Text commissioned by Visual Artists Ireland for Mar/Apr issue of the Visual Artists' News Sheet 2022
We make an unsubstantial territory, 2020/21, Acrylic on board and dresser hooks, Photograph by Dara McGrath, courtesy the artist and Clonakilty Arts Centre.
“But when we sit together, close… we melt into each other with phrases. We are edged with mist. We make an unsubstantial territory.”1
Art practice often sits here, I think, making an unsubstantial territory, things sitting close to others, gathering into a form that produces a particular frequency of shifting information. I think about painting’s language being situated here, as an intricate system of knowledge production. The ‘building’ of painting, layers of material and support, force me to consider the physical matter of it, and how this matter offers itself. To think of painting as stark matter is somewhat awkward; it becomes unsure of its identity.
I primarily make abstract paintings and three-dimensional objects that appear to echo distinct behaviours of the painted surface. I develop obsessive sensibilities towards a particular tint of colour, dust or appearance of paint on a surface, the weightiness of something or a repeated shape. I try to push painting to break the bounds of its two-dimensional pictorial plane, venturing outwards from here to make sculptural objects that extend from a ‘painterly place’. During this process, a slippage occurs that affords me a position from which to better interrogate how matter holds and offers up its information. I’m curious to what is issued forth from matter, and at which point it stretches outwards, reaching to other disciplines to propose its intelligence, in this instant, existing on the threshold of what we know and the possibility of what we do not.
American theorist, W.J.T. Mitchell, notes: “Objects are the way things appear to a subject – that is, with a name, an identity, a gestalt, or stereotypical template…Things, on the other hand, …[signal] the moment when the object becomes Other…”.2 There is a fleeting moment when an object becomes noticeably othered and vibrant. A formal painting holds this moment internally I think; it invites you into its intimate space, contained by its structural edge, held in the act of representation. Objects assert themselves outward. They wear their qualities externally as a condition for entering into conversation with them. Working between these boundaries I use humble materials, cement, raw canvas, clay, paint and written word to make up the abstract encounters that I present. To propose, to ask for relation to, to not know in public. I try to consider matter through different lenses – the social, the spiritual, the physical, perhaps.
After studying and living abroad, I spent several influential years working in Berlin before attending the Master’s programme in Art and Process at the MTU Crawford College of Art and Design in Cork. For the final show and a consequent solo exhibition at Lismore Castle Arts’ St Carthage Hall in November 2020, I presented groupings of painting and objects that explored ideas around interacting matter and correspondences between human and non-human forces. More recently, I borrowed the title ‘Tropisms’ from an experimental novel by Nathalie Sarraute, for a body of work shown at Clonakilty Arts Centre in September 2021. I was taken with Sarraute’s use of anonymous characters and objects as ‘containers’ to describe sensory action. I was also influenced by Timothy Morten’s concept of Hyperobjects,3 setting out to make a series of ‘hybridised painting objects’, further exploring ideas around sensory research.
I am a grateful recipient of the Arts Council’s Visual Arts Bursary, allowing me a concentrated period of research and collaboration, culminating in the production of an artist’s book. I will invite contributions from individuals in fields such as physics, architecture, language studies and anthropology to investigate how their material explorations, together with art practice, correspond to imagine a different register of knowledge. From here, I expect new concepts to evolve for a practice-led PhD I wish to undertake in the next few years. I am also working with peripheries MEET this year, a blended correspondence programme concluding in a group show at Periphery Space in Gorey School of Art, Wexford, in June.
Natasha Pike is a visual artist working between Cork and West Cork. She is a member of Backwater Artist Group and Network.
1 Virginia Woolf, The Waves (London: Vintage, 2000) p7.
2 Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010) p2.
3 Objects so massively complex and extending beyond the understanding of space and time that we can only conceptualise them, as they are not directly available to our senses for comprehension, as discussed by Daniel Schmachtenberger, The Jim Rutt Show, podcast, September 2020, jimruttshow.com