I finally visited the TATE Modern Making Traces galleries yesterday. It was bizarre to be reading the bulbs about trace and gesture and how this evidences the evidence of the artists’ presence at the site of the work as this was exactly the discussion that I wrote about in my MA dissertation without any of the references presented by the gallery.
‘The physical action traced the movement of the body, leaving marks on the canvas as a significant the artist’s presence. In other works figures emerge from or merge into their surroundings. The body here is reimagined, sometimes into anonymous types in whom the viewer may be invited to recognise themselves.’ Matthew Godfrey (room 1)
There is also a comment about the ‘process go mark-making on the limited space of the canvas [becoming] a way of establishing that isolated presence – and, in some cases, a way of fracturing it.’
Both of these ideas have so much fuel for practical making and what I eventually intend for a PHD investigation. The link between marks, figures emerging, merging and a reimagining of the body is clearly evident I the work that I made during both the Trace Dance series and Part 1 of the collaboration. Considering the process of mark making within a boundaries picture plane (canvas or paper) there is something limiting rather than limitless about the process. The lines must turn and overlap each other, wrapping around and entangling. Some of the works were displayed in groups which created the impression of boundaries with less isolation and less separation .
In room 7, Godfrey writes about narrative and challenging associations of the heroic male painter leaving a brushstroke as a trace of his is emotions. He poses the question ‘how might gestural painting be pursued when this narrative is distrusted.’ This actually links with another idea I was thinking about from Arthur Frank which is about stories holding power and being in control…are they trustworthy or do we always suspect stories and narrative? Anyway, back to this at another time. He also asks ‘if gestures were usually assigned to an expressive artist, can a gesture be faked, or non-assignable? I have a feeling that full abstraction falls rather into the male canon where as the body and concepts of boundaries are gendered as female. This idea was linked to the work of Rebecca Horn and there were a couple of relevant points made to this end in room 6. Her ‘hospital drawings’ ‘…investigate the relationship between the body, it’s surrounding space and the senses.’ Also, there is a leap from this to drawings where ‘ the dimensions and reach of the artist’s body provide the parameters within which gestural marks are made.’
So edges are perimeters of a surfaces which has recorded the presence of the artist through their gestures and marks. Authenticity of line is certainly a possible line of enquiry, as well as an investigation into ways of mark making. We can only make marks to the point of the edge of ourselves. The body can be suggested, open and still becoming, or a trace of memory, partial, merging, enveloped. Time to get in the studio!
A few shadow and trace reminders…