shapes. They carry some clarity with them.
Rifting is to follow the pattern of a life.
The poet Anne Carson talks of translation as something that cuts through the surfaces to a site that has no business being underneath. She also talks of people who cut through things. Cutting through things is to see what is really inside. To see the thin edge inside a thing. To keep watching this edge although it is not necessary to do so.
Writing brings translation and seeing to the same table. People are standing around, leaning against it or sitting down. By way of a metaphor, with the use of an image, a coconut is laid on the table wrapped in a towel. The writer cracks it open with a pointed object. Milk spills out, the juicy bits are shared until only a thin layer of white is left in the inner shell. The table is then deserted.
Horror vacui is to find out that nothing is inside. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Horror vacui is the fear of an empty space. Exfoliating this further, a terror in the absence of objects as well as speech. This combination of latin terms by art critic and scholar Mario Praz has been used to refer to Islamic art and especially arabesque, for its blanket decorative filling of surfaces. Imagine walking in a room and fear rises for the lack of an omnipresent art. Your eyes halt on a white shred of wall and well up. Welling up thinking of an expression originally formed by Praz while appraising the suffocating muddle of Victorian interior design; only after it was questionably adapted to Islamic art.
But is aesthetic plenitude the negation of a void in space? Or rather what technique is the most suitable to deliver the rejoicing at emptiness? Azulejos belong to horror vacui via Moorish tradition. Their overarching drawings filled up the need for a narrative. This pre-empted a petrifying silence. If azulejos are the skin overlaid on top, what do they cover?
In the domestic space, different features embellish surfaces. Details mask the skeleton of buildings, the bones that support their structures. The frieze is among such things. This is a succession of decorations read horizontally. It is a continuous block and the limits of this image. A ribbon stretching around a room; unlike the azulejos, this leaves vacant areas running at its margins apparently untouched. Cracks are more visible in these edges.
Images from reading and
publication Rift, Exhibit Gallery,