“Guardian of the Edge”
Visual artists respond to the poetry of Agnes Marton
Court of Justice of the European Union, Gallery, Second Floor
From November 6, 2014 to January 9, 2015
Review by Mia Avramut
Published in issue 40 of The Ofi Press
Image on right: "Wakewalker, Naked" by Alberto Oliviera
Susanne Ahrenkiel (Denmark), Leonor Alvim Brazao (Portugal/USA), Neco Beth (Chile/Spain), Paula Billups (USA), Conrad Bo Superstroke (South Africa), Gabriella Boros (USA), Marcel Anthony Theodore Bosch (Netherlands), Iraida Cano (Guatemala/Spain), Stephanie Dalton (USA), Martinho Dias (Portugal), Olga Dmytrenko (Ukraine/ USA), José Freitas Cruz (Portugal), Rusudan Gobejishvili Khizanishvili (Georgia), Hego Goevert (Germany), Cassandra Gordon-Harris (USA), Graham Keddie (UK), Maria Kjartansdottir (Iceland), Malgorzata Lazarek (Poland), Ilham Badreddine Mahfouz (Syria/USA), Midori McCabe (Japan/USA), Isabelle Mignot (France), Gosha and Toshiyuki Nagashima (Kashmir/Japan/Germany), Neil Nieuwoudt (South Africa), Alberto Oliveira (Brazil), Cathérine Petré (Belgium), Rodrigo Piedrahita (Colombia), Andrea Robinson (UK), Pilar Roldán (Spain), Brigitte Spiegeler (Netherlands), Marie-Helene Stokkink (France), Frantisek Turcsanyi (Slovakia), Emmy Verschoor (Netherlands), Sara Viszlo (Hungary)
Would you wander the streets of Luxembourg City on a slate, drizzly winter day, salute the gilded bronze statue of the Golden Lady, reach the Museum of Modern Art, and promptly cross the street, because the promised feast of artworks and poems resides, in fact, in a gallery at the European Court of Justice, of all places? Of course you would. You pass the security, and the merciful guards switch from French to English, but cannot seem to quite make sense of the impatient air and bubbly familiarity, unusual even for a visitor of the North American persuasion. It might look suspicious, you decide, and make an honest effort to stop thinking of what lies ahead: in the words of Agnes Marton — a poet of playful, sparkling language and imagery— it will be a dream-like journey among “mysterious beings, snakes proud of their new skin, leopards dreaming about their new territories...“ You do state, however, that you are here to see the visual art created in response to Marton’s poetry, and the guards sigh in relief, and echo to each other, again in French: ‘’She’s here for the Exhibition’’. Instant, boundary-defeating understanding. You get a badge, and run upstairs where, printed words in hand, you embark on an intoxicating quest for hidden meanings.
The poem that gives this exhibition its stirring title prefigures a lavish, unreserved, angst-soothing nature:
I paint words for you
Guardian of the Edge,
I shush pain and fear
from your dreams.
Cassandra Gordon Harris’ grayscale palette, startling shadowless silhouettes, and zig-zagging lines, underscore admirably this subdued triumph, and the often fractured sensorium of one destined to perpetual awareness. High branches of the luminous wishing tree harbor a myriad of chances for fulfillment and deliverance.
Whole Kingdoms — animal, human, suprahuman— become one, their borders magically blurred by a consummate poetic sensibility. Lessons are received and transmitted: in being, surviving, closeness. “Wakewalker, Naked” is a striking example. Its fluidity and ineffable quality extend into the subtle, vaporous skin illuminated by Alberto Oliveira , and inform Paula Billups’ refined ‘’Luxembook”, a pentagonal, Asian-influenced collection of haunting drawings.
“Come to think of it, nakedness
reminds me of the lion park.
Everyone wanted the rare white goddess.
The tamer called her The Empire of Closed Eyes.
We were taught to stroke only her back,
keep fear away when playing.
Lions don’t purr, she was just smiling,
then yawned, ‘Haaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.. You should go now,
learn how to touch the human skin;
how to wear yours,
without shame, wide awake.’
Midori McCabe’s art book is an explosion of swirls, splashes, brushes of white, green, or
yellow, on her signature bright red background. What better companion for the poem ‘’Björk”, itself cutting-edge and upbeat?
“Here I am, the Red Stormshaper!
I scream to tame
and whisper to make you summersault with me,
skip up, up, UP!
Drown your voice
in feral fairy tales, a hoarse feast,
Then join in neverhome arias,
What Marton creates here, with the incandescent passion of her poems and vision, is a lyrical space for visual artists skilled at interpreting the poetic message. She lays the foundations of a perennial gallery, where words and images come together in defiance of solitude and time, to guard the advancing edge of merging artistic modalities. The energy is palpable, both innocent and wise, as if bestowed upon the symbolic leopard in “Extracooler Turbo”, a ‘’favorite dancer’’, a “tsunami-fueled tick-tack”:
“I felt so well looked-after.
I fed him my flesh,
cleaned his fur with my own tongue,
slept listening to his tales.”
Rodrigo Piedrahita’s painting captures the dynamics of this feral dyad with serene determination and a hint of humor.
More and more images spring from several corners of the physical world, and gather here in rich silence, to throw new light on a poet’s words. Paintings by Rusudan Gobejishvili Khizanishvili, Susanne Ahrenkiel, Malgorzata Lazarek, Olga Dmytrenko, and many others, will no doubt live in visitors’ memory for a long time. Not surprisingly, you, the early explorer, have trouble deciding to finally leave this space of lustrous confluence, and when you do, it’s well after dark and the gallery is closing. After returning the Court visitor badge, you wonder if buses still run, but decide to not worry: the winter is noticeably less cold, and a bright place exists, packed full of astonishing sounds and colors and shapes, where you can always return. Here, to paraphrase Marton’s “Travelmarvel”, “with fresh, unblinking eyes, you give final sensuous contours to the light.”