Moving landscapes

To see these landscapes is like looking into an illusion.  As if the mirage of an ocean frozen with icy snow while its strong waves hadn't quite died down.  There is so much noise, struggle, violence and peacefulness.  In fact, these are not entirely of snow nor ocean water, rather they are depictions of mountains in Kabul.  They are the new drawings by Tacita Dean called Fatigues made in 2012.  Currently they are on view at Marian Goodman Gallery until March 9th.  Initially the drawings were created for a project that she did as part of Documenta (13) in Kassle, Germany. 

Fatigues, 2012
chalk on blackboard
6 panels
Photo taken at the gallery

Fatigues, 2012
chalk on blackboard
6 panels
Photo taken at the gallery

Fatigues, 2012
chalk on blackboard
6 panels
detail
Photo taken at the gallery

Tacita Dean is most known as a filmmaker, her films capture the precious moments of nature gradually and demurely transforms with passage of time until they are no longer to be seen as the same again.  Such as when the orange sun slowly descends until it is hidden behind the horizon between sky and water.  Or, when an old government building in Berlin has been abandoned for years, its slow demise is highlighted by rays of light that shift and change until they finally leave the empty architecture to its lonely façade standing in the plaza. 

All this has been about bringing forth an illusion with the medium of film, light and movement.  The reason I call this posting Moving landscapes, because they also seem to be moving despite without the medium of film.  Although not in the same way as if reeling a strip of film through a projector then watch the frames interposing one after another.  These landscapes move because they are uproarious and the turbulence is obvious when the black and white colors begin shifting and intersecting.  I have always wondered how Tacita Dean has such an ability to produce such moving works.  Perhaps an easier way to answer this question is to ask myself, what my inclinations are and how they are triggered by seeing her work.



Fatigues, 2012
chalk on blackboard
6 panels
Photo taken at the gallery


To begin with these drawings, the mood seems to suggest constant motion and of an ephemerality that is slowly moving toward invisibility.  This feeling is perhaps inherent in the materials that Tacita Dean chose to use which are chalk and blackboard.  Conventionally, anything written in chalk on a black board is not meant to stay permanently but to be erased and start over again.  This poetic gesture of using simple fragile material such as a chalk to depict strong and grand landscape is a metaphor often occurs in her other work.  The metaphor for the transient nature of memory and time.  Not unlike her films, the gradual change in natural occurrences and her poetic perception is prevalent in these drawings.  

For a period of many weeks, Tacita Dean stayed on the site of a former tax office in Kassel and used the two-story space to create a sequential narrative of which the gradual shifts and changes occurred within these mountains.  There are mountain peaks of Hindu Kush and glacial source of the Kabul River.  As the river descend toward Kabul, the snow melt and the rising water brings an annual flood of which its uproarious ups and downs give form to a moving landscape.  

When I say moving landscape I am not pointing to the sheer physical but also the emotional.  While looking at these large drawings, their waves and down-streams also have an affect on the psychological of which carries the implications of a restless struggle within.  

Fatigues, 2012
chalk on blackboard
detail
6 panels
image courtesy Contemporary Art Daily

Fatigues, 2012
chalk on blackboard
detail
6 panels
image courtesy Contemporary Art Daily
For me, the atmosphere of film is also present in these drawing.  Perhaps because I am more familiar with her films, and therefore my perception is slightly skewed as oppose to someone who has not seen many of her films.  An atmosphere of film is that it transforms as to encase the audience in a narrative of which fiction and reality collide into a pandemonium of mixed emotions.  Here is where the usage of words might fall short, for they can only describe the feelings but not exactly able to arouse the feelings.  In my writing about other people's works, I find that sentiment is often easier to convey than the actual offering of an empathy to any emotional experience.  For the emotional experience, you must go and see the work for yourself. 

For Marian Goodman Gallery, there does include one 16mm film.  It is a short film called The Friar's Doodle, 2010.  Tacita Dean made this piece for the Abbey of Santo Domingo in Silos, Spain.  In the film, the camera zooms in on a photocopy of a doodling-drawing given to the artist by a Franciscan friar, Martin Jeffs in the 1970s when Tacita Dean was a schoolgirl.  This piece concludes my posting with innocence, childhood nostalgia and the ever so mesmerizing medium of film.  


IMG 2696 from Chennie Huang on Vimeo.

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