I have never written a sentence or a phrase, or paragraph that has transported me like a photo has. Perhaps, I am not very good at using words and better with a camera than a pen or keyboard. I can't imagine words can equal images. If I was asked to make a writer's statement by using an image I think I would fail. Being expected to make a written statement about my photos, feels like an exercise I'm persuaded into doing and I have to suspend my dislike of the idea in order to do it.
Abstract photography (like, abstract painting) is like a parochial sub-language, full of colloquialisms and oddities that make it comparable in some respects to the more universal language of representation and incomprehensible in others. Abstract photography begins from similarities to representational photography – it needs the real world as its material, and then, it veers off along divergent pathways, losing itself in regional discourses, new dialects that the speaker of representational tongues may well struggle to relate with. As an artist of abstract forms – despite trying - I find the dialectic to be often beyond my comprehension.
This is acceptable to me, as abstraction contains elements of escape from the shackles of the world and if language can not easily capture the essence of such images this may allow parts of them to remain free.
At some point after I form a statement about my art-work, I realise that it is inaccurate or only a small part of a larger truth that may never be fully articulated. Then, of course another sentence is required to do some further qualifying or amendment. This process thus far goes on ad infinitum. As I cant see where it may end (and suspect that abstraction is just naturally restless), I have, for now, to accept that words are an attempt to turn pictorial expression into an unnatural version of its former self and consequently one of the least sensible things I could do to them.
“I am Thonninjur (pictured below) and the artist who created me and the collection of abstract images he calls Formshire, won't let us talk about ourselves. His favourite mantra is Edward Hopper’s statement, “If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”
Of course, I do not have a voice, nor the wherewithal to wield a pen or tap a keyboard. Yet, here I am managing to communicate. How odd. Ironic, when I think of how animated he becomes when people speak of what they want their art to talk about, and he points out that "It can’t talk, all it can do is be."
I have made an appearance in public, at an exhibition, and yet I was presented in silence, and if anybody asked about me or the rest of us, he said he couldn't talk about us (in his most polite tone) and occasionally hinted that the enquirer ought to know better than to ask questions in the first place.
Well, I'll tell you a few things: I am the union of materials and light, assembled on a sunny day, in a static caravan, which coupled as the artist’s residence and studio, in a shallow, rural Cornish valley; a location which the artist was deeply attached to. If I had the ability to reflect on matters that seem to concern him, maybe I would feel as much affection for the place as he did, for without its influence, I would not be.
The space in the caravan was served by natural light, entering the room through two large windows. There he worked away for 15 months making us all. I am one of the youngest, made near the end.
He sometimes mentions to people that Buddhist monks used the caravan as a place of retreat, before he arrived. So, perhaps I am the product of Buddhist or meditative energy? Maybe. Perhaps, just a little. The artist is not a Buddhist, by the way, but he always felt the place had a scared air to it, an inspiring something.
We were all made, photographed and dismantled in this space. My material parts in the form I am recorded existed fleetingly. I am a document of my existence, which has been given a name.
I am unable to say much more. The other day the artist was fretting over the possibility that he’ll take years to understand me and the rest of the abstractions in Formshire. His theory is that our art, especially abstraction, is born and exists in the realm of intuition and wildness and that it fights an ongoing conflict with intellect and reason. These latter two keep thinking they have won when, like hunters with guns they shoot their words and conclusions at us and mount us, like a trophy on a wall or a plinth. We, however, always re-animate ourselves, sometimes quickly, sometimes after a longer while and jump down – gaze pityingly upon the artist, half admiring their attempt to petrify us in words, half contemptuous at their futile efforts, made over and over.
Now and then when I look at myself, I wonder if he may have a point.
The caravan was demolished during the summer, 2017.
(The project Formshire is comprised of 34 Photographs, 30 Photographs and Visited With Gleams of the Sun)