Thursday, February 12, 2009

Distant Elegies

In 2007 I had an exhibition at the Warrnambool Art Gallery. This exhibition was called Distant Elegies. I also exhibited this body of work at Upstairs Flinders Lane Gallery in 2008.

My Grandmother gave me this box of photos a couple of years ago. At first I was struck by the box, it is an old chocolate box. Inside was more than fifty photos. I am not sure exactly of their origin, but from what I can work out, they were taken by my Grandfather, within a specific time frame in the 1930s, taken around Koroit and Warrnambool, the area that my family is from. I can make out some of the people in the photos, mostly those of my Grandfather and Grandmother, but my experience was that I was looking at an interesting collection of photos of anonymous people. My Father can identify a lot of the people by name, but my experience was more visual than emotional. Saying that, I was acutely aware of my Grandmother in all of this and also in that she had given the collection to me.
At the time I was completing my Masters of Art, which was exhibited as These are the things that hold me here (a house, a vessel, a shell, a ring), mentioned in previous posts. This work was informed by reading The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. Bachelard frequently references the poetry of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke in the Poetics of Space and this led me to reading further work by this poet. I came across a book of poetry by Rilke called The Duino Elegies, begun in 1912. Lines from the first poem in this book of poems informed one of the houses that I made, Willow House.

'If I cried out
who would here me up there
among the angelic orders?

...Every single angel
is terrible!
And since that's the case
I choke back my own
dark birdcall....'

David Young, in the Introduction to the Duino Elegies, writes that " They [the poems] are about what it really means to be human."

What seemed to happen for me was that reading this book of poetry seemed to coincide with me receiving the box of photos from my Grandmother. The experience of one informed that of the other. Straight away I saw a series of paintings that was a result of both things, the poetry and the photos. There are ten poems in the Duino Elegies. I choose ten photos from the collection of photos and created ten works that responded to both. I thought that if I put up images of this work, it would be important to me to introduce it first.