Enfolding    

Pretoria Art Association, Mackie Street: 3 to 19 September 2020 

Opening address Enfolding by Mandy Conidaris  (Director of outoftheCUBE art platform)

Selcted work at EDG2020 Art Gallery

Gallery press release (extract from the opening)
The exhibition Enfolding is a visual echo of bittersweet memories and loss.  Reflecting on sites and entities enveloped in experiences that are both traumatic and comforting, the works turn remembrances into tangible forms.  Her creative process - working with multiple layers of ink or paint washes, rendering some images softly and others more precisely and specific - resembles her memory process.
Featuring drawings, prints and paintings, this exhibition contains two themes tied to the central idea of awareness of grief as enfolded in layers.  One theme deals with experiences of melancholy caused by reflecting on familiar places and mundane objects - a dam, a rock, a hospital room.  These transcend their ordinariness through association and rich mood.  Another theme deals with a series titled Forest for my love, which originates from the physical site of a park where trees were planted as an act of remembrance. The artworks reflect on healing rituals and embrace life’s overwhelming ambiguities – the quiet value of care given in hope, the sense of desolation when faced with the reality of mortality, and the pensive meditation on the gravity of kindness.
 
Selected views of the installation in the gallery revealing sub-themes and groupings

 Mourning and transcendence.These sketches and paintings captures fragments of places from weekend visits, ink drawings of hospital rooms and photographs of details of life-preserving equipment. They are images of sorrow, witnessing withering transient life, yet speak of particular care and devotion.

Pointing to the complexities of our lived experience, the exhibition title of “Enfolding” also finds an echo in Gilles Deleuze' (1993) writing on The fold: Leibniz and the Baroque.  As such the abstraction within works becomes an attempt to grapple with enfolding meaning and searches for a measure of insight into the journey we travel in our bodies. Deleuze (1993: 86) describes the human being as "monad" (an indivisible entity), who is a full expression of the "world, but obscurely and dimly because it is finite and the world is infinite...It is as if the depths of every monad were made from an infinity of tiny folds (inflections) endlessly furling unfurling in every direction, so that the monad's spontaneity resembles that of agitated sleepers who twist and turn on their mattresses."  Apart from the literal reference to folds and its implied complexity that relates to the theme of this exhibition, the works find resonance in the tone of dissonance as expressed in the fragmentation and sombre greys. Works such as Sorrow, Reading Harari: 21 lessons, and At the foot of the bed relate closely to deep-felt movement of shifting , seen in the organic shapes of the compositions and tension of layered spaces. The thread of all sorrows is compiled of cropped details from Renaissance paintings which portray lamentation, recognising the experience of bereavement as an expression through history. 

Memories are further captured in objects that tell stories of embedded time. Painterly marks and stains in this last series, express the nature of memory to be detailed at times and blurred, murky or entirely cast in darkness at other times.  The phrases We know how to build a dam and To stop a river from flowing, used as two titles of small paintings again refers to Yuval Harari’s (2018) influence, which is an existential lament. In the text Harari follows to writes that for all our knowledge, we do not have the insight of how actions will impact on the future, much like a riverbed downstream from a dam. The unifying links with the fold can be found in layers of sediment, strata in rocks and the fading rhythms of structures.

 

Extract of the poem Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore...

Forest for my love
We walked the streets of cities, trails on mountains and in forests, and the routes of our neighbourhood, sitting for a while in Marula Park. I invited friends and family to plant trees in this park in Lynnwood Manor, allowing each to perform a personal ritual of commemoration. Tshwane Parks approved our trees, agreed on the sites of planting and city workers dug into the rocky soil to create 23 holes.  In drawing followed as a contemplation of the ritual. Although not exhibited I include some documentation of the progress. 

The act was influenced by readings done much earlier in my life on the empowering concepts of Joseph Beuys within the 7000 Oak project, which have always moved me as symbol of time and regeneration. Trauma incidents are markers of time and the Forest for my love project aims to continue as a psychogeography in the humble park in the neighbourhood.

 


Miller’s works are represented in private and public collections, such as Absa, Pretoria Art Museum, Telkom, Centurion City Council, University of the Northwest, UNISA, SAHMS and SASOL.
Interview with art.co.za In the studio with artist Gwen Miller
Also see participation in Freedom day in lockdown https://www.outofthecube.online/freedom-day-in-lockdown
Interview by the Pretoria Art Association. 2020. This week's featured artist: Gwen Miller
Pretoria Art Association 

References:
Deleuze, G. 1993. The fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. Translated by Tom Conley. London: Athlone .
Harari, YN. 2018. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. New York: Spiegel and Grau..

Also see: Naidu-Hofmeester, R. 2020. The quiet of isolation transforms the creative process, in FOCUS Issue 12-13.
In the studio with artist Gwen Miller: Interview with art.co.za https://www.art.co.za/gwenmiller/enfolding/
Labutte, D. 2020. Gwen Miller – The exhibition Enfolding. Outdoorphoto, Art of print blog, 23 September 2020. ​https://www.outdoorphoto.co.za/blog/gwen-miller-the-exhibition-enfolding/