Dead Ends, Detours and Forest Trails

Artist’s catalogue statement from the solo exhibition So To Live As To Dream:
National Gallery of Victoria, 3 March to 27 May 1990

A natural question arises as to what this dialogue should address. Unlike my pictures, this is written for others, strangers; those whose unfamiliarity is the only thing we are certain to share. Perhaps also a love of images, a cherished reverence for art and its related ways, though that necessarily remains speculative desire.

I would hope to write about things interesting to others. But given the breadth of responses our culture supports, from ideological to psychoanalytic, from symbolic to the personified, from reflexive to indifferent, I don’t rate my chances that high. Nevertheless the hope persists.

There’s room for many traditions, and they should be respected. I make no special claims for the traditions I’m interested in, beyond their relevance and coherence in my own life. (I don’t understand why many understand the art world as some frontier town that ‘isn’t big enough for the two of us’. Diversity after all is the biology of desire, the reason we are here at all. It encourages survival all round). My work claims no earth shattering revelations. I simply make art out of personal necessity. We all collect the richness of human significance in the best ways we know how.

Perhaps I should try to describe my love for the medium, but surely that’s plain to see. My excessive formal refinement is dedicated to that love and admiration. (There’s a great deal embedded in these images, layers I can’t imagine others would ever be interested in, nor even be aware of. This ‘margin of the unknown that is known only to me’ is my investment, solitude that survives even the most brutal or indifferent criticism). It’s that part of my work that remains wholly my own. This priority of individual experience is also my best offering, and probably the only other certainty we might share; investigations of ideas of what it is to have an interest in your own experience.

Although the hope persists, of writing about things interesting to others, all our exchanges will inevitably remain mysterious, isolated, estranged moments. So being unresolved, though unresolvable, I’ve instead tried through selection and placement of images to reflect something, a memory or anticipation, of this experience. Head on, front on (images), encounters of untenable loneliness, mysteries and speculations. I love such mysteries, and I love trying to solve riddles.

The more complex and involved the better. But ultimately it’s the unsolved, insolvable mystery that beckons me back, that holds my desire. For in the end, most explanations, though fascinating, remain less interesting than the mystery itself). It’s about owning up to the elusiveness which envelopes us all, and our need for poetics. (Being less sure of what’s said than how it is said, doesn’t discredit good manners or intentions. Work doesn’t have to be hostile or offensive. It’s made that way).

Most images in this exhibition come from larger bodies of work, series, some finished, some that will never be finished. These images, have come together once again, to tell a revised or abridged version of a different tale. My pictures, I hope, are occasions to reflect, ponder, imagine. It is dreams not reality, illusions not facts, metaphors not propositions, magic not science, that elevates a work of art above mere propaganda or mysticism.

Over the years these works have been created in response to concerns I’ve been taught matter to my family and friends, and so to myself. However fiction is more important than autobiography (though we can learn a good deal from biographies). The beauty of fiction is what it enables. It is the self that might have been, the self becoming, the self discarded, the half self, part self, wished for self. It’s a grand construction with many collaborators. (Our search for love, for affection, is so fraught with disappointment, with loss. We need all the help we can get).

I began wanting to tell you something of interest, of hoped for relevance, but all I conclude with are dead ends, detours, and forest trails. Like the story of a love affair that never existed, though the hope remains.

As always, my work is dedicated to Anna and Andrey.

Copyright Les Wallkling 1990