Roads and Bridges

I’m reading Rilke, his view of a renaissance portrait brings attention to the background in which people may be seen traversing little roads and bridges. They exist in the back of the mind attending to the fine work of relationships.

The landscape, its character is never the same from country to country even though on the surface much is similar, the roads are paved or not, bridges are practically built where necessary and people at a distance claim pride of place.

Driving in a wildlife park is witness to life in the wild, a strange experience of background, or distance activity, of relationships forged between a Giraffe and a tree, Gazelles and a stand of grass , a slinking Lion and a ditch.

You could develop it and feel some intent disclosed between the Lion and the Gazelle, the Hyena and any animal’s home or prey, a Kite and a rodent (or as happened, a Black Kite and a chicken leg held then taken from my lunch companion’s hand).

Typically seen in Middle distance, an animal has a signal character, a sleeping lion is an undulating yellow line, while a hyena leaves a shadowy patch within the grain of the grass. Our guide, D has this visual knowledge and I try to gain it drawing from the car each time he stops. Of the two undulating curves, one morphs into a male lion and lopes over jumping onto the other. D says they’re brothers, the playful act like a reality show whose screen keeps freezing into the deadpan slo-mo flatness of The Real: the all encompassing category of food is a matter of perspective.

Pulls my mind back to the conductor on a long distance bus who barked give me ten dollars, at that moment I was leaving the relative safety of a 6 hour bus seat, feeling like a piece of cargo changing hands, I’m bewildered, he looks at me and laughs. The traveller at these times is on one of many alternate menus being written by natural selection.
Reverse to the minibus 6am that morning, I’d been sick the previous day and night with stomach cramps and a fever, by morning I could travel and with a seat up the back where I could see the whole interior I took my attention from my body and the bone rattle of the slow mountain road to patterns worn by the women bound for market or the children’s clinic:
Printed large black diamond net lines over yellow moving to pink cut by large slashes of a black shawl.
Sequined purple head scarf. Blouse of a printed organic curving (seed?) pattern in yellow, red and black. Sarong of a woven cloth with complex rhythm of horizontal bands in red black and white.
Yellow blouse with occasional printed large pink hibiscus flowers.
Printed geometric black line of crossed circles over yellow.
Crocheted pink hair band, viridian blouse.
Tiger skin printed velvet blouse.
Cut out like this we’re distracted from the bodily movement that bring them alive. Like a zebra’s markings which a stencil can’t carry off, wearing pattern comprises relations between the rhythmic surface of a decorative motif, its surface geometry and the body that floats it creating a spatial figure that’s both sensual and actual.

Further to this, Massai children run with the car demanding chupa. What’s chupa we ask the driver, bottle. Down the road other children run sporting light blue arm bands. You see what they do, they take the label to decorate themselves and throw away the bottle.

Light blue and black segmented lines flash reflections in the side mirror speeding down the dirt road.

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Working Title

One week into a 10 week journey through East and West Africa, initially attending an artist Cooperative in Dar es Salaam, travelling Tanzania and returning to Dar to put up a small show of drawings. I’ll be in Nigeria by invitation for the month of November to participate in the Iwaya Contemporary Art Festival.

Of the 7 kilograms in my backpack, over a quarter of the weight is in a book, Phantom Africa – a 600 + page diary by the writer Michel Leiris, the first English translation (this year) of an 18 month French anthropology expedition begun in 1932 from Dakar to Djibouti. I’ll read and progressively draw through its pages as an ongoing project.
Beginning Leiris’ diary I find a correspondence in the expression of his journey, intertwining an imaginary ‘phantom’ Africa with the real, hectic movement of people and the identities that bind.
I’ve planned this trip a long time , perhaps as long as I have been planning anything. Memories of an early childhood in West Africa in time became unreliable. Stories and images began to replace experience; memories of rememberings are all I had of my early world, fragmented sound and vision, surface rhythms and hyper colour enveloped by ever colonizing stereotypes.

The Africa that Leiris expected with his European imagination was beyond the frontier of reason where the imaginary existed pre-enlightenment. He glimpses it in indigenous custom through the tattered curtain of colonial bureaucracy, and his strength is in holding these apart enabling the reader to feel the space between an imposed framing order and a vernacular expression of ancient African society.

In the week I’ve been at the Nafasi Art SpaceI’ve spent most of my time drawing different people doing what they do – Loom weaver, dancer, musician, painter, video editor, journalist. This array of activities highlights the inclusiveness of the space running from traditional craft and peformance to contemporary technology.

More than 120 ethnic groups are included within the territory of Tanzania. In the 70s the government instilled a sense of nationhood by encouraging members of each group to move to different parts of the country. Equal representation of ethnicity accounts for the relative harmony in Tanzania in contrast to the ethnic battles seen in neighbouring states. It’s also why traditional performance and craft which are central to ethnic identity are politically alive and keenly supported in contemporary culture.
If you walk out of the Nafasi gates at night onto a dark dirt road there’s a gradual transformation to the glow and clang of approaching industrial factories. Near the traffic of Soldering Road is a massing of people whose silhouettes dart quickly and pack densely in the unlit intersection. Off-shift from the steelworks, the candle-making and tissue factories, cleaned and dressed before the relief and excitement of social play, some hours caught before sleep opens its doors to a dreamworld in the confines of the on-site dormitory.
Posted in art, Contemporary painting, crowd formation, drawing process, information processes, pattern, Performance, public space, screenplay, Urban planning, urban space | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Pixels and Pattern 


The Correspondent  Acrylic on Linen, 113 cm x 124 cm





Groundswell Acrylic on Linen  113 cm x 124 cm

I’ve just put forward these works to a group show with a statement as follows :

These paintings develop ideas on the correspondence between the processes  forming a crowd and image formation. Seen close-up an image becomes a collective set of particles, pixels that follow waves of tonal information. At a distance a crowd of people turns into a pattern. There’s a shadowy surveillance space between people,  pixels and pattern explored here.  

Posted in art, Contemporary painting, crowd formation, drawing process, fashion discourse, information processes, pattern, public space, urban space | 2 Comments