The Brief: Following from the postcard experimentation, the main project is to represent our personal interpretation of ‘place.’
I started by brainstorming what place meant to me. The obvious was location. I travelled all over the world and I thought of all the wonderful places I have been to. I went through my collection of photos and started sketching away.
I also looked at the dichotomy between the spiritual aspect of Thailand and the riots that take place now and all the uncertainty they always bring. I was fortunate to travel to Thailand on many occasions but never at troubled times so I felt that my vision of the country and culture was looked at through tinted glasses. The reality must be totally different and I felt ill equipped to deal with it.
It led me to explore the theme of belonging. A place is meaningful to one individual but not another because of the sense of self it does bring. For me going back to my native city of Paris, I feel home as soon as I get off the Eurostar and set foot on the narrow pavement and smell the aroma of the boulangerie. Without fail, I buy a meringue called Le Merveilleux and a cake called Paris-Brest, which I cannot find here and go to sit in the Jardins du Luxembourg to savour them. Walking through a street market is a joy that can not be described with words alone. All my senses are awaken and bring childhood memories. These treasured pleasures are simple but resonate with me in a way that may be totally different to somebody else. They do not make me feel nostalgic. I see it as a phase in my life from which I moved on and love revisiting as an adult. I made a collage of what Paris was for me and I enjoyed experimenting with texture and juxtapositions of colours. In the end the result was pleasing to me but not meaningful enough. I moved from place to place and although I said I was not nostalgic, it didn’t represent the person I was today. Again I have a tinted vision of Paris. I go there often but I am on holiday. Shall I say it? I have become a tourist who does not see the daily reality of the city.
I therefore dug deeper. Place….and turned it on its head. Placelessness. Because when I go home, I am stunned to see so many McDonalds, Starbucks. When I go to Asia I see the same. It struck me that you could travel all around the world without having a true experience of the country you visit. Narrowing it down, you could be in your own country and living the same thing through fast food, shopping malls. Christmas highlights how shallow and materialistic our world has become. As I am wrapping the presents and filling my kids’ stockings, I can’t help but wonder: is this happiness? When my husband asks me what I would like for Christmas, I ponder. I want or I desire nothing. I am lucky to do what I want and juggle family life to fit as many things as possible. Things. Well, I want my friends and family around a roaring fire and ideally not a turkey but a tastier meal…a bit more french perhaps. For me, people make a place. I moved so much and lived in different countries to know that even in the most fabulous setting or the most buzzing surroundings, if you don’t have the people you love around you, you feel lonely. A sense of place is a sense of togetherness.
Prior to the beginning of stage 2, I went to London to break away from books and sketchbooks and see art in the flesh. I went to Tate Modern and looked at the work of Mira Schendel (1919-1988) , whose work I had never heard of even though she was a prolific post-war artist from South America. Tate Modern has organizedthe first ever international full scale retrospective of her work and it was huge. It had about 250 works.
She was a painter, a poet, and a sculptor. A Jewish refugee from fascist Italy and born in Switzerland, she emigrated to Sao Paulo in the 1949. Her work is very diverse which makes it difficult to pigeonhole her. It also makes it more fascinating. Schendel contributed to the development of Concrete and Neo-concrete art in Brazil during the 1960s, but she remained detached enough to develop a distinct and unique body of work.
Her paintings are energetic. Their abstract nature and texture make them quite informal. The paintings in the first rooms reminded me of Paul Klee (for whom I will post an entry later as his work is also exhibited at the Tate Modern) for the colours and the geometric shapes.
As we pursue our journey through the galleries, the work becomes more fragile. She sculpted with rice paper and drew on transparent paper where words are written in different languages. Sometimes they are philosophical quotes. Others just letters that seem floating in time and space. The effect is emphasised by the fact that the see-through sheets hang from the ceiling and twirl in front of you, giving the work an ever changing meaning. Schendel wrote : “The back of transparency lies in front of you and the ‘other world’ turns out to be this one.” Reading about it, I then found out that phenomenology was at the source of her art – in the idea of being and nothingness but I didn’t feel I needed to know this at the time to appreciate it. Her work is multi layered.
Even weeks after, I can’t stop thinking about Schendel’s work. So powerful. so deep in meaning. The layout of letters puzzled me. What was intentional and what was totally spontaneous? Does it matter even? How can we really know what an artist intends at all times. Her work is far reaching. For instance, by investigating the chasm between certainty and faith (she was brought up as a catholic although born Jewish). I sensed an artist in search of her identity having been caught between religions, countries and cultures. I can relate to some of that. If I have time, I will definitely go back and ponder in the galleries some more.
The Brief: Using a postcard and transforming it as a visual exploration around notions of place.
The postcard of Farnham we received was not the most inspiring way to preserve the memory of a visit or give a sense of what Farnham is about. I moved here a couple of years ago and for me Farnham is all about location. You get a pleasant life where pace is manageable and country escapism is on your doorstep or rather a speedy car trip away AND you also get the proximity to the hustle and bustle of London, which I miss and need on so many occasions.
I used collage and cut shapes of letters. W for walk and reversed becomes the M of Farnham. I coloured leaves and printed on fabric for texture…implying that all senses are on alert. I surimposed text as I feel that the juxtaposition to the image adds a more powerful message. Also the print of a foot to remind me how fortunate I am to have bridal paths just outside my garden. I hope the end product is as enticing for others as it is for me.
For the display in the art:Case in the Quad at UCA Farnham from the 12th December 2013, I anticipate that it will either be attached to the ceiling and dropped on the floor.