Ian Grose: Autumn Journal
Stevenson is pleased to present Autumn Journal, an exhibition of new small-scale works by South African artist Ian Grose, painted during the lockdown.
This series of paintings is named after the epic poem by Louis MacNeice, written during the approach of World War Two. In an author’s note, MacNeice stated:
In a journal or a personal letter a man writes what he feels at the moment; to attempt scientific truthfulness would be – paradoxically – dishonest. The truth of a lyric is different from the truths of science and this poem is something half-way between the lyric and the didactic poem … But poetry in my opinion must be honest before anything else and I refuse to be ‘objective’ or clear-cut at the cost of honesty.
It is this principle of poetic candour that informs these new works. Autumn Journal comprises scenes from the artist’s isolation, as well as images having metaphorical resonance with the act of painting and the apprehension that characterised those months. Grose’s aqueous surfaces and lyrical accounts of light and tonality exceed the pragmatism of the retinal imprint, providing instead a personal account of the relation between sensibility and the act of seeing. He writes:
I’ve been in this apartment for over a decade, although this is the first time I’ve lived with my painting things instead of a person. Painting while the pasta is on the stove is a joy; painting when I can’t sleep is a relief.
Can’t leave? Printer broken? Fine. I have views of the outside world in three directions. In isolation, the view comes to stand in for the world. I have some pictures of a man, a whale trainer, seemingly trying to negotiate with a whale that keeps pulling him underwater. I feel there’s some relationship between those images, the view out of the window and the thing that confines me here. (Would I prefer nature were a threat and a mystery – or predictable, a pet?)
Assume there’s something valuable in choosing a tiny fraction from the numberless scenes that make up a day, and giving them total respect and attention for the brief moments they last. Not because they’re important but because the choosing and the respect are important, and the feeling that they’re immediate, unmediated and mine.
I often doubt this faithfulness (enslavement?) to nature. Maybe that’s not quite what’s going on. Fidelity on my terms. Nature corralled and conscripted.
I come across a passage in a book. Knowledge: something strange reduced to the familiar. The familiar: what we no longer marvel at, our everyday, some rule in which we’re stuck, anything in which we feel at home. Is need for knowledge this need for the familiar, the impulse to uncover under everything something that no longer disturbs us?
So, would I prefer to marvel or to know?
Ian Grose: Autumn Journal runs at Stevenson Cape Town until 19 September 2020.
April 22, 2021
April 21, 2021