Maja Marx: There There
WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present Maja Marx’s newest exhibition, There There.
“There, there”; something said to calm, to hush, to compose.
“I see it from here, and then I see it from here”, writes poet Jorie Graham, marking the persistence of herself as observer as she exhales to watch her breath momentarily made visible by cold air. “How the invisible roils”, she says, “I see it from here, and then I see it from here”.
In my work, all is surface. When I paint, I find myself in midpoint, I am balanced between looking and touching – every intake of air; a measurement of what I can find on the skin of the canvas; every exhalation, an extended stare, a consideration of the place between the surface of the painting and my eye. I am in arbitration, in passage, in the middle of it. I am in between my intention and my reaction to the marks that I have laid down before.
To paint is to enter milieu – a place of mingling, a middle ground, a contact zone, a borderland. It is the middle place. Here, I am both in and out of place, both here and there – it is a place of double consciousness, on the one side I can carefully measure time through action, placing one mark next to another, one colour next to the previous.
On the other side, I can forgo control, giving over to the sway of optics, I step back to watch the colour combinations sing, I stare myself out into the shimmer of the field between my eyes and the object that is the painting. I watch that space become visible, I watch it come alive. I get to see myself looking.
In building dense visual fields, illusive textures form and bridge the space between the visible and tactile; between what is perceived and what becomes suggested by the mechanics of the eye. Visual overtones, after-images and other flickers play out on these charged optical surfaces. To that extent, I am painting at the edges of the visible, at the point where what is seen crosses into what is imagined, where the physical, tactile surface becomes spectral.
This emphasis on the surface follows an interest in the inter-relationship between textile|texture|text. My constant reworking of the flat linen or cotton surfaces allows the eye to weave line into line, colour into colour; to construct an optical texture that transcends the surface of the actual canvas and the factuality of marks. My interest in Helen Keller’s “tactile seeing” or “blindsight” fuels a mode of looking that crosses into touching, the eye reaches out to the textured canvas, seeing is a physical, tactile activity that reaches across and weaves things together to make things visible. Surface loses solidity, becoming more like a veil, screen, filter or skin, an intermediary through which things are seen, or from which the visible shines. My interest in the relationship between the looking, staring, reading, and imagining eye comes in to play as the work combines different modalities of image-construction.
I have worked fragments of text into these images. The texts are extracts from handwritten letters passed between previous generations of my family in a hand and a language that I can no longer read or understand. My eye wants to read the text but is left seeing only the flowing line on a flat surface, desperate to reach, or read, across and through the indecipherable marks in front of me. I am now passing those gestural lines on through other visual languages – the optics of pointillist mark-making, the digital pixel, faint static, the stuttered stitches of woven cloth.
I am painting the image at the moment before it coheres, I am painting the image as it dissipates into translation.
I am painting what is seen with a closed eye. I am painting from behind the closed eyelid.
There is the soft flickering of an image beneath the fleshy surfaces, a slow fragmentation of oily content seeping gradually into the eye. A tender decomposition. This mode of looking asks for time – a lingering gaze, a focus-blind stare. The moment of translation happens from the corner of one’s eye – with images equally dissolving, atomizing and settling into colour frequencies in corporeal pinks, mid-skull purples, folds of Caput Mortuum. I am painting remains after-images; what you see when staring at an empty surface when looking at a blank page, an illegible text.
There There: this is the middle place – the shimmering place between the eye and the surface, between foreground and background. At once a double presence, and a double elsewhere.
Text by Maja Marx
Maja Marx: There There runs at WHATIFTHEWORLD Cape Town until 6 November 2020.
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