● Born a. Darss
Nora Mona Bach, Lucy Teasdale
The Way Through The Woods
7 May – 26 June 2022
The Way through the Woods
Charcoal is not the easiest material to work with. In no time, it changes Nora Mona Bach’s studio into a dusty place. The floor underneath the works is covered with the powder that did not stick to the paper. It is clearly not for convenience that the artist uses loose charcoal (neither as a stick, nor mixed). She does so because of the attraction and the possibilities that charcoal on paper gives her. In its loose form, the black can easily be moved across the paper, retouched where needed. She can alternate between airy and dense areas, take away any darkness that she first created. She might even enjoy the material challenges she has to work through to get to the image. As “getting there” seems part of what her work is about. Something has to be conquered in these works, and in the final result, we are a witness to that process. Only when everything is in place does the artist spray fixer over the drawings to make them stick to the paper.
As a sculptor, Lucy Teasdale finds a challenge in making heavy things look light. Part of her work is cast in bronze, part in a brightly colored composite material called Acrystal, and other pieces are made in porcelain. Often we see figures only roughly shaped, either humans or animals. They are obviously living figures, but not defined in detail, nor with individual traits. It is rather their appearance, posture, or a certain movement that we see, such as a man waving a flag, or a bird diving. In some sculptures, we see the rods that keep the whole thing upright or that connect different parts and prevent them from collapsing. Occasionally, the artist likes to keep such elements visible; not everything has to be clean and polished. It all becomes part of the shape, of the “construction sites” of the imagination that her works present to us. In the figures, we still see the fingers that molded them; the sculptor’s hand remains, just as there is an organic touch to them, as if nature also contributed to their shape by growing them.
It would be far-fetched to suggest that the works of the two artists in this exhibition are related. It is rather that their respective works do not bite or interfere with each other; their works build a clear contrast. This can happen because each artist is rooted in her own practice. Yet behind the visuals, there is something in the process that these artists do share: an interest in accidental form and a natural development of composition. In both their works, balance is important. On one side, there is the artist’s hand aiming to control and shape the image, and on the other side, there are unintended forms that come in during the process. The focus for each artist is not just to define the image, but also to let loose and allow for things to happen. Both artists mix a planned itinerary with an improvisational attitude.
In some of Nora Mona Bach’s work, it is hard to deny the presence of a landscape. There is a heaven or horizon, there are clouds or some bushes, a tree or the surface of water. But then, in other works, or in areas of a work, we cannot be sure what is actually depicted. We see black, grey, dense, light, we see collision of forms and contrast between heavily worked and calmer areas. Atmosphere would be the right word to connect the landscapes with these more abstract parts, and maybe that is even their main point. The artist presents us with a setting that could be the weather, but also a mental state or a mood, or just an expression of forms. It could be a view outside, but it could also be the trace of a memory that is now fixed on paper, a reflection of introspection. When she starts out, the artist has a sense of where she will go, in terms of a light or maybe a melancholic mood. But the actual image that will come out is still unknown. That will be only uncovered in the process of making it. Time is not something you can catch or see, but Bach seems to be driven by the wish to do so: to touch time in her work. One speaks about the dust of time, and that is what is collected in her work, even though it is in an active way, as she is the one dusting. She moves the black powder over the surface, she supports shapes growing and thickening, and she prevents others from appearing at all. Underneath is a curiosity about capturing life in flux, because our experiences can easily disappear from sight.
“The Way through the Woods” is a poem written in 1910 by Rudyard Kipling. For Lucy Teasdale, it provides a good metaphor for what an artist does. The poem is about a trail through the woods that has been covered over time with plants and trees. It used to be there, but only the people who know will be able to find it again. This image of a form that is there and also not there is attractive to the sculptor. Her works often go back to older images that have triggered something in her, such as a photo of Queen Victoria’s daughters in mourning, draped in black around a bust of their deceased father. From this image, the three-dimensional Spanning the Globe (2021) evolved. In another sculpture, The Supremes (2021), there is a different reference to the globe. Here the title comes from a story about Pompey the Great who was generally depicted holding the world, to symbolize his victories. As he was associated with Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony, we find three figures together in Teasdale’s version. Yet their form is quite abstract; the globe could just as easily be a ball, and the figures holding it have the shape of a boot. A lot of Teasdale’s work is rooted in (art) history, in prints or etchings that have caught her attention. She finds in them a reflection of our present situation, and she has an eye for absurd aspects, just as she notes beautiful and dynamic qualities. In order to articulate her perspective, and dust off the specific historic context, she transforms the images freely into her material. At times, she exaggerates in baroque ways, making us guess about the essence within the expressive forms. Between the initial image that inspired the artist, and the sculptures that we see, a lot of history has faded, and new forms have developed. It has been her way through the woods.
Jurriaan Benschop, March 2021
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