An exhibition of work by Louise Sudell, Juliette Murphy, Lesley Yendell and Denys Blacker.
In the exhibition 4 x 4, four artists who arrived in Catalonia in the 1980s have come together to show their work in Ca la Dona, Barcelona. Their works although very different reflect a common interest in the poetic and the metaphysical, and a preoccupation with the fundamental issues of our time as well as questioning the notion of borders, identity and belonging.
“My wing is ready for flight,
I would like to turn back.
If I stayed timeless time
I would have little luck.”
Gershom Sholem Gruß vom Angelus.
Time is central to the experience of suspension and flight that Walter Benjamin describes in his last complete work Theses on the Philosophy of History (1940). Time or tempus is at the heart of the word tempestuous and in the eye of a storm, the wind drops away and there is stillness. In this space we can see Klee’s painting Angelus Novus that belonged to Benjamin and that he imagined as the angel of history, suspended in flight, hanging between the past and the future. Walter Benjamin’s angel has been forced by the strength of the wind and the weakness of his wings to halt in flight. Flung backwards irresistibly towards the future he contemplates the wreckage of the catastrophic past piling up at his feet. As people who have taken flight from the familiarity of their natal country, the four artists in this exhibition have grown accustomed to inhabiting those imaginary spaces that are suspended in the betwixt and between of time and memory and where the sense of identity is blurred.
In Orphic mysticism, Mnemosyne, the Greek mother of the nine muses, is said to have guarded a pool of water in Hades. The dead could drink from the water of the river Lethe and forget all that had ever happened to them before or they could drink from the pool of Mnemosyne which would allow them to see all that was about to pass in their future life, ensuring a reincarnation free from the taints of their past. This strange relationship that memory has with time and experience is something that stretches at the limits of our consciousness. The selection of works in this show are connected by a common interest in such multi-layered examinations of reality and by their capacity to address the de-contextualisation and de-familiarisation that Benjamin was so fond of.
Having travelled beyond their own borders, these artists, whether forced by the strength of the wind or the weakness of wings, are moving backwards toward the uncertain future that faces us all on this planet. Paused in flight, we can all observe the land lying at our feet where the wreckage of the past is piling up, the storm on the horizon behind us, looming. Progress is not a chain of events, and as Benjamin wrote, “the past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again.” The selection of works in this show are such poetic, yet ephemeral images, seized from the past and held together for us to contemplate for a short while at Ca la Dona.