MELISSA HERRINGTON    STATEMENT  RESUME

     

She makes all of her life and work a passage, a becoming, all kinds of becomings. She stands before her mirror, the glass gone “all soft like gauze,” and wonders if she can push her way through to the other side.  Reaching for a temporary moment that serves as a portal to another world. Reflected and refracted is her reversed image and behind her lies the same room she is standing in but not.  Realities, connected to the real by some means, but distinctly separate.  The simulacra serves as a mirror to the real, but in the process of reflection, certain aspects of the real are altered.  As Baudrillard wrote, “the shadow, the mirror image, haunts the subject like his other, which makes it so that the subject is simultaneously itself and never resembles itself again.”

 

    I want to tell you what it is I think about while I paint, that boundary between the thin edge of understanding and nonsense.1   My paintings utilize contradictory languages through redundant painterly layers, which interrupt the comprehensibility of the figures and symbols employed. It does not consist of meaningless gibberish but is rather its own system of signs which gain their meaning by constantly dramatizing their differences from signs in other systems. The inconsistency between the figure and its rhythmic interruptions and the tension between the figure and its barely differentiated background simultaneously allow and disallow a coherent realization of form from taking hold. This imagery is inlayed and entombed by fusing images together in a random juxtaposition to create a contemporary visual portmanteau.2

 

    I create pictorial spaces, a construction of elements in attempt of slowing down the viewer, changing perspectives, forms and space while reaching for clarity of vision without telling. My paintings come from a place where most of the lights have flickered.  The heavy darkness of the paintings makes me blink and squint. I want to peer into their light- devouring voids, trying to make out the telltale surroundings for traces of gesture.  While trying to figure out where the perspective hollowed-out shapes exist. I suppose it is more phantom than flesh that is within these dense layers of acrylic paint.  My eyes have become accustomed to viewing, a delicate task of refocusing, of starting to see absence as well as presence, to recognizing the slight contrast of a trace. Searching for traces that no longer can be given a name. Do we make sense of the trace as a sign of something no longer and therefore a mark of absence? Marking a space between impression and imprint, a palimpsest.3

 

    Theses recent paintings convey both immediacy and indirectness. The paintings physically protrude beyond two dimensions, occupying both tangible and flat space. The support and the painted image are inseparable. They become paintings that fold in on themselves, caught between the act of formation and deconstruction, referring back to the rectangle itself. ?? Either as moody interiors or floating shapes in disembodied space I am drawn to multivalent moments. These architectural shapes could allude to windows or doors, or empty spaces in a darkened field of color, interior perspectives, or maybe always something- where bits of the world beyond mingle with reflections of the inside. I create structures and space in my painting process that allows for the unexpected, such as working with multiples and or diptychs. Beginning with two elements with distinct visual qualities, I arrange, react and respond to the forms and space created in the adjacent panels. I intend for the pair to depend on, repel and inform one other, creating a sense of imbalance, spontaneity, interruption and tension.

Painted at various times of day, the balance between seen through and reflective surface shifts. A disruptive “rope” like gesture mark could occasionally divide, interiors and exteriors, domestic and worldly, confinement and freedom, self and other.  In this way, too, obscured pencil inscriptions, dense layers of acrylic paint and layers of pigments create layers of residue which heightens the conflict between translucent and mirroring natures, between deep space (the view out) and flat surface (the reflected within) against a semi-unformed ground which usually does not have a horizon line or other indicator of spatial specificity. By obstructing perception of any one thing, I hope to encourage longing for a whole, uncompromised vision.

 

    Although each painting goes through many stages, I strive for an ease and assuredness in which the final paintings are offered. The struggles within the process are not emphasized. Images reveal how female relationships with architectural spaces enfolding on them are ambiguous. An ambiguity that I believe is exemplified in several of the newer paintings in which female figures are depicted in the vicinity of some portal of escape- a door, a window, a transparency of the surface - as it is not always clear whether the figures are attempting to escape or not, trespassing or simply fantasying of it. These images seem to be ambiguous in meaning - hopeful but also pessimistic: the female shapes are ethereal and ghost like, but the spaces are solid and focused.

