Figure 1: Artist In The Garden Evading Violence And Failing

Klara du Plessis

Klara du Plessis is a poet and critic residing in Montreal. Her debut collection, Ekke, was released from Palimpsest Press, Spring 2018; and her chapbook, Wax Lyrical—shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Award—was published by Anstruther Press, 2015. Klara curates the Resonance Reading Series, and is the editor for carte blanche. Follow her @ToMakePoesis.


“Destroyed all ‘my paintings.’ Destroyed all ‘my objects.’ Destroyed the work by not doing it. Destroyed the work by overdoing it”

—Rachel Blau DuPlessis from Days and Works

“Sometimes, while painting, something wild gets unleashed. Something of the process of dreams recurs…but with a special kind of violence…To break, squeeze, manipulate, transform, build, open, force, make…all this is a sport and is a moment of love. Hell will belong”

—Etel Adnan from Journey To Mount Tamalpais

“All figures included are based on the same found image, namely the sound wave visualization of the vibrations caused by a belt hitting flesh”

—Klara du Plessis from a footnote in Hell Light Flesh, a yet unpublished book

Figure 2: White Tree

Figure 2: White Tree
Above: Sound wave forest \ Below: Minimalist tree

Above: Sound wave forest

Below: Minimalist tree

Figure 5: Sound wave trees

Figure 5: Sound wave trees

The easel is an exercise in self-
sufficiency.
It straddles the space beneath the tree
that is not cool because the leaves
have been lost and replaced
with diaphanous shadow
twigs and seeds reflect lines
laced with sunlight
in the dust.

The artist goes into the garden.
She is subtly escaping.
Sound waves are a fence
leering behind the ears, recalling
to a scenario, pulling the hair
just slightly like an elastic on a tight
ponytail, back to domesticity
where dominance occurs.
In her oblivion, the artist
imagines a grand time, crystalline
palaces, glacial fairy tale superimposed
upon the yard. This space, which is the yard,
alternates between front and back.
When it is the front, there are two
moderately sized deciduous trees
and between them there is red dust,
before them is a vast expanse.
But when it is the back, it is fenced
in and resembles a garden party,
generally green with lawn
and neighbours who harbour grudges
or are curious. Neither space
seems right for this narrative,
but so goes the flippancy of memory.
(As a child, I can only remember
being scolded for language.
Definitively, the difference between
light and sky has been a motif,
in my language, their pronunciations
a slight hesitation of similarity.
Whenever I articulate either, I see
the expression of anger waver
across the face of my parent,
the disappointment of potential
malpractice. This being specifically
disconcerting considering
that I am by now overly conscious
of their meanings and literally spell
them out in my mind when I speak.
Light translates to illumination,
the quality, the condition of shining.
Sky is celestial, heaven if you will.
The difference between
page and paper has always been
another one. And the grammatical
slide charging from the verb
to the noun for help.)
The artist is evading
the inside of the house,
or rather she is imposing
this evasion. Inside the house
her son is being punished, this ritual
of violence is divorced from her,
complacency of patriarchy
that separates femininity from violence,
then reinstates it surreptitiously,
she doesn’t feel like she needs to be
more present than she is, this corporeal
reality check is too distressing
to experience more closely than sonically.
She needs to get out, remove herself.
This violence, which is every mode
of creation, lining, cutting, carving,
building, regrouping, formulating concerns.

She sets up a fold-up easel
for herself, watching its limbs
mount into an insect or a being
or a person, wooden from the torso down.
She takes a sheet of paper and clips
it to a thin, solid board
and sets it on the easel with a chair
and paint on the table beside her.
She intends to use lines as sketches
for sculptures, for lines on paper
to lead to material lines,
rummaging through air, solid structures
eventually cropping up in bronze perhaps.

But first, collecting the lines,
the outlines of forms, outliers, (liars)
lairs gaping uvula at the back of the throat.
To line a softness, bedding, pink,
comfort in the line, lines
left on the body in discomfort.
Landscape lines. If everything
can be broken down to a dot and that
is the smallest particle of a line,
being can be defined as one long
extension, lines on lines of connection.
Tree lines, leaves, bark, benign
knotted growth of green strength.
Green lines. Green, said to be
between blue and yellow on the colour wheel,
if you include a spot of yellow
on purple, or blue on orange,
or red on green,
or the opposite, it’ll pop
and your painting will be
a successful navigation of directives.
Yellow always akin to gold,
a kind of softened ochre of veld
to halo, a circular verb
going to the head. Whereas
blue signals the sky. Tiny entryway
derivative of so many styles
and artists, including the sky in a wall
or any surface which isn’t the sky,
including the sky in the sky.
Sunlight, which seems to be
both yellow and blue in the sense
of progressing through the spectrum
to a silence of colour, lays it on hard
straight lines of transcendental
nature shining down in fists.

The artist suns herself.
Working with the crack
that always seems to run off-centre
down her canvases.

Canvases being new practice
she dismantles them like sculptures.

Boughs rounding out to the sides
in equal proportions
from a mid-point of symmetry
reverse eyebrows sighing
up to the divine,
thin grey branches deigning
development density,
the centrifugal stem,
metaphysical whips
perpetrating crimes to the air
besides the material quality
the scoops of sky
ladled into themselves.

