Visualizing the verbal.
When I reflect on the image two things from which it cannot be separated come: the rhythm and the vision. The vision, that still and private world which each of us possesses and which others cannot see, is brought to life in rhythm – rhythm being little more than the instinctive movements of the vision as it comes to life and begins its search for the image in a kind of grave, grave of the images of dead passions and their days.
When writing about drawing his father`s corpse as it lay in the coffin the late John Berger reminds us that “one tends to forget that the visual is always a result of an unrepeatable, momentary encounter”, its fragility resulting from the debris of what had been only now to find its way into a new constellation; a constellation made up of not least memory and forgetfulness; those two ever present but easily overlooked operative drives.
In ‘Memory and Forgetting’ (1999), Paul Ricoeur searches for the ethical dimension he believes is connected to the act of memory. In so doing he identifies two registers out of which memory operates or against which it can be questioned. Memory in its relation to the past is a form of knowledge. It makes a claim upon us which in effect can be doubted. Memory or more precisely remembering is also a form of action. Remembering is a form of doing something and this something that it does is connected to forgetfulness and ultimately for Ricoeur to ethics. Memory is a type of action which is itself answerable to a type of knowledge claim; it can be inaccurate or not, it can be wrong. One can accuse memory in ways which are not possible in the case of its twin, the imagination and yet “we have nothing better than memory to guarantee that something has taken place.”
What type of memory action does Anthony Lyttle`s work work out visually? There is initially the sense of the visually abstract. This aspect is enforced by the minimal and almost geometric use of the recursive black and white points in regulative horizontal fields. The adherence to a logic of scale as derivative of the mathematical possibilities inherent in A2 pages also seems to bear this out. However the tidiness of this description very quickly begins to feel more like a disguise. It draws attention to those elements which it cannot account for. In other words the work seems to be very inconsistent, in certain respects, in adopting my description. Principally there is a sense of expressive non-adherence which surfaces in each drawing. The rhythmic flicker of the applied marks ‘stutters’ across the visual field leaving us somewhat in an in-between zone that might be readable in light of the remembered and the forgotten.
This sense of intensive flicker and the rhythm inherent in it connect directly, on the one hand, to the materiality of the works’ production, and in a rather curious twist, also, on the other hand, to an escape from that process. These surfaces remind us of the time and physical effort spent in building up and dealing with the multitudinal and multidirectional repeated gestural marks. Beginning with the opaque surface of ‘layout paper’ Lyttle blacks out, point by point, the initial ground with black marker. Then at a certain stage white pigment is drawn over the black which both retains and partly destroys the preceding layer. These marks in their turn set off a ‘stuttering’ movement across the surface. The resultant effect, for me at least, is a memory sense of those moments when one is on the borderline of fainting, a memory of the event of physiological breakdown.
This memory event seems itself caught up in the intensive relations set up by the repetition and direction of the marks on the paper. It is out of this melee of mark-making however that a quite different and, in a certain sense, separate type of mark becomes apparent. Unlike the general marks which express a gesture in the trace of their movement, this other type appears less to be ‘composed’ but rather ‘organised’ out of what is going on around it. Is this the point at which memory passes over into something else, some other point which till now passed unrecognised? These white, often cubic unspoilt windows, no larger than the white gestures that bop about them and no larger than the black that configure their walls, act as windows or field points between the surface of the drawing and the walls upon which they hang. In other words, the intensive quality of the drawing is itself plugged into the spatial environment in which it its being seen. These ‘plug- in’ points must, on a theoretical level at the very least, open the work from the restrictions of its physical borders. Added to this breaking of confines the purity of these fields sets up a base rhythm that seems to underscore the forgetfulness residing in the act of perception itself. Through using ‘layout paper’ with its opaque and reflective surface as the main structural support, Lyttle then actualises this possibility inherent in the physical properties of the paper, while simultaneously perhaps saving something from the reach of the photographic reproduction.
Speaking of the works in terms of a specific experience or ‘breakdown event’ risks annulling the differences between each drawing. Remaining faithful to the actual works and their use of repetition, however, I believe, will allow us to hold on to what is different within and between each piece. My ‘wager’ in other words is that the works can speak of their separate address to a shared problematic: an address which is also based on a shared rule and its methodological performance.
