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a is for arresting

Oilpainting, 101 x 101 cm

With this oil painting I am a finalist in the biannual Bendigo Art Award 2017 (Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize), on show at the Bendigo Art Gallery from June to September 2017.

I submitted the oil painting “a is for arresting”, together with “c is for circumspect” to the Bendigo Painting Prize 2017 and was selected as finalist.

One of the strongest themes in my recent arts practice is a focus on serial repetition, allowing a movement beyond simple representation into an artistic enquiry into field and ground.  Leaves of Life and Incidental Erotica catalogue natural objects from my surroundings. My series Re: Cursive extends the theme by focusing on cultural objects, allowing me to bridge the gap between my work as writer and visual artist. As a writer who grieves the progressive absence of handwriting, I have included letters, graphic symbols, words and written messages in my visual works and entered the postmodernist text-based art movement.

 I just happen to like ordinary things. When I paint them, I don’t try to make them extraordinary. I just try to paint them ordinary-ordinary.” —Andy Warhol

What could be more ordinary than the alphabet? It is seldom thought about post kindergarten. And yet the entire world of semantic meaning rests on those 26 letters. A Saussurian miracle!

  …you’ll have to admit that all the stories in the world consist essentially of twenty-six letters. The letters are always the same, only the arrangement varies. From letters words are formed, from words sentences, from sentences chapters, and from chapters stories.” – Michael Ende (in “The Neverending Story”

I am stepping into the almost abandoned cultural space of handwriting with a hyper-focus back to the alphabet: an artistic exploration that began with the Cubists. For my series “Re:Cursive” I am painting the letters of our alphabet, one by one, creating cursive patterns. As I meditate on each letter, a word arises and resonates. It anchors my reflections and reveals something of myself. The inclusion of a single word allows me to map and integrate multiple levels of meaning into my being and world view.

 Celebrating the graphic quality of the surface rendition of letters is my imaginative tracing the round world: “We shall not cease from exploration/and the end of our exploring/will be to arrive where we started/and know the place for the first time”. T.S. Eliot

This artwork is part of my alphabet series “Re:Cursive” (main series: “Scripted”). Original alphabets were pictographs. In that sense my work is situated within an ancient tradition. It is not, however, a homage or dead repetition. Rather, it subversively re-animates the ancient codes to enable precise and incisive comment on current cultural dilemmas.

Like the other works in this series, “a is for arresting” shows the repetition of a letter and the resulting patterns. Different from the other artworks is the handwriting—it is rendered more dramatic and curvaceous. The high percentage of white in the ‘olive drab’ paint used for the text results in a distinct chalk-like appearance and conjures up vivid images, even smells of the blackboards in my childhood. The text is “arresting”, a synonym for ‘eye-catching’, ‘striking’, ‘noticeable’—a match for the movement and expressionist style of this artwork.