Robin Smith-Peck – Placing
“Perhaps my favorite sensation in the studio emerges from the total focus and commitment to something outside myself. There’s a point in the play where something clicks and my role becomes the facilitator of the piece. It’s a moment when I commit to the relationship before me and I work to complete the object that will carry that sensation out into the world without me. It requires me to employ all the skills that I’ve acquired over the years and develop new ones to meet the specific needs of each piece. It is total immersion.”
Jonah, Motherwell and Total Immersion
It began with a house or was it a home or was it a diagram of relationships? Either way, it began with a rectangular shape and I wanted that shape to escape the holds of gravity. So I swiped the bottom edge with a curving stroke and suddenly it floated. Once this compound shape could pivot around the picture plane I was free to play, allowing chance to create the place for beginning.
In my studio these places manifest as shards of paper images littering the studio table and floor. In my peripheral vision I catch accidental encounters. Once I commit to a captured relationship I can build meaning.
I think in associations – this reminds me of that – which might mean this or lead to that. So after I had stroked the house I couldn’t help but find associations between my ‘floating house’ and an ‘ark’. I’ve been playing with ‘shelters’ and ‘big fish’ on and off for 35 years, so eventually that combined association landed me in the Book of Jonah.
Meanwhile, I play in the studio daily creating temporary relationships and associations. At one point I had noticed that the strips of old prints laid out together created a composition that read across like a journey. In addition I began to break through the edges curious as to what this would do spatially. In the history of printmaking there is a particular type of print called a processional print. It is a long rectangular format designed to depict a parade or procession of something triumphal and installed like a frieze. Playing with this idea I was curious as to how pattern in procession would read so I created these processional patterns and then began tossing shapes and forms across the surface, shifting and placing them to create a swirling motion within the rectangle.
I draw, I paint, I carve, I cut, I tear and I place. In many ways these are the skills of printmaking. Digital printmaking is a kind of animation of these processes. At the core, I have an intense curiosity about how meaning is created through relationships. As Motherwell wrote in his 1946 essay ‘Beyond the Aesthetic’;
“The passions are a kind of thirst, inexorable and intense, for certain feelings or felt states. To find or invent “objects” (which are, more strictly speaking, relational structures) whose felt quality satisfies the passions – that for me is the activity of the artist, an activity which does not cease even in sleep. No wonder the artist is constantly placing and displacing, relating and rupturing relations; his task is to find a complex of qualities whose feeling is just right – veering toward the unknown and chaos, yet ordered and related in order to be apprehended.”
They felt joyous and reminded me of Talmudic scholar Louis Ginzberg’s writings on Jonah’s journey in the belly of the great fish. In Ginzberg’s Legends of the Bible he tells the story of Jonah saving the fish from the leviathan and “ to show his gratitude, the fish carried Jonah whithersoever there was a sight to be seen.” I loved looking at the experience of being engulfed by something as an opportunity to witness and to wonder.
As I composed and constructed the pieces I was also struck with how the wax reminded me of the colour and sheen of whale blubber hence the title ‘Belliedancing’ – it’s like dancing in the belly or going with your ‘gut’ instincts.