Monday, February 15, 2010

Thoughts on Walkabout


The above link takes you to today's Times article on recently deceased Chinese Prof Xie Zhiliu's preparatory studies and copies, which his daughter donated to the Met in 2005. Curator and Scholar Maxwell Hearn thinks the exhibition, which reveals Xie's commitment to copying Song Dynasty masters, will change Chinese scholarship, but as far as I know, copying was the mode of learning traditional techniques in China from time immemorial. Perhaps now given Westernization this does not apply, but copying was always done in Chinese tradition.

Somehow the article unlocks my preparation for the Dorsch exhibition Walkabout. I have been mulling the concept of Walkabout for some time, related to the concept of moving through a Chinese scroll as applied to my own travels, including the Fountainhead residency I am on now. Walkabout becomes a process of experiencing a new place and making work about that. The spiritual implication of movement, initiated in painting with explosive pours and subsequent travel through the (global) landscape, supplant walking the land with moving at speed from one place to another. Movement speaks to disolocation, query-leading to the loss of ego so crucial to the requisite emptiness that painting demands.

Within the permeable landscape one finds structures and places to rest--like the rock formations in Australia or the Scholars Houses in Chinese scrolls. My interest in the shape and metaphor of Parasol House, a rounded geometric structure (tower, awning, pavilion)--turned out to be the umbrella held over Buddha, which I discovered in MogaoKu (Dunhuang Caves) last year. Parasol is the ultimate provisional shelter, a halo turned flat; a hub of connection.

All I have known going into this Walkabout is that the Chinese plum blossom idiom is the visual foundation. In Miami, I have reconciled its shape with the old, gnarled seagrape trees that line Morningside Park's waterfront. Yet, I have wondered how to integrate this concept into a larger panorama, when stuck in the image-base of "tree."

Xie Zhiliu's drawings re-opened a dialogue of space that moves from depth to flatness--simultaneously page and landscape proper. Suddenly image becomes mark, unburdened from invention. I cherish Chinese mix-and-match, from clothing to calligraphy to landscape to faith. It frees me from invention to introduce gestures, colors and sketchbook images without an organizing narrative. Form is a signifier--not mine to empty--yet, without the burden of invention, it becomes spacious, inviting.

So today I foray into material, color and mark--not unlike the way I used to draw secret images inside the wallpaper of my childhood room--compressing space into layered non-narratives that are "seen at a glimpse" and made as a doodle.

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

I like the lucidity of your writing, and I feel excited when you say that form is a signifier and that you are free to work without an organizing narrative.

I feel that you are taking images out of the world of language...