I met a man who wasn’t there

I have been looking at extending my ideas of paper and ink calligraphy to see where I should take it next. A few making ideas are floating around in my head at the moment.

1. Making ordinary paper extra-ordinary
Can I take the ideas of using ordinary paper, and make it into something extraordinary? To do this I thought I would look into using silk – the voluptuous soft delicacy of these rich fibres – to make handmade paper. The long history of silk (and silk paper in fact) adds an interesting narrative, although I need to check how this aligns to my project proposal.

2. Taking the ink off the page
The other idea is looking at “taking the ink off the page”, using a different process inspired by basket maker Dorothy McGuinness, who uses acrylic painted paper to make beautiful complex basketry.

The key will be in deciding what form to make my objects. I want to use the ideas of the ritualised making – changing the balance of thought and action. My aim for this experiment is some intervention which is purely of the moment with an element on the unexpected or the unknown: a “balance of the highly controlled and the accidental”[1]

The other thing I have been looking into is the use of automatism in surrealism. Some great insights so far from the book, The Haunted Self on surrealism and psychoanalysis [2]. “The technique of automatic writing practised by the surrealists with some fervour was widely understood by them as fracturing an illusory self”. However, “are surrealist works destined to betray the unconscious in the course of trying to represent it?”. Freud apparently spoke of this concern also, in speaking of the unconscious “as an inference made from the gaps or omissions in conscious discourse, or from the roundabout form in which the unconscious wishes to manifest in dreams or symptoms, but not as something knowable in itself.”

Another book on surrealism I found by George Bataille [3] has the following poignant quote:

“What distinguishes modern man and perhaps especially the surrealist, is that ink returning to the primitive he is constrained to consciousness even as he aims to recover within himself the mechanisms of the unconscious, for he never ceases to have consciousness of his goal. Consequently he is at once both closer and yet further away.”

The last adventure of Wednesday was our weekly cross-programme lecture, this week from Roderick Mills, an illustrator from England. He talked of his worked and his inspirations, and the bit that really caught my attention was his talk of the uncanny. He talked about emptiness, absence, non-places and non-words, the space off screen. I thought this was fascinating, and brings back the thoughts I had last term about things that are familiar but different.

He also showed a trailer from a Sapphire and Steel episode which was so creepy and drew you in instantly, even if you were slightly terrified by the end. Another type of moment which fits into my proposals. I’m now thinking back to the ghost candles which were the very first things I made on the course. Perhaps an avenue to re-explore?

[1] Textural Space: contemporary Japanese textile art
[2] The Haunted Self, David Lomas (2000)
[3] The Absence of Myth, George Bataille


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