Saturday, October 09, 2010

Silence on Blasket Sound


I spoke yesterday about my long and unrequited love affair with silence. Like a crush from afar on a woman who doesn't know you exist. An achy-breaky sort of Hank-Williams pining.

That's why I suppose I've always had a weak spot for minimalist art. A Mark Rothko, for example, seems to me like a door into that locked room where silence waits. And so it is that I find myself standing in a state of limerence in front of works by Sand T now on display in the college's gallery.

Born in Maylasia, Sand T was educated and has her studio in the U.S. Her current works are executed in epoxy resin, graphite, and paint on clayboard. From a distance, all of the works in the show look like shiny blank squares of solid black or white. Closer, you see draftsmanlike geometrical drawings and bubbles of clear epoxy that change in the light with every movement of the viewer's body.

If I may continue my theme, they are like windows looking in on silence.

More -- much more -- to my liking are the works of my friend Maria Simonds-Gooding, one of Ireland's most respected artists, who lives and has her studio not far from our home in the west of Ireland. Since I met her decades ago her work has become ever simpler in line, but -- to my mind -- ever more evocative of the silent landscapes that are her primary inspiration.

We own, or have given to our kids, a number of Maria's prints. Guests to our house will sometimes stand bewildered in front of a Simonds-Gooding wondering why we have these few lines and washes of pigment on our wall. The same print will send shivers up my spine.

Consider the plasterworks here. To appreciate them you really should see them full-sized, with their rich surface textures apparent. What to say? Absolutely nothing. The only appropriate response is silence. An achy-breaky silence. The silence of the Irish Atlantic landscape, marked as it is with the scratches of innumerable hard-scrabble generations.

Maria has stripped away the clutter and noise of modernity to reveal the substrate of silence which is and always has been the source of our spiritual longing, or, at the very least, the spiritual longing of the silent, forgotten men and women who hoed the soil, piled the stones, and coaxed a meager sustenance from a flinty land, and who worshipped gods who withheld in their divine aloofness even a whisper of recognition.