15 – 21 February 1982
Scenes, a drawing installation by Avis Newman will be on view at Matt's Gallery for one week between 15th and 21st February 1982, 2-8pm daily.
Scenes is a visual lyric poem, epic in its dimensions, which encloses us in an imaginary and ambiguous space. This space is not illusionistic but historical: a narrative of seeing, through whose leaps in scale we journey from the diminutive signs of the archaic past, almost embedded in the texture of the work, to the expansive 'presence' of forms which sweep across our field of vision. Scenes reflects the infinite space of our daydreams, those fantasies in which our thoughts drift from the minutiae of immediate sensation into the time and space of memory, and in which desire momentarily captures its unattainable Ideal.
Scenes is about transformation: it re-presents an inaugural moment, that fearful coming-into-being when the self recognises it-self as separate yet inseparable from an unstable world of shifting relations. The bird is a psychic emblem, a leitmotif which is represented in Scenes by its different aspects: soaring free and joyous or displayed aggressively; fractured and part-hidden in the confusion of conflicting elements; or arrested, with limbs braced, in that moment between the possibilities of consummation or annihilation.
The work speaks of the search to relocate meaning in those existing codes of visual representation from which woman-as-author has traditionally been excluded. The sensual, illusionistic conventions of painting are grounded in the desire for possession. How, then, may woman express her own desire and 'aggressivity' under a phallocentric order which has sought to repress her passions; which in both desiring and fearing her sexuality has tragically reified her image as the object of the all-consuming gaze? The artist turns to the anti-illusionism and physical immediacy of drawing, whose potential for expression remains unfettered by tradition. She draws from signs which predate the conditions of patriarchy, and from an activity of making enjoyed before the full force of the Symbolic order confines the child in its predetermined codes of representation. By these means, drawing is sustained as a primary and organic process, an experience whose contents remain in a state of 'revealing', not yet 'revealed'. In contrast to painting which defines that which has been made 'whole' and concrete, drawing expresses the ineffable: that which is still possible.
Consequently, the artist does not present us with finalised 'pictures'; to do so would be to impose a 'resolution' that would limit the extent to which our own associations may articulate with the immediate reality of the work. Instead she confronts us with a play of dualities: quiet rhythms juxtaposed with angry explosions; forms that move gently in and out of focus, or that violently collide and fuse. SCENES may be perceived as conversations whose meanings we glimpse through the ebb and flow of a myriad of voices, and which are finally silenced when we come to rest at the emblematic image of the two birds: the unity of oppositions.
- Jean Fisher