The shared problem or the common event that the works’ seem to posit is the nature of physiological breakdown which, as event, might be described as being at the border when one thing becomes something other. To me this ‘breakdown event’ (in a mechanical rather than psychological sense) by being extreme also condenses the identity of that which is undergoing the transformation. Lyttle`s work, in its rigorous adherence to an unstated rule, the rule that each image will consist only of the most basic gesture, itself repeated both in itself and across the paper and that the scale of the drawing will adhere to multiples of the A2 format, I believe implies what Deleuze means by an event which sets up series, each standing as a proposition to that event. So on this reading what each of the works has in common is that they follow a rule which does not itself appear in any of the individual drawings, each drawing being a variation of this rule. In fact it is this rule of production which sets up the ‘sameness’ and abstract quality of the series of drawings. However, it is also the repetition within this rule where difference appears. The rule sets in motion the repetition which each drawing employs to account for a specific type or form of activity. The repetition both discovers the essential logic of that activity and also begins to dissolve that essential logic.
But what is it within the repetitive mark which allows it to picture specific formal types of activity while at the same time, at their moment of capture, to dissolve away the pictures` grip? Why does Lyttle`s drawing not lead us into paralysis where what is pictured solidifies? A suggested answer may come from the relations set up between the title of each drawing and the drawings themselves but also, I think, is registered within the pull and push between the act of picturing and remembering and its play with the act of seeing and forgetting. While Lyttle does diverge, at times, away from verbal ascription, the majority of his titles use verbs as proper names. For example, we have the drawings Interlock, (2012) and Accumulation, (2010), Fall, (2012), Moonlight Descending (2015), Weft ,(2012), Thicket, (2015) . Each of these titles can be read as naming a thing. They can simultaneously be seen to name an activity. For example the drawing Interlock is an initial pattern marked out by diagonal strips, iconographically similar to hyphens which repeat the gestural movement from left to right (as you look at the drawing). An additional element, a shorter ‘squat’ mark bridges the small distance between the longer and slightly more fluid horizontal hyphens. The drawing visualises the act of interlocking elements.
The intensive quality of this repeated gesture, of a physical interlock, in combination with its title sets up a sort of hysterical re-iterance which both insists on the logic of the act and simultaneously pushes that logic into a new frame. From this perspective the drawing begins to appear as a diagrammatic map of the pure logic of the act or event of interlocking as such. Interspersed across the drawing are those small, rectangular windows or ‘plug- in’ points which set a tonal and intensive quality to the picture. In this sense Ricoeur`s idea of memory as knowledge is confirmed in grasping the pictures content, in seeing it as picturing an activity. But this content itself begins to melt away as quickly as it appears. The act of perception and its corollary the act of forgetfulness now open the experience up saving it from solidity; the paralysis of the picture. To accurately respond to the image that set it in motion and to return us to that image, the picture and caption play a game of ‘to- and- fro.’
Brian Garvey 2017.
Brian Garvey is an artist and a lecture in Art/Design History and Cultural Studies at the Wexford Campus School of Art and Design, Institute of Technology Carlow. He has exhibited nationally and internationally on themes exploring the relationship between the body and its visual representation and is particularly interested in theories devoted to affectivity and history.
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 17, 2015, 10:00Thicket – Anthony LyttleCross Gallery, Dublin****
Anthony Lyttle was born in Kisumu, Kenya, in 1960, but has spent most of his life in Ireland.
He studied painting at NCADand then, more recently, completed an MFA at Byam Shaw, Central St Martins, London. By then he was best known as aprintmaker, having been a member of Blackchurch Print Studio from 1987. He lives in Co Carlow, and, appropriately enough,his benchmark exhibition, Accumulation, was held at Visual Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow in 2012 as part of Éigse.
His finely detailed work flourished in the huge space of Visual’s main gallery.It flourishes too in the Cross Gallery, where the mostly large pieces that make up his current show, Thicket, are installed. His works fall somewhere between painting and drawing, but lean more towards drawing. The densely patterned surfaces weencounter are cumulatively built up through the application of countless individual marks made on paper. It’s a slow,methodical, iterative process.
He has remarked that the lengthy rhythm of the mark-making informs the eventual appearanceof the compositions. They are intricate, all-over compositions and can superficially appear as thoroughly orderly and even, as though they arewoven on a loom. Weaving is certainly a good analogy and point of reference, but the works are less mathematically precisethan that, and more organic in feeling.
