To live means to participate in dialogue: to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and so forth. In this dialogue a person participates wholly and throughout his whole life: with his eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit, with his whole body and deeds.
– M. Bakhtin –
I did my art training at what is now known as Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). It was a time of exploration where process was central to the experience of art making. This approach allowed that high value be placed on the process itself, often pushing the (eventual) art product into the background. Conceptually, thinking was open-ended and galleries in The Netherlands typically display the importance placed on process by often making the choice to exhibit concepts above finished art works.
It was therefore quite a joyous experience for me when I visited SMITH in Cape Town last week for the show Sketch. This group show is curated by SMITH curator Amy Ellenbogen, who offered the participating artists exploration in their choice of medium. The follow-up show in December 2016 will allow visitors to have experienced artworks from the beginning of conception (Sketch) to the final exhibited pieces after a 12 month process.
In my view, it is a brave and necessary step that Amy Ellenbogen has taken as South African galleries appear to be, generally speaking, mostly interested in selling end-art products. Ellsworth Kelly, aptly quoted by SMITH in Sketch, says that people have a need to give art ‘a sense of fixity, a sense of opposing the chaos of daily living.’ Perhaps it is the chaos of process that disturbs gallerists …
The importance of process placed in Sketch took me back to an exhibition I had seen – or rather, experienced – at Witte de With in Rotterdam many years before where a visiting artist had filled the entire gallery – both upstairs and downstairs – with crunched balls of paper. This experience has stayed with me clearly whilst I have forgotten the many other exhibitions that sold perfect, well-rounded and beautifully framed artworks. The resonance of process is etched into my memory because, I suspect, I experienced process alongside and with the artist. My experience was, as Bakhtin says, connected to eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit as I immersed myself and connected to the actual deed and process of paper ball making. This is, perhaps, because I myself make balls of clay on my daily walks.
Currently, I am immersed in the experience of line. I am mesmerized in the ways that line/s are able to transport energy and express movement. There is no beginning and no end and the viewer is drawn into interpreting this frozen fraction; this crack of chaos. As I continue exploring the fragility of line in a more 3-dimensional way, I shall murmur and meditate Kelly’s authenticity so that I remain in open[ended]ness:
What I have tried to capture is the reality of flux, to keep an open, incomplete situation …