November 2019‘You Want It Darker’
Acrylic and acrylic spray on linen
︎ Buy book via Kerlin Gallery
Nine of the thirteen paintings in this exhibition have titles prefixed with “a dream of”, and one “dreaming of”. We are firmly rooted in the realm of the nocturnal, the nonlinear, digging deeper into the subconscious, but this need not always be dark. In dreaming of Suzanne (2018), I am sure I can make out the bowed head and exposed breast of a woman, reclining into a sunset. Stark black lines dashed against an all-enveloping peach, it’s a sun-kissed vision charged with jouissance. In the bright, hot, vivid a dream of: A RED THREAD (2018), coiling red paint lashes forth tongue-like from beds of fuzzy peach and frothy white stripes. The work’s fragmentary title and hallucinatory division of space is both compelling and cryptic: do we follow the unspooling red thread? Grasp it? Untangle or unravel it? Red, the most powerful and evocative of all colours, heralds both danger and desire; a red thread could present a warning but also deep connection; some kind of cosmic umbilical cord, connecting us to the universe and every living thing within it.
These primordial bursts of light and colour are met with more subdued but sensuous counterparts. In a dream of: A COIL THAT UNFURLED (2018), sultry peachiness gives way to springing, velvety roles of deep red and blue; coiling gestures that dissipate into smoke rings. The snaking forms of a dream of: LIGHTING UP THE DARK (2018) weave across the canvas like dancers in the night. Some kind of joy is expressed in that hot pink and glinting orange, making swift upwards movements across a dark ground. As these works belie, the arrival of darkness can bring with it a sense of release. The blue hour heralds the beginning of something new, ushers in a freedom; the abandonment of daylight order and rationality allows a new space to open up. This space can be reclaimed for creativity, for playfulness, sexuality, exploration, imagination. Night is associated with the pursuit of pleasure, but also with contemplation, and reflection. A great void of mystery, it has been understood by many cultures to be essentially feminine. There is a power in that.
Can dreaming offer a temporary alternative to the relentless, grinding shitshow of contemporary existence? In sleep, there’s a total loss of self, of controlling order, that might allow us to bend reality into new configurations. Whole universes, imagined circumstances, laws of gravity, loves and fears are simply wiped clean when we wake. Have you ever woken up, only to be met with a feeling of loss, a sense of mourning for the alternate plane you are forced to abandon? Your instinct is to continue dreaming, to try and return to the place you just left, only to learn that what felt so vital a few moments ago has wisped into air. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the beastly Caliban utters some of the most yearning and relatable lines in English literature when he mourns that “when I waked, I cried to dream again”.
Catalogue essay for Liliane Tomasko’s solo exhibition dark goes lightly at Château La Coste, Aix-en-Provence, 21 October – 18 December 2019. More information on the exhibition here. Buy the book here.