Artist Statement: Songs of Lamentation; an elegy

‘We live in time — it holds us and moulds us —but I’ve never felt I understood it very well…Some emotions speed it up, other’s slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing — until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return’ (Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending, 2011).

My meditation on time was a response to my father’s death. Because of my love for him, as part of my process of mourning – and my losing all sense of time – I began to think of ways to memorialize him; to keep him present in his absence.

I framed photographs, collected the objects he had made and given me, found letters from the past representing a younger man than the most recent memory I had of him. I realized also that with his end, there came another loss – the fading of the particular historical period — and with it the feeling for the details of where and when he lived and what he had lived through (1919-2011). With his death, and those of other family members before him, connections to other languages, places and cultures become more fragile and tenuous.

And so I turned to my garden. Gardens can represent a haven and a private world. The living forms that inhabit this world remind us of the transience of our life and our mortality.  They enter from the outside, take root, blossom and then eventually fade leaving little trace; they then repeat this process the following year. I began collecting flowers (primarily from my own garden but also from the neighborhood). 

The flowers I chose were in various stages of decay. Doubling with photographic portraiture, they ‘stand outside of time’, as pressing the flowers stops their degeneration and they become a form of‘holding time’— and, as Helen Ennis has noted, preserve a moment in the broad flow of a lifetime.  I chose to work primarily with the photographic technique of photograms — camera-less photography — for its subtle qualities and how it can represent another form of doubling: dark and light, inside and outside, and absence and presence.

Overall, this work expresses my private thoughts, feelings and experiences of loss, love and mourning, symbolized and externalized through photograms, portraiture and other artifacts. I explore ideas of absence and presence, the need for memorializing, and the role of photography in this process.

Songs of Lamentation; an elegy

Exhibited in situ: The Gallery, St Kilda Town Hall, Victoria, Australia.

24 April - 22nd May 2013.

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