A large part of my assemblage-based creative practice is working on paper, specifically in the construction of collaged and painted diagram poems. These poetic piecharts and other non-mathematical, unscientific and ambiguous diagrams explore new potentialities of meaning between recontextualised snippets of readymade text. Words harvested from damaged old books and chosen for their emotive or allusive value, are repurposed as labels for made-up and appropriated diagrams. The charts and diagrams in turn imply emphasis for particular phrases, their visual structure a proxy for the meter, rhythm and flow of conventional poetry.
To accompany the diagram poems in my The Wonderful Pile of Dirt exhibition, I will be presenting a selection of the “devotional objects” pictured above. These small scale assemblages reference sacred art and ritual objects from a variety of traditions. Each item is composed of detritus found on walks through the city – lumps of concrete from building sites, plastic tat from the pavement, yarn tangled in bushes – brought together to create and icon of significance to an unknown worshipper. I am interested in the way in which faith practices permeate daily life, or fail to despite the importance given to them. This line of enquiry was initiated at once by both the lavish church altars and street side shrines encountered during a trip to Italy, and by a newspaper photograph of the ad hoc shrine kept by Deyanov Valentinov Deyanov – who killed a British tourist in a convenience store – in his make shift abode in Tenerife.
I was fascinated by the contrast between belief and action and the shrine’s existence between these two facets. As my diagram poems and devotional object assemblages explore, through sculpture and language, the transcendent in the everyday (or the wonderful amidst the dirty) I hope to engage with this phenomenon. Not to define or explain it, but to describe it and to consider it with empathy.
Work is underway on my collection of diagram poems and small “devotional object” sculptures for a small solo exhibition entitled This Wonderful Pile of Dirt which will be on display in The Allotment Gallery at Greenbelt Festival, Saturday 27th August.
One of the things that I enjoy most about diagram poems is the way that the snippets of text and graphic elements combine to discuss things for which words really aren’t adequate. I’m intrigued by the words of Richard Rohr when he suggests that
“Before 500 BCE, religion and poetry were largely the same thing. People did not presume to be able to define the Mystery. They looked for words that could describe the mystery. Poetry doesn’t claim to be a perfect description as dogma foolishly does.”
Full text here
Similarly to the St Alphege inspired diagram poems with which I started this blog, the works that I am making for This Wonderful Pile of Dirt address ideas of faith, hope, love, doubt and superstition in the face of daily life. For these works, words are chosen for their potential to get under the material of experience and penetrate to the mystery beyond.
It seems the artwork that I posted yesterday was a little too optimistic. Here’s a companion piece to even things out a little:
It’s maybe off topic, since this blog is supposed to just be about the work I was making for POST’s Whitstable show the other week, here’s my voting day contribution to the remain campaign.
So the exhibition (POST’s “Parables Displaced”) was last weekend and a great success with a good 150 visitors or more over two days. Below are a couple of mobile phone photos of my work in situ. I’ve not had a chance to deal with proper photos yet.
Incidentally, there are still a few copies of the booklet of diagram poetry that I created for the show available. I’m selling them in my Etsy shop: matthewjameskay.etsy.com
What’s next? My diagram poems are included in a group exhibition in Denmark this August (“Tastings 3” at KIKssh, Roskilde). I’m showing a selection of devotional objects and diagram poems in a solo exhibition called “This Wonderful Pile of Dirt” on Saturday 27th of August in Greenbelt Festival’s Allotment Gallery (in Kettering). And then there’s Art Rooms in January 2017 – still waiting to hear back on that one…