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Writing and Press

Deliverance, an essay by Alexander Barret

Article text
The Circus Playground
To seek deliverance is to quest for salvation, and here upon the walls we are presented with works that for all of their fractures and fragments, come together to sing from the same hymn sheet for a brief moment in time, before drifting off to find a chorus of their own. There is a clear reason that this congregation has been asked to assemble, for Instability echoes throughout the gallery, and it is evident from the offset that the pursuit of worldly truth and salvation lays amidst a myriad of confusions, shadows, and spectres. The turbulent relationship between a Mother and Daughter, the perils of modern living, or the fleeting messages found within old customs, hindsight is a lovely thing, and it is often in afterthought that we learn our most valuable lessons. The show becomes akin to exorcism here, and by the time the perimeter of the building has been traversed the viewer will have witnessed a plethora of demons, both personal, and universal, dragged out into the public eye. The walls serve to contain, like Pandora’s Box, the struggles and tribulations, the strife and hardships that in turn serve to shape and form our character, and whilst collectively these works are a triumph over the human condition, they are singularly portents of our greatest shortcomings.

Moran’s imagery transports us to her childhood home, and through the eyes of a younger self, powerless and naive, the dawning of adolescence and the awakening of adult awareness starts to take hold. The horrors lurking under the bed are brought out like the playthings from a toy box, and all manner of fears and anxieties lurk within these images, evidence of memories that never truly were, the wild imaginings of a little girl struggling to make sense of her contact with a world well versed in harrowing and unpleasant experience. The abundance of pen drawings that comprise, “My bedroom” are tacked to the wall by pushpins, reminiscent of some perverse kitchen corkboard, lauded and praised, placed in full view and pride of place, an act of display that is steeped in darkness, musings that deal with a commonplace setting are in fact depictions that would both startle and surprise both Mother and Teacher, most decidedly a cause for concern. To look back at ones childhood and reminisce often conjures memories that are not ideal, and yet there is an element of the taboo about such a confessional, that prohibits such personal stories. Archetypical classroom prying expects reports of weekends spent at the seaside, and recollections regarding a stable nuclear family, and to admit that this is not always the case, whilst documenting it so vividly in a manner evocative of the creations of childhood, is both poignant and potent. Beneath the facade of innocence lays the knowledgeable construction of retrospect, and these images form considered memories, that either true or false, embellished or previously suppressed, are ultimately formed from lines that hold an extreme precision, an act of control administered in hindsight, cathartic release grasped by the hands of experience.

Elsewhere the images bleed and swirl, watercolours that inevitably descend into chaos, controlled in one instance only by the application of umbilical threads, grounding and constraining the ethereal forms, and yet images such as, “Knots” always hold a solid outline, for this is very much an internal battle, an inner conflict that simultaneously deals in loud defiant gestures, and subtle heartrending details. Whilst the sharing of a household may necessitate closeness in terms of proximity, it does not necessarily mean that its inhabitants find themselves sharing anything else in common. Living arrangements strike up the territorial nature inherent within us all, and there is a sense that this household is home to a family of wraiths and strays, for it is always the ghostly little girl that we are presented with, sitting in the very foundations of the building, slowly learning to define herself by way of her surroundings, and seemingly yearning to bridge the gap between one reality and another, the confines of her bedroom, and the surrounding rooms and entities that should by all conventions be a united whole. If the phenomena associated with the misdoings of a poltergeist is truly the unrestrained release of ill feeling and frustration, then it is unsurprising that most accounts are tied in with coming of age stories, rooted in the feminine – something rings clear here, and it would appear that the work in question is the belated assault on the physical world that such feelings may, or may not have invoked.

Davis pairs the urban alongside the sort of chintz that exists behind the veils of net curtains, forming a complex battle between the visual differences found within such juxtaposition, dull concrete and flat minimal shapes, set against floral patterns that stand in for much of the omitted landscape. Exterior and interior struggle for supremacy, the result of such conflict seeing the lines between the two blurred, the outside becomes inside, whilst the buildings themselves cease to function as spaces to contain. Walls have ears, but here they also clutch at stories, a language built from residual traces, human contact and involvement showing upon the surface of structures that would otherwise go unnoticed. When the mundane meets mundane, something extraordinary occurs, for depictions of bricks and flowers are equally blended as the paint and fabric of their construction. The processes by which the images are created serve to undercut the bare facts, communities and functions that are all cast into the melting pot, a metropolitan society, both vast and multicultural, is constrained by boundaries and behind walls, but the evidence of modern living is all around. Often the surfaces of these images are stitched together, a map of make do and mend, for it is within the realms of such locations that law and order are prone to crumble, the first signs of dystopia emerging from the space around the flowerbeds.

We are prone to take for granted the staples and institutions that form the mainstay of urban life, and in “The Circus Playground” the foreground is largely dominated by an illuminated circus tent, a beacon of hope, bold and symbolic of the new. To the city dweller, such visual pleasures may prove a delight, and yet they are ultimately a temporary stimulation, for the uninspired are destined to return to the likes of the sky scraping tower block seen in the distance, to a life dictated by routine. The illusion of safety from within such an infrastructure is omnipresent, and from within the entanglement of a steady, predictable reality, it is all too easy to crave an escape. Perhaps first it would be best to examine truly how steadfast the bricks and mortar that form the physical signs of our day to day existence really are, for if pushed would these monoliths and ways of living truly hold their own against an imminent upheaval? Ultimately it seems that we have constructed a prison for ourselves, and that we can longer decipher the good from the bad, for the negatives taking hold is the price we have paid, whilst failing to count our blessings.

Enbar greets us with a visual language rich in symbolism that is suggestive of our most primitive cultures. Momentary, each frame of the narrative takes place within the same space as that previous, and so the marks of time passing lend an ephemeral quality, that is mirrored by the accompanying sounds. From guttural sobs to comical screams, the listener can only discern a feeling, for this is a dialect that never truly existed, and rather than the birthing of a new form of communication, it seems that here we hold witness to what happens when cultures and customs move on. Comparisons are easily drawn to our own lives and language, and those that have gone before them, if a time traveller where to inexplicably arrive in the future, the chances are that he or she would be branded a lunatic, incapable of coherent speech. Embellished within these incomprehensible folklores are visual clues that are perhaps universal, “Affordable Ecstasy” shows a man without eyes, staring vacantly at the sun, foaming at the mouth, whilst vocally communicating in what can only be described as a groan. A bringer of life and light, solar worship is widespread across a multitude of religious practices, and here the sun is objectified, central to the frame, and integral to the narrative, for if we cannot understand what is said, we can at least discern the object of reverie in question.

A language of subtle gestures in a world of unnerving familiarity, what may for the most part appear bold and seemingly crude is in fact not alien to us, a child may find amusement in the actions of these figures, scenes pertaining to acts of bestiality and defecation, male genitalia and wanton abandon, but we would be wise not to dismiss this seemingly primitive culture, for it ultimately serves to mirror the viewers own. Symbolisms ingrained within history are not being drawn upon to tell a story of the rise and fall of some great practice, but rather fit quite solidly into our present world – by contemplating and continuing the quest and search for meaning, a contemporary audience fuels what cannot be claimed a dead art – for there is still much to gain and learn within the introspective depths of such fields of study. It would be too easy to blush and turn away from the ritualistic actions presented within; “Offerings” and it would be easier still to feel far removed, but perhaps it is the vigour and openness of the aforementioned amused child that we should be learning from, for if we were to stop and consider the knowledge and practices that we have lost, we may find ourselves far richer in the process.