The Vertical Grids, and Viviana - Autumn 2007

The dominant form of Autumn 2007 is the 4-part vertical grid. When most successful, it leans gently into the wind, so as to keep on going. And it brings to mind the processional friezes from ancient Greece, complete with the split down the middle.

Understanding my work as movement in time has lead naturally to the collaboration with Viviana. The connection between her classical dance and my work is fundamental. Both derive from those classical proportions which in turn find their origin in the body.

Matthias and the Meteorite - 2007

On the 7th of September, in time for my birthday, my meteorite landed in London: this was not by chance, but rather by design, as I had requested this present from Matthias.(1) 

At his home in Bavaria I had admired Matthias’s meteorites, displayed among his other works of art. Most striking, at first, was the way their carved, grid-like structures related to their surroundings.

But it was their conditions of origin – the fact that they were formed under conditions of near-zero gravity, over time – that mattered most. And so I asked for one, thinking that by placing such a structure beside my prints and drawings at the Redfern, something really useful might be shown.

The visual connections could be seen at a glance: all these carved, grid-like surfaces were so similar.

What I hoped, though, was that the viewer might grab hold of their shared quality of weightlessness: for just as the meteorite had acquired its structure under conditions of near-zero gravity, over time, so my work aspires to these conditions.

(1) Matthias Bärmann, writer, curator, friend, collector of meteorites. At his home in Bavaria, I admired his ‘garden of meteorites,’ displayed among his other works of art (including three of my drawings). See his essay ‘Drawing, the embodiment of action’ in McCully, Measure Without Measure, and his essay in the catalogue to the exhibition, ‘August Form 2002’ at Galerie Werner Klein, Cologne, 2003.

Slow Learner 1–32 - 2007

“trial and error           we find the centre” (1)

My first concern in addressing these copper plates was to find the centre. Thinking of Beckett, and of Michelangelo, too, I used those ‘compasses in [my] eyes,’ as recommended. (2) I failed, of course, but next time failed better. And I thought of Eva Hesse, and “that certain pleasure of proving [myself] against perfection”.(3)

Most characteristic of this project, though, was the way I tried to integrate into my work on the plate exactly what I observed in the proofing: I thought that if I, too, could ‘square up’ my plate, and my body; if I could maintain consistent pressure on my graver; and if I could ‘roll’ through the plate with fluidity and ease, then not only would I get a good drawing/gravure, but there would be a nice integrity between the making and the production of the prints.

With my stance wide open now – right leg forward, the left leg poised behind – I hoped to add spring to my lines. Real control sets in only on the fourth day: thus the title of the suite Slow Learner.

(1) Tamar Yoseloff, ‘Marks’, a poem based on the works of Linda Karshan. Published in the artist’s book, Marks, in collaboration with Linda Karshan (Pratt Editions, 2007), and in the author’s collection Fetch (London: Salt Publishing, 2007).

(2) Vasari’s ‘Life of Michelangelo’. Michelangelo said that one should have compasses in one’s eyes, not in one’s hands, because the hand executes but it is the eye which judges.

(3) Lucy Lippard, Eva Hesse (New York: Da Capo, 1992), p. 142.

Summer 2007 - Part II

Tommy writes that I’m a keen swimmer. Yes. I begin each day swimming in the pond – weightless, my body suspended in water. And as I navigate my way through the pond, always breaststroking, I count, and mark out, those same rhythms I’ll continue in the studio.

Swimming, I’d think about the symmetry of my body, and of the human skeleton. And I thought of Saul Bellow’s words: “the universe was inscribed into our very bones. That the human skeleton was itself a hieroglyph.”(1) Looking up the definition of hieroglyph, I was thrilled to learn that, coming from the Greek, HIERO means ‘sacred,’ while GLYPHEN means ‘to carve’. It’s a Greek Thing.(2)

(1) Saul Bellow, ‘Something To Remember Me By’, in Collected Stories (2001).

(2) Linda Karshan, ‘The Greek Thing’ in the exhibition ‘Constellation and Chance’, October 2004

Summer 2007 - In the wake of Copenhagen

(1)These drawings followed in the wake of Copenhagen. Making prints there, between 21-28 June, required endurance and concentration, in the extreme.

This I transported to Connecticut. In my summer studio, positioned upon a square rubber mat (an idea also ‘lifted’ from Copenhagen), I picked up where I had left of. And I kept in mind, too, the way I had integrated into my work on the copperplate exactly what I’d observed in the proofing: on paper, I continued to square up my body, and my sheet on the table; to keep consistent pressure on my graphite; and to roll through my sheet as smoothly as possible.(2) 

So smooth had I become that the excellent alignment of these newest forms surprised me. Comparing them to my earlier ‘figures’ on view at the Tang Museum, (3) so charming with their exaggerated lean, I wondered at this difference of stance.

I soon recognised it to be – quite directly – a marking out of my change of stance: in Autumn 2005, in order to take my longer lines more gracefully through my sheet, I had opened up my posture at the table.(4) Since then, I stand with my right leg striding forward, and the left leg poised behind. Always upright and alert, I move more freely through the sheet, while drawing out these ever-straighter forms.

