The encounter - Poimena Gallery - February / March 2014


Dr Deborah Malor, arts itinerant, sometime academic, and generalist, engaged with landscape, post/colonialism, settler society histories, gardens, performances, images, objects, archives, books, and things in containers, including good wine. Opening remarks - Friday 21 February 2014.


"Late last year I spent quite some time looking at the very large works David Edgar had installed at the Burnie Regional Art Gallery for his solo show, Geo-encounters. These were mainly outcomes of a residency on the North West Coast. The experience of the scale of works just caught with one very long sweep of the eye was inextricably linked to the much-closer encounters with marks that were, each in themselves, as sublime as the totality of the captured coastal geologies of this island.

Here, with the smaller, even domestic, rooms of Poimena, I was wondering how it would all stand up: would that immense vision/ micro-mark relationship that enforced the experience of an encounter with a particular geological sublime still be here in the presented works? And, of course, it is: because here the two dimensional surfaces of paper, charcoal, pastel still dissolve into the wall, still project into the room, the physicality of the environment with which they relate.

Something of this is to do with our knowledge, experience, expertise, as viewers, of the effective and affective functions of film, of screen media. The cut to a moment, the hyper-realities of tone, the information overload of the close-up. Warts and all. Blemishes. Histories. Then the moment of disappearance. Dissolve. Pixel. Mark. In the early 21st century we know how to read each sign as we track towards some sort of transition between body and idea, between physicality and experience. The aesthetics of Bergmann and Antonioni are present here, and the framings of Kurosawa -- David might agree with me on that! Here in each work you will find what he has called 'the marks that coalesce before the eyes'. When we get close we get marks. Not places, not the artist's experience, but marks. Coalescing before the eyes.

Just a few hours ago I looked down the list of works and tried to build a narrative or make some sort of link across the titles. I almost (but not quite) avoided the trivialities of rhyme: The Stretch, The Inside/ The Bubble, The Slide/ The Cancer, The Deep/ The Encounter, The Sweep. I first did this without looking at the images David has supplied by email. The work that remains, after the rhyme, is Melancholia. No particular melancholia, not THE melancholia. Just melancholia, a sediment of the mind.

I opened the image files, at last, and realised that Melancholia is, simultaneously, the most and least, filmic of all the works here. In fact, the small tenacious bush in the foreground recalls for me the 18th-century architect, Etienne-Louis Boullee's, encounter with his own shadow, thrown by moonlight as he walked in the woods (this cited in Anthony Vidler, The architectural uncanny 1994):

By a particular disposition of mind, the effect of this simulacrum seemed to me to be of an extreme sadness. The trees drawn on the ground by their shadows made the most profound impression on me. This picture grew in my imagination. I then saw everything that was the most sombre in nature. What did I see? The mass of objects detached in black against a light of extreme pallor. Nature seemed to offer itself in mourning, to my sight.

More generally across all the works here, I am reminded of the epigram to Orhan Pamuk's rather more recent (2005) book Istanbul, Ahmet Rasim's observation that 'The beauty of a landscape resides in its melancholy'. Pamuk himself describes Instanbul as 'black and white', inscribed as it is for him in the iconic black and white films of that city at its most beautiful, before revolution and tourism imposed on it a 'heartless picturesque'.

The coalescing of marks, of flickers of light, across a screen, a wall, a sheet of paper, before our eyes, is at once creative and nostalgic, poignant and engaging. In the spareness of blacks, whites, greys are the marks of the journeys that characterise each encounter.

It's an encounter I'm very pleased to have experienced, in a couple of cases for the second time ... although those images behave differently here, as they should. So am I most honoured and delighted to formally declare David Edgar's The encounter, open."

(Reprinted courtesy Deborah Malor)

The outside, charcoal on 4 sheets of paper, 200 x 200cm, 2013 The bubble, charcoal and pastel on paper, 220 x 220cm, 2013 The deep, charcoal and pastel on paper, 92 x 94cm, 2014 The cancer, charcoal and pastel on paper, 140 x 140cm, 2014 Melancholia, charcoal and pastel on paper, 130 x 70cm, 2012 The encounter, charcoal and pastel on paper, 140 x 85cm, 2014 The slide, charcoal and pastel on paper, 120 x 120cm, 2014 The stretch, charcoal and pastel on paper, 2014 The sweep, charcoal and pastel on paper, 2014