They also have a curious, flickering quality that derives from the way they’re built upfrom the give and take of marks made and marks cancelled: black over white over black over white, to put it at its simplest.So they have an in-between, uncertain quality that slightly unsettles the eye but also keeps it continually interested.In addressing this ambiguity in his essay for Accumulation, Brian Garvey memorably described them as visualising“breakdown events”: moments “when one is on the borderline of fainting”, for example, when one’s normal grasp of things ison the point of dissolution or transformation. Yet their underlying agitation is smoothly contained by their cool, rhythmicstructures. Temperamentally they are related to the work of Agnes Martin or Makiko Nakamura, who similarly embed vastreservoirs of feeling in beautiful, impassive surfaces: emotion recollected in tranquillity.
Until February 28th, crossgallery.ie The Pattern ExchangeTemple Bar Gallery, Dublin****The Pattern Exchange, curated by Rosie Lynch and Hollie Kearns, nods to Temple Bar Gallery’s early history as a shirtfactory. But they take the notion of a pattern well beyond its use in sewing and clothing manufacture. They seem to have inmind the evolution of Temple Bar as a living, urban quarter over time, an evolving site for various overlapping activities, different kinds of production and recreation.Their use of the word “pattern” relates to an influential 1977 book on urban architecture, design and community,APatternLanguage. The book, idealistic and co-operative in spirit, proposed an alternative mode of planning and living, based oncommunal problem-solving and self-determination, and envisages communities as networks of concentric, interlocking and overlapping patterns. The 250-plus patterns that comprise the book range from utterly practical templates to more theoreticalpropositions. Lynch and Kearns sought out artists who have track records in engaging with the communal context in one way or another, inviting them to show existing and perhaps ongoing works, and to take part in a live event, such as delivering a talk orintroducing a screening, during the run of the show. The one notable exception to pre-existing work was a commission. The unorthodox London-based architectural practice Studio Weave was enlisted to rework the gallery entrance; not to dismantle the doorway, but to rethink the space beyond it.They have done rather well, counterintuitively introducing another, inner quasi-doorway, an open screen of tensile, colouredrope, creating an appealing intermediate space, one worth keeping. The ropes are also used in the gallery’s furniture, including the invigilator’s desk. If the rationale is weak – proximity to the docks, essentially, although the hand-dyed cottonalso suggests textiles – the end result is clever, cheerful and effective.
In a similar spirit, Paul Bokslag’s soaring paper cut-out, Resonance, is a gracefully buoyant sculpture that echoes the building’s history, current use, and physical fabric – the atrium space within.Sarah Browne shows a wonderful object not so much found as acquired, a Shetland Islands knitting belt. She traced it after being struck by photographs of Shetland women knitting as they carried baskets of turf. The knitting belt enabled a woman to fix one needle in place, freeing up one hand to hold the turf basket. Hand to Mouth, which will join the knitting belt on view in the gallery, “knits” copies of the photographs with collaged images of contemporary women multitasking. A blanked out clock-face, Zero Hour Contract, is an elegant symbol of the reality of subsistence economies for workers today.Gareth Kennedy’s Ikea Butter Churn for Gneeveguilla sees Ikea tables translated into a butter churn and firkin and buried in the bog, the first of his forays into Folk Fictions. Fiona McDonald’s fascinating, ongoing project on Great South Wall inDublin charts the shrinking public access to the 18th-century, 5.6km wall, a landmark engineering project and long a popularpublic walkway.
Sarah Lincoln’s digital film is part of her wider exploration of the decline of the fishing industry around Ardmore, CoWaterford, although the point of her conflation of geological, industrial and recreational imagery remains vague.Overall, The Pattern Exchange is a very good group show that doesn’t quite fulfil its considerable potential.Rosie Lynch discusses the works in the exhibition in relation to urban development in Dublin today at 5.30pm in the gallery.
Details of an extensive programme of other related events are available online and on site.Until March 28th, templebargallery.com© 20172017 irishtimes.com
Byam Shaw, Central St Martins, University of the Arts London, 2008–2009 MA
National College of Art and Design, Dublin 1980–1984 BA Fine Art, Painting.
2020; Meander: Anthony Lyttle Des Kenny Graphic Studio Gallery Dublin
2018; Par les Trait: Anthony Lyttle, Madlen Herrström, Exuo Gallery Tours, France.
2015; Thicket: Cross Gallery, Dublin.
2012; Accumulation: Eigse 059 Artist. Visual Centre for Contemporary Art. Carlow.
2011; The White Mark: Cross Gallery, Dublin.
2007; Horizons: Norman Gallery, Monksgrange Co Wexford.
2001; Print: John Field Room, National Concert Hall, Dublin.
1993; Falasha: Rubicon Gallery, Dublin.
Berkeley Gallery, Thomaston, Co Kilkenny.
