The Canadian Art Database

Yvonne Lammerich

Eva Brandl: Faust, Extraits et autres speculations

Centre d'exposition de Saint-Hyacinthe, Nov. 15 - Dec. 21 1998.

Parachute, July - Sept. 1999.
[ 1,110 words ]

Growing up with Faust instills a magical belief in a world as an open book whose every page explodes with alchemical possibilities. Inevitably the character of the reader, whether child or adult, takes on the role of a speculative or, better known today, an occultist. Eva Brandl's exhibition Faust, Extraits et autres speculations, presents a number of works from her oeuvre, like translucent pages from 'her book of speculations' which, as they are silently turned implode, averting the eyes from the gaze that informs about what art is to what art does.

Brandl's practice diverges from static considerations to thoughts about the dynamics of how objects work and how they are organized. Her practice has a counterpart in contemporary philosophical and scientific theories of evolution. The initial conception and preliminary realization of Brandl's objects and images occur independently of each other. In time the objects reveal themselves to her and she constructs dialogues between them. Her reflections successfully bridge the traditional belief in what has appeared to be irrefutable evidence of creative forethought (by design) and the more contemporary understanding in which creation has no inherent direction or purpose, and heritable links change randomly in respect to need.

It is just this need by which Brandl, through eloquently articulated speculations, draws the observer in with a complicity at the most personal and intimate level at which the question arises; how can a blind purpose and directionless process lead to a functioning organism, a functioning world?

In all of Brandl's production the answer to this question is given in the form of an echo or innate motion; the audience conspires to define the relationship of the objects and images like Aristotle's definition of the sword, not as the thing made out of steel, or metal, but by the movement it makes. Blind sight then is not what is lacking in the not-seeing, but that which is projected as its potential. For Brandl, Faust's speculations are exactly that.

The blindman's spell (1997), more than any other work in the exhibition, directs in understanding this movement or shift from image to object with its speculative existential character that has always marked Brandl's investigations. Presented like a theatrical stage suspended in a void, the image of a hooded, white-robed sorcerer, blindly pointing, stands precariously near the edge of a table amongst six balls. There is no sense of time or context for this spotlit table other than the stillness in its suspended moment. The bottom edge of the photographic image is arrested abruptly by a deep red, felt-covered plank. With an almost imperceptible shiver it absorbs the sound of the shift from the image to the real material world in which two wooden balls appear on a wooden bench. This kind of perceptual and conceptual displacement, underscores all of the elements in this exhibition.

For example, le drame du savant (1994) illuminates the potential nature of objects as in an ambulatory dream. An ensemble of archetypes of simple and direct signs juxtaposed on the gallery floor, speaks as a fragment of time in the form of a section of a spiral staircase. A wooden polyhedron clad in zinc can be seen as defining limits of space and a turned wooden cone covered in bronzed wax presents the paradoxical relation of the haptic and the untouchable or infinite. These three elements precipitate the drama of narrative making, of potential in both rupture and continuity, forsaking the sign for the enigmatic or elusive.

Les errances (1994) is a series of extended descending wooden tables that slide out of each other in the sweep of a curve. Here Brandl studies the minute shifts and slips in the potential of deep emotive experience. Stratas of geo-memory, whose fragments are torn from their syntax and whose assorted shapes of stone slabs are inscribed with marks, speak of their belonging erstwhile. A large hand-sized brass sphere is (temporarily) located on the second to last protracted table. Its presence implores listening to its staccato like descent from one level to another and while, like memory, it rolls forward with centrifugal egocentric gravity, it is with an effort that it must be carried back, back as a way of tracing forward, retracing, the only link to continuity.

In Interlude d'Hélène (1994), a volume in cast iron takes on the double identity of cocoon and seed. Adjacent on an inclined table, in a state between rolling up and unrolling, a large black-and-white photograph bears the image of a solitary dried oak leaf floating in a large pictorial void. Touched with a fathomless sense of abandonment and disequilibrium, there is a call to stand witness to the yielding of the seeds' provenance to the primal current. While all of Brandl's works are imbued with the simultaneity of corporal-physical material presence and potential, they are also always moving between the object's apparition and dissolution.

Brandl never lets us forget the body's capacity for empathy. The presence of movement mimics the body's falling and rising, the holding on and the letting go of emotive breathing. In the most recent ensemble, eaux d'artifice (1998), two large, black-and-white photographs are draped over tall vertical supports representing two lexical items. The photo on the right presents a pair of legs cut off by its frame just above the knees, seemingly hanging without support in a black infinite field paradoxically simulating the sensation of ascension. The photo on the right is of a hand and part of an arm suspended also in darkness; however, it falls with all the weight, desire and gravity of reaching. Both legs and arm are covered in what appears to be white petals or weeping, flaking scars which either cling to or depart the limb's derma. Accompanying this diptych is a cone / well shaped volume whose tactile and skin-like top surface is indented with ball like scoops. It is as though by complete chance the origin of the blind man's wooden spheres are discovered.

This corpus of elements transubstantiates the body's empathy with the collective works' suspended meanings, where movements are choreographed in formal resonance, exact in their conception, precise in their execution and clear in their position. The power of this exhibition brings home not only human vulnerability but also a sense of perceptual and conceptual transparency which reverberates with painful abandonment to change. In both ego- and allocentric relationship to existence, Brandl sensitizes her audience through openness to the subsonic and ambisonic whispers of emotive shifts and rifts whose fragments of memory are recorded and time desperately fuses.

Parachute, July - Sept. 1999.

Text: © Yvonne Lammerich. All rights reserved.

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