To continue with a hermeneutic
of green, if the artist punctures
the canvas along its midriff,
would light or the plastic arts seep
through?

Figure 6: Axis of sound wave fence, or rectangular cross section of light as seen through branches

Figure 6: Axis of sound wave fence, or rectangular cross section of light as seen through branches

Figure 7: Bamboo fence contusion

Figure 7: Bamboo fence contusion

The problem with art can be said
to be a gesture that is both
authoritarian and generous.
When the artist
takes matter, builds a fence around it
in the name of the line and represents,
or takes matter into their own hands
and abstracts, what results
is a depiction of power.
In the sense of imposition
and not in the sense of strength.
Nonplussed by the religiosity
of work, vision is inserted into blankness
in a way that can be dark,
and what follows has to be reverted
to stillness to displace creation
in lieu of art.
Take the canvas, paper, clay
the artist’s whimsy boxed up in a form,
transposing headspace onto or into
a medium of composition,
giving that substance no choice
but to absorb this vision, evolving
to belong to its new condition,
believe it, then see that this is
yet again only an ingratiating relapse
into fetish.

Nonetheless
seeing is relational. Wrapped
up in gaping is the embrace, the vision
which looks then becomes sight,
then hovers in the frayed act of seeing,
looking back, a returning gaze
filling the translucence / cornea spatially
which is the experience before
elevating to aureole.

The act of proximity to an artwork,
whether the viewer or the maker,
is exactly that, an activation,
a living force that courses potently
through the eyes and circulates
in the body of flesh. The impulse
to author art, equal to the impasse
of staring passively, is rendered articulate
by the massive capacity
simultaneously to imbibe and engender.
Graciously, the eye’s posture
doesn’t effect sight in the sense that
if one lies on one’s side, the line of sight
will still be straight, and if propping
the head up with a hand,
the slant will right itself to vision.
Eyes roll down the face.
To see with sockets.
To see with cheeks.
(Cheeks tantalize, fixate.
I resist all brutality
in the name of cowardice,
then binge.) Orbs ovulate.
Irises grow and become
gardens. Flowers with their innate
sensuality filtering as lenses
encapsulating everything.
To work exclusively with that
which is organic, to pulse through
topics constantly growing or dying,
to oscillate voluptuously in socializing,
moving, stopping, rotating
continually in medium, between
existing and not, moderating
the garden party of excellence
in society, conversation, and clarity.
The green edits of grande art
clipping away fineness, finesse.
Uncanny when you look at art
and actually feel something in your eyes.

What if mystically,
you were to hurt art?

Here is the rod:

Sound waves rob the air of silence,
or sound waves are imagined
articulating themselves through silence,
or there are no sound waves,
vibrations are muted to a cool breeze,
or there are sound waves, but they aren’t
what you think they are, they don’t
convey accurate sounds,
sound waves, which are just the messenger,
don’t kill the messenger for the message,
or sound waves hitting against objects,
spinning around, refracting and breaking,
into shards that get stuck beneath careless feet,
or sound waves that lie down,
or sound waves that are waves and are gentle
and are rough,
or sound waves that surf their own knowledge
of language,
or sound waves that nominate mountain peaks,
valleys and topography pointing
out muscles, vessels and contours
of bodies and laughing,
or sound waves that grow,
or sound waves that grow upwards
to cultivate gardens, greenery,
flowers, undergrowth, skeletons and
skipping ropes stuck like kites
in their uppermost branches.

Shading the work with a hand
from the sun. Shading it with colour
for the subject to expand on the canvas.
Shadow which by definition
reflects its surroundings,
solicits the potential to deflect,
retain and warp the image.
The artist dips her brush into water
so its clarity stagnates, stuttering elixir
of colour mixing and fracturing,
combing the bristles, refining the surface
to mud tones. Drying her brush with a rag,
she mixes little touches of paint together.
Naples yellow. Sienna. Mars black.
The moment you include white
in paint, you can never remove pastel
from it again.
Eternally tinged with diminutive.
Titanium white, its stark glow
of normality, hard grey ore
filed down into a tube.
She lays the colours side by side
but they spread their gestures,
filing away the edges,
blurring finality of colour into merger.
Intrepid this act of stirring the palette,
tracing combinations of colours
vestiges of what happens in the design.
After a while of responding to surroundings
she stands back, raw umber dawning
on the somber coloration of this canvas,
slow lowering of disdain for what she has done
or not accomplished this time.
Realizing she’s missing foliar green,
blue-green, viridian, teal, forest green.
These trees digressing from liveliness
into livelihood, forgetting their
micro-textured energy, misted rustle,
in favour of failure.
What is this
oasis of dismissal?

(Clearly
I reach my hands directly
into the blue pigment of the sky.)


Pour citer cette page

Klara du Plessis, « Figure 1: Artist In The Garden Evading Violence And Failing »,  MuseMedusa, no 6, 2018, <https://archives.musemedusa.com:443/dossier_6/duplessis/> (Page consultée le 07 December 2022).