Selected Group Shows and Projects
2022; Exposition Livre Pauvre Priere St Cosme Demuere De Ronsard Tours France.
2021; here/THERE Wuppertal Stadtparkasse Wuppertal Galerie Grölle Pass Projects Wuppertal
Microcosms; Une exposition collective entre bijou contemporain et arts plastiques, à l’atelier mimosa au 26 rue Rabelais,
2019; Here/there: A group exhibition of artists working in Ireland and Germany curated by Anya von Gosseln and Jürgen Groelle Wexford Arts Centre and Wexford Co Council
Nine stones Book Project: artist handmade books and woodblock prints by the 9 Stones Artists Visual Centre for Contemporary Art. Carlow.
Liminal States: A project with residents of the Tramore Direct Provision Centre co-ordinated by artist Alanna O’Kelly
Printworks: Invited artist Droichead Arts Centre.
2018; Akroma Exhibition of drawings by European group of artists. The Latvian Museum of Art Riga
Exposition de DESSINS Collectif de Akroma, 3 Cité Dupertif Thouars Paris
2017; Guest Artist; RHA Annual Exhibition, Gallagher Gallery, Dublin
Exposition de DESSINS Collectif de Akroma, 3 Cité Dupertif Thouars Paris
The London Clinic. Harley St., Marylebone, London. UK.
Opening of the Mercers Institute for Successful Ageing St James Hospital Dublin
2016; RHA Open Studio Drawing Project, RHA Gallagher Gallery Dublin
The Possibilities of Place: The Nine Stones: Visual Centre for Contemporary Art Carlow Ireland
AIRMAIL: Assab One Milan Italy AIRMAIL, Fendereskey Gallery Belfast Northern Ireland
2015; AIRMAIL:Yanagisawa, Tokyo
2014; Guest Artist; RHA Annual Exhibition, Gallagher Gallery, Dublin.
Cluster: curated by Mark St John Ellis, Cross Gallery, Dublin
2013; Repetition: Curated by Margaret O’Brien Monster Truck Gallery Dublin.
2012; In January: Open Window Project Denis Roche.
2011; The Nine Stones: Borris House, Co Carlow.
2010; Through the Back Door: Kunstraum Lichtenstein.
Norman Gallery Wexford Opera Festival, Wexford.
Black and White: Blackchurch Studio Print Gallery, Dublin.
2009; Measures of Autonomy: Bash Studios, London.
MA Show: Byam Shaw, Central St Martins, London.
Interim Show: Byam Shaw, Central St Martins, London.
9 Stone Artists:Norman Gallery, Monksgrange, Co Wexford.
2008; Open Window Project: St James Hospital, Dublin.
2007; Milestones: 25-Year Celebration of The Blackchurch Print Studio, OPW, Dublin.
2006; Inside Outside: Graphic Studio Gallery, Dublin.
2005; The 9 Stones: Norman Gallery, Monksgrange, Co Wexford.
RHA Annual Exhibition: Gallagher Gallery, Dublin.
Southern Lights: Hopewire Gallery, Co Wexford.
2004; Eigse Open: Carlow. Remax Dolmen Award
2003; O’Keefe Gallery, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.
RHA Annual Exhibition, Gallagher Gallery,Dublin.
Impressions: Art of the State, OPW, Dublin.
Composites: Large Scale Print, Original Print Gallery, Dublin.
2002; Holy Show: Chester Beatty Library Dublin.
Irish Print Grafiska Gallery, Stockholm Sweden.
2001;We’re Not Really Here: Project Arts Centre Dublin.
Estampe/Print 2001:France Ireland Print Exchange, Michelle Broutta Gallery, Paris.
Irish Contemporary Print: Kelowa Gallery, BC, Canada.
Reviews and Articles Publications
2021: here/THERE catalogue Kunst in der Sparkasse
2019: Livre Pauvre collaboration with Ciara Healy Musson for Daniel Leuwers Tours France
2017: Interalia online Magazine article ‘Visualising the Verbal’ ( revised essay by Brian Garvey)
2016: The Nine Stones Publication, ‘A Possibility of Place’, text by Cliodhna Shaffrey
2015: Anthony Lyttle’s drawings hold vast reservoirs of feeling below the surface’ Aiden Dunne Irish Times
2012: Anthony Lyttle with introduction Denis Roche, Cross Gallery essay by Brian Garvey ‘Visualising the Verbal’
2009: MA Fine Art Byam Shaw Catalogue, essays by Shama Khanna, Dean Kenning, and Christopher Kul Want