Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hon's indulgent reading spree and reflection on escapism.


Ensemble of books and magazines read.
artists books etc.

It’s almost a year since the renovations of my flat.  It’s been a while since my last blog entry. I have a new job, Director of the FADA Gallery (Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture), University of Johannesburg. We are weeks away from the opening of the 2014 Taiwan Ceramic Biennale - opening reception 2 May 2014.  My ceramic installation with projected animation titled, …….and the ship sails on, will form part of the Wendy Gers’ curated exhibition. I will also do a presentation at the symposium – my talk is titled, Surfaces in a digital age: beyond the gloss. Needless to say, I have been very busy. My greatest concern has been the fact that I have not spent much time drawing or developing the concepts for my next artwork.
 
Latest books read, Siegfried Sassoon a biography by
Max Egremont, Coke, the biography by Natalia Naish &
Jeremy Scott.
Last year I provided insight into my latest work – an artists book, illustrating the work of Joris-Karl Huysmans, Against Nature (A Rebours). I have read two English translations of this literary classic, that in the words of the author Baldick, exploded ‘like a meteorite’ and has enjoyed a cult following ever since. Reading the introductions and prologue to these translations, including reviews and responses to Against Nature, evoked a variety of creative ideas. 
But more importantly, I have also read numerous books, biographies and autobiographies of historical figures whose recluse lives are strikingly similar. More specifically, their lives echo the need to seek adventure, to withdraw from boring society, reality and embrace the unknown, the otherworldly, and for me ultimately ‘virtual paradise’ (Arcadia). This should be seen in the context of my creative aim captured in the following statement.

My creative intention is to draw parallels between one of my most inspiring reads ever, Joris-Karl Huysman’s Against Nature (a Rebours) and contemporary life – seen in the context of a information age and cyberspace. Analogies will be drawn between the main character in Huysman’s book, named Des Esseintes, in particular his response to life at the end of the 19th century. 
In describing the situation, Patric McGuiness wrote in the introduction of one of the translations in my possession, ‘that the Romantic heroes had travelled to exotic places in search of themselves, only to discover that it was themselves they were trying to escape (McGuinness: xviii).’ In the Hero’s case, ‘the quest terminates indoors, the final bastion of the privacy that feeds on itself until there is nothing left’.(McGuinness: xviii).

During the renovations I stayed in a friend’s flat, very close by. The stunning apartment had no TV, or Internet access and as yet I had no smart phone. For three months, even when I moved in to my partly renovated space, I had to find alternative ways of entertaining myself. As the sun set during the cold winter months, the darkness made its presence felt. The apartment was set up on a hill, with a most spectacular view and sunsets. 
However when darkness fell, the mood shifted, every second of every minute brought on a discomforting spell, boosted by the lack of access to new media.  I took to reading in a big way, escaping into a shared life of interesting characters including, the poet and adventurer Rimbaud, the artist Gauguin, art theorist and spy, Anthony Blunt, the eccentric Stephen Tennant and Edmund White’s autobiography titled, My Lives. 
I read as soon as I made and ate dinner (normally before six pm), read until about ten o’clock. Went to sleep and continued reading when I woke up between three and four am. Very soon I got into a routine. Weekends presented more time to read as I escaped into these fascinating lives lived. 

1 comment:

John Shirley said...

Wonderful post Eugene.