Nina Rodin>2013> Circular samples

 

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Circular Samples - taking a hole punch to the museum

date > 2013
media > handmade clamshell box and book, postcards
size > A4 (29 x 21.5 x 7 cm)
status > available

> Circular Samples - taking a large hole punch to the museum:

I have this recurrent dream where I take a very large hole punch to the Museum. In the sombre, serious rooms with velvet ropes or lines drawn at respectful distances from the paintings, I spend hours alone, running my hands over every painting, feeling the brushstrokes of all those painters that came before me, getting as close to the canvases as they would have been.

I imagine what it might have felt like to layer the brushstrokes one over the other, to make the different marks, to cover, correct, make mistakes and get something right - a communion through touch with painters from the past. I admire, envy and resent them. I inhale a smell that is perhaps that of their studios or of the materials they used. Perhaps they just smell old and a bit stale.

In every painting, my gaze gravitates towards one area, the size of my hand. I carefully avoid the represented content and any identifiable object - I am not chasing images. I am drawn instead to texture, marks, layers. The area feels significant to me and I sense that the painter must have lingered there too. Like me, he savoured a particular juxtaposition of colour, a discovery of mark, a certain sequence of layers of paint and glazes.

Perhaps it's a slip of the brush, an accidental discovery, which took him by surprise. Perhaps it's a a laboriously developed way of building up a painting or applying the paint, a delicate nuance in colour but it is about something elemental, to do with the very stuff of painting. I line up the punch carefully so as not to get too much or too little of one mark or of one colour over another - and delicately so as not to scratch the surface.

The cutting is easy and strangely effortless and I savour the moment completely. It is the cutting of something so precious, something so central that through the cut I need to make mine. I walk away from the painting with the sample in my hand and without guilt. In my dream, the painting feels intact: after all nothing has been lost, it is just a resectioning, a new delimitation. The painters, the only ones who ever truly owned the paintings, are dead. But if they can see me, they don't mind. I owe them but they also owe me. Matter is conserved.

In the studio, awake, there is no pleasure to be found in cutting the discarded paintings of others. Instead, it is the chance discovery of a small 12mm steel punch in a hardware store that allows me to live out my dream on postcards. The hammer comes down again and again on the punch. I hold my breath, hitting hard, until the card gives. Where in my dream, there was only quiet contemplation and stillness, in life the sound is jarring, harsh, brutal. The process feels violent but I cannot stop and delight in the destruction. There is rage between the attraction that these paintings exert on me and how I despise their endless reproduction and imitations.


 

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