Greek Thing

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

Two Clear Days - Summer 2006

On the 17th and 18th of August, complexity re-entered the work: more movement of my body, remembered there, elaborated itself on the sheet.

But these forms were somehow heightened – even punctuated – as these complex marks-and-moves had learned a lot! Tracking out these smarter moves felt precarious, in the extreme: it was as if nothing was by chance, and yet everything was by chance. (2) I was breathless to get it right down on the page. It helped, though, that these clearer days were also rather cool: with my fan turned of I could better hear, and listen, to the sound of my work. “Listen. Just Listen”.(3) And in that way the rhythm took hold. And it kept me “in that state of perhaps real trance, in which the mind liberated from the pressure of the will is unfolded in symbols”.(4)

1. On a Clear Day, 1973. The title of a suite of prints by Agnes Martin. Matthias Bärmann referred to it in the context of my work, saying, “On a clear day. That’s Linda Karshan weather” (Galerie Biedermann, April 2006).

2. I said this in my artist’s statement, ‘The Assigned Figure, or “existence is a curve”’ in McCully, Measure Without Measure.

3. Studio jottings, ‘Flashing Conviction, Summer 2004’ (6/08/04).

4. Yeats, ‘On the Symbolism of Poetry’. First quoted by me in a footnote in ‘The Greek Thing,’ and thereafer in my jottings