NOTE: There will, however, always be a lean to my figures. Guided only by natural forces, they cannot but follow “the path taken by the soul of [this] dancer.”(5)

(1) Between 21 and 28 June, 2007, I made 32 new dry-points in Copenhagen with Niels Borck-Jenser. The title of the suite is SLOW LEARNER and it is published by Jean-Yves Noblet Contemporary Prints, New York.

(2) See SLOW LEARNER, my text on this project.

(3) From 18 May to 12 August, my work featured in ‘Alumni Invitational 2’, Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY. This selection of drawings included work made between 1993 and 2005.

(4) See studio jotting, ‘The New York Tour, Autumn 2005’.

(5) Heinrich von Kleist, ‘On the Marionette Theatre’ (1810), translated by Idris Parry, in Essays on Dolls (London: Syrens, 1994). Also see Linda Karshan and Marilyn McCully in McCully, Measure Without Measure, pp. 55–59

Finding the Centre: Dante, Beckett, and Michelangelo - 6 June 2007

“I am as the centre of the circle, to which all parts of the circumference stand in equal relation; you, however, are not so.” Dante, Vita Nuova XII, lines 21–22

Thus Love, in the form of an angel, declares perfection to be his preserve, in the symbolic form of the compass. Te poet, by contrast, must content himself with “circling round this place [the centre], whatever its shape and extent may be” (Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable).

Earlier in Beckett’s novel, the Unnamable had declared that he “likes to think he occupies the centre, but nothing could be less certain”. No. All he and the other mortals can be sure of is that “from centre to circumference… is a far cry, and [he] may well be situated between the two”.

A far cry, indeed. So far, in fact, that to get this measurement wrong spelled disaster for Michelangelo, in Rome. Now 81 years old, he was called back to that city to rescue his three-part vault over St. Peter’s. While he had made a model of the vault to ensure accuracy of construction, its completion was left to less remarkable artists, for whom Michelangelo’s complex and intuitive design was “beyond belief”.

“Instead of a vault with a single centre… There should have been a great number [of centres]. And the circles and squares that come in the middle of their deepest parts [the vaults] have to diminish and increase in so many directions, and to go to so many points, that it is difficult to find a true method.” (1)

Michelangelo knew, as Peirce put it, that by “supposing the rigid exactitude of causation to yield… we gain room to insert mind [or intuition] into our scheme.” (2) Rather than a geometric correctness, he sought an “overall harmony of grace…”, one that even “nature might not present.” (3) And so he recommended that the artist should have compasses in his eyes, not in his hands, because the hand executes, but it is the eye which judges. (4)

(1) These comments are distilled from Vasari’s ‘Life of Michelangelo’

(2) C. S. Peirce, ‘The Doctrine of Necessity Examined’ (1892), in Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel, eds., The Essential Peirce (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992), p. 309.

(3) Vasari.

(4) ibid.

Spring 2007: A Sound Piece for Amina - 4 June 2007

“Do start. By the sound of it.” – LK, Jottings

Drawing is “to follow the sound.”(1) Since August 2002 I became especially alert to the sounds of my drawing. I noticed that if I concentrate on them, I might better stay in pace and in place, and enter that trance-like state so crucial to the work.

These sounds are diverse: there’s the sound of the mark-making itself, both on the paper as well as on the table. (The rhythm is even punched into the air, though this is silent, except in my mind!)

Then there’s the sound of the paper swishing round, and the violent sound of those discarded works as they hit the studio floor.

Most important, though, are the sounds of my feet: there’s the foot-tapping as I stand ‘at the ready’ at my table, and the sound of me marching, or even shuffling around my studio, always to the beats in my head (and body). I can count on them – and I do: they insure that I ‘go on and get on,’ as directed.

This march/shuffle is absolutely quad-like: 1–2–3–4–5–6–7–8– turn. Repeat. Then, at the ‘appointed time,’ I’ll take up my position at the table. (2) 

Here, the rhythms get worked out on the sheet, exactly as I experience them. In the past they were short, and percussive: it sounded like I was ‘beating the drums’. Now, the counts are longer-held, and so, too, are the lines that draw them out.

(1) Linda Karshan, in conversation with Matthias Bärmann, in the catalogue to the exhibition, ‘August Form 2002’ at Galerie Werner Klein, Cologne, 2003.

(2) This summer, 2007, I even positioned myself upon a square, QUAD-like rubber mat, so as to cushion my legs against the concrete floor. The tapping sounds produced here were very assertive.

Eight × 8 moves - Winter 2006/Spring 2007

“Where 1000 variations of three simple movements fill up the time between train and train.” Hugh Kenner, on Beckett.

And so it happened. On the 27th and 28th of February, while making prints at Pratt Editions, in Kent, three simple movements filled up my time between arrival and departure by train.

Down-up-turn, down-up-turn, repeated 8 times for each work. Once I’d succeeded with the special-edition print, twenty further images followed, each the result of those ‘three simple movements’. (1)

Out of twenty, eight were selected to become a portfolio, entitled Eight Moves (2007). And the form? It’s a vertical rectangle divided once down the centre. Or nearly: according to my intuitive self.

(1) This print is called Eight Moves. It accompanies the special edition of Marks, the artist’s book by Linda Karshan and Tamar Yoseloff, published by Pratt Contemporary Art, 2007