 

    My aim is to achieve images that are contemplative and evocative with subjective references while at the same time responding to formal issues of picture making.  The conceptual basis of the work and the exploration of process seem to exist simultaneously within each image.  Works are created through the culmination of references, some purely visual, some to do with words, memory and experiences.

 

    In order to view these new paintings significant adjustments in perceptions must be made. The viewer is drawn into the seductive textured surface and then asked to make out the subtle contours of figures and symbols. The inconsistency between the figure and its rhythmic interruptions, and the tension between the figure and its barely differentiated background, allow and disallow it from taking form. Inevitably, the forms push through the surface, not so much by its depiction in color as through the light caught from a distorted vantage point. These painterly disruptions are mnemonic of the stray thoughts that interrupt a continuous contemplation, when the attempt to concentrate on one thing at a time is disrupted by the flight of drifting reflections. These echoes discuss the implications of seeing anew that appears in a field of vision, a space.  We must learn to see differently, perpetually. I perceive an object, but as an internal relation between it and other objects. The form that it takes is the painting’s own.  But it is viewing the painting that triggers it. To attend to a painting is, therefore also, to attend to our own awareness, for the performance of the painting takes place not in the painting but in our eyes. 

 

    I want to tell you what it is I that think about while I paint. I put pigment on the wooden support, in systematic layers to allow the paint to dry. I attempt to give material form to the intangible. I attempt to capture the essence of time, an effect of light, place and experience.  My intent is to utilize and build on painting’s past with a sense of openness and possibility.

 

1. As with Literary nonsense a reference to a genre of literature, whether poetry or prose, that plays with conventions of language and logic through a careful balance of sense and non-sense elements. Its strict adherence to structure is balanced by semantic chaos and play with logic. Usually formal diction and tone are balanced with an inherent topsy-turvy ness and absurdity. The effect of nonsense is often caused by an excess of meaning, rather than a lack of it.

 

      Nonsense is distinct from fantasy, though there are sometimes resemblances between them. While nonsense may employ the strange creatures, other worldly situations, magic, and talking animals of a fantasy, these elements in themselves are not nonsensical. Supernatural phenomena do not create nonsense as long as they have a discernible logic supporting their existence. The distinction lies primarily in the presence of coherence within fantasy. Everything makes sense within the rules of the fantasy world; the nonsense world, on the other hand, has no such coherent system, although it may imply the existence of an inscrutable one, just beyond our grasp. The nature of magic within an imaginary world can serve as an example of this distinction. Fantasy worlds use magic to make everything make sense. Magic is rare in nonsense worlds, but when it does occur, it is a nonsense kind of magic; that is, its magic only adds to the mystery rather than solving anything.

 

Tigges, Wim. ”An Anatomy of Nonsense” in Dutch Quarterly Review 16: 162-85, 1986, pp. 166-7.

2. Portmanteau (IPA: /p?rt'mænto?/), plural portmanteaux, is a word or morpheme that fuses two or more words or word parts to give a combined or loaded new meaning. It is a common misunderstanding that a portmanteau is a mixture of any two words, which is actually known as a blend.

3. The dictionary defines a palimpsest as:

        1. Writing material (as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased; 2: Something having diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface;

 A term used by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, a palimpsest describes the two levels- one overt, the other obscured.  A palimpsest is literally a parchment from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text.   The result is “surface designs conceal or obscure deeper, less socially acceptable levels of meaning.”  Gilbert and Gubar’s notion of textual duplicity as a mark of female writing is akin to Nancy’s Miller suggestion that women both reproduce convention narratives and at the same time, add a defiant ‘emphasis” of their own.   It is also consistent with Elaine Showalter’s location of women within a double cultural zone, where women’s cultural and the dominant culture overlap.

Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer 1979