BY KARL F VOLKMAR
ROB WYNNE: Quiver – August 2012 Exhibition at Arthur Roger Gallery
When art is word and word is art, what does it signify, where does meaning lie, or need there be meaning at all? Quiver is an exhibition of ambiguous works accessible through multiple interpretations. Words and phrases are as if written on the walls like graffiti written by someone who does not have control of her medium, who may not understand the implications of the words and phrases that are written, floating signifiers existing sans explicit or implicit semantic context, art objects as well as ideas.
QuiVer eRoS coNnoiSseur Of chaoS siGNifiCant
What is a word but an arbitrary shape or sound, signifier, expression, representation, or incarnation of a thought, feeling, state of being, experience, or phenomenon? What is the meaning of a word if not that that is signified, expressed, represented, or incarnated? Does a word have meaning, in and of itself, independent of that that is signified, expressed, represented, or incarnated, when not articulated within a syntactic structure or semantic context? What determines that a particular shape or sound signifies, expresses, represents, or incarnates a particular thought, feeling, state of being, experience, or phenomenon? Consensus usage? Is it intrinsic to the word? Or is a word coextensive with that that is signified expressed, represented, or incarnated as the body with the mind, the thing with the idea, the living being with the life force?
As a word, QuiVer can either be a noun or a verb, a container for arrows and the anows in that container or the act or state of trembling and to tremble, the same spelling and pronunciation, each with different etymological roots. Placed upon a wall, lacking any context from a specific meaning might be descried, one is confronted with pure form and substance. The color of the material, the character of its substance, a cooled liquid, traces of the movement that deposited it. Becoming a thing, in and of itself, self referential, in the context of the gallery, as art object, reflecting light as the viewers’ interpretations are reflections of themselves. Perhaps one might imagine the quivering of the hand that directed the flow? If ever there were a floating signifier this would be it!
What is art but an arbitrary form, shape or sound, signifier, expression, representation, or incarnation of a thought, feeling, state of being, experience, or phenomenon? What is the meaning of art if not that that is signified, expressed, represented, or incarnated? Does art have meaning, in and of itself, independent of that that is signified, expressed, represented, or incarnated, when not articulated within a formal structure or cultural context? What determines that a particular shape or sound signifies, expresses, represents, or incarnates a particular thought, feeling, state of being, experience, or phenomenon? Consensus usage? Enculturation? Does a work of art have intrinsic meaning or value? Is it an artifact? Or is art coextensive with that that is signified expressed, represented, or incarnated as the body with the mind, the thing with the idea, the living being with the life force?
eroS: a significant force shaping human culture, animal spirits, (was this why it was placed at genital level on the wall?), romantic or sexual love, life force or generative force. The powerful idea vies for attention vis-a-vis the substance of the object with its sensual, serpentine Praxitilian curves, arabesques, and visceral surfaces.
Poured and mirrored glass is the artist’s ink. Letters and words and phrases express ironic contrasts between form and meaning of words and art. The visual appearance of the shimmering substance changes according to one’s angle of view in relation to the lighting as meaning is a function of the viewer’s cultural coding and personal experience. The same surface may appear the darkest of grays approaching black from one perspective and bright silvery gray from another. The irregularity of the surfaces and contours creates the effect that extreme values happen in one word or phrase.
siGNifiCant: important, having meaning and value, i.e., significance, having a special or disguised meaning, as in the large scale letters, the breaking of the word into syllables, the syllables arranged vertically, the large letters the accent within a syllable and the accented syllable in the word. First impressions that this is the work of a child’s early attempts at writing yield to a realization of more complex intentions.
coNnoiSseur Of chaoS: oxymoronic irony of the juxtaposition of the two ideas, someone who knows much about something, traditionally qualities of esthetic accomplishment, and thus able to make discerning judgments about matters of taste and refinement and quality, and chaos as the state of complete lack of order or structure. Semantic contradiction paralleled by the contrast between the apparent rhythms of the changing sizes of the individual letters and deliberate crudeness of the shapes of the letters themselves.
The two vortices that are not vortices but an arrangement of pieces in patterns that are like the spiral shape of a vortex when viewed from above, lacking what is essential to the nature of a vortex, its whirling motion in three dimensions, there is no motion in the work. Vortex is composed of pieces of poured and mirrored glass, its static spiraling only in the movement of the viewer’s eyes design, implying spatial recession. Silver Vortex is made of glass beads sewn with thread onto a vellum ground, the illusion of three spatial dimensions plus time, threads that string together the beads, the helical tracery of their shadows like DNA viewed through an electron microscope.
The relationship between the two Exhales is similar to that of the two Vortices. Neither is an exhalation. Exhale is an analogical metaphor. Exhale (14738) is constructed from glass beads, thread, vellum, different sized clusters of beads, each with its own pattern, depending on the number of beads. Seen up close their roundness interferes with the viewer’s perception, the threads like a network of veins vaguely seen beneath translucent skin. From farther back, the roundness dissolves into patterns of dark and light the clarity of which contrasts with the vaguely seen, seemingly random lines and arabesques lying at an indeterminate level beneath. In Exhale (14739), clusters of globular drops of different sizes are arranged like planetary systems within larger galaxies. The names draw attention to the vertical direction of gravitational pull, with the effect that the design is like bubbles exhaled by a drowning man.
At first Teardrops appears to be a straightforward work but deeper reflection identifies it as a key to understanding the exhibition as a whole. The teardrop shapes of glass are suspended like falling tears, the difference between the fluid of cooled glass the fluid of tears that it simulates is only a function of temperature. The clear glass that transmits, interferes with, and reflects the ambient light, and the resultant multivalent shadows is also a medium through whose lens viewers see distorted images of the ambient space with it milling throngs of gallery goers and reflections of themselves just as words and art and interpretive responses are lenses that shape one’s vision of the world and minors that are reflections of ourselves.