Presence of Absence
Serendipity is a magical coincidence, occurring at opportune times, with comforting and apparently effortless results that have become pivotal in our artistic engagements.
As artists and friends, we have enjoyed a long professional and personal relationship in material making, exploring common processes and ideas. We have worked collaboratively many times in the past, combining artworks whilst remaining attentive to each individual process as we examine our lives through making.
A combination of life and world events shifted the calendar for this exhibition which now finds itself in its 4th conceptual iteration from its original inception in 2018. This temporal shift in its development places us in a new world of exploration, and serendipitously, working with very similar materials, reflecting on common themes of belonging and remembrance. For Leena, her Palestinian homeland unreachable during the past two years of disruption and for Louise, a homeland closer to home, reachable in geographic terms but absent of parents. This exhibition does not offer a nostalgic lens, rather, the objects act as evocative, visible place holders that signify home in the absence of its presence.
The paradigm shift in our world during the pandemic has unavoidably and forever changed the contexts and priorities in the ways in which we work and live. The disrupted narratives of what might have been are now displaced with what has become. This is being redefined and reframed within our newly heightened sense of time and place. This thoughtful period has been embedded within the sensitivity and fragility of porcelain as a capturing of indexical making traces and text and form through printmaking in the expanded field.
Our mutual love of porcelain paper clay is the common material ground for this exhibition. Leena as a printmaker found it was an extension to her love of paper. Its pliability, plasticity and fragility when fired, reflected thematically with her ongoing making. Louise’s fascination with folded forms and vessels that hold and give attention to both ideas and experiences, are shaped through this silken material. Porcelain can provide form, surface and be an active constituent in the making process as well as a tacit, but poignant player in the overall result. Its materiality offers translucence and opacity that plays with light to add an extra dimension.
This clay is paper in a viscous form, a material that responds to touch and works with the maker to form objects. It is a sensory material with an ability to transform and reimagine experiences and ideas.
Leena is experimenting with the paper-like structure of this malleable material, printing from substrates as variable as photopolymer plates to embroideries, folding and handling it, as you would paper. The motifs and colours that signify community and identity are held within the surface of the porcelain.
Home is the smell of Zaatar underfoot
Home is the warmth on my forearms in April
Home is the sound of the athaan – call to prayer
Home is the church bells on a Sunday
Home is the smell of cardamon infused coffee, wafting through a window.
Home is ka’ek and baked eggs on a Friday
Home is the chaotic din in the fruit and veg souk
Home is the falafel stall on every corner.
Home is embroideries on clothes and cushions
Home is the word yallah
Home is the word wallah
Home is the word inshallah
Home is the word sha3shabone
Louise is casting folds and structures that exist as both flexible and rigid using the porcelain paper clay, expressing forms and surfaces in unexpected ways. These explore the thin spaces between the then, and the now; the void between having and having once had. This work imagines through porcelain, print and bronze, what that absence might look and feel like. A material memory as viewed, or experienced, from the here and now. These are objects that we can think with and remember with, objects as portals to the past. There is a gap created by what is lost or what should be there, a gap shaped space.
Some of these spaces are filled with markers derived from photographing found objects, everyday things that are immaterial to those outside of that familial space. Material appropriations of family ‘heirlooms’ that exist in the here and now but also have the power to place us in a particular place and time, are reframed to attempt to find the shape of the gap; the shape of the absence. These things, though ordinary in their origin, hold power as they gather importance by their context as things that are passed down through the years and arrive in this time imbued with experience, time, and memory.
Louise Ritchie- Presence of Absence
Objects to remember with. Things that resonate in the present; here, a saucer, an heirloom, the last of my grandmother’s wedding china. Simple, but in her time, a signifier of love.
Cast in bronze, this mirrored saucer remains true in form, with the gold-gilt pattern now lifted from its parent to resonate throughout the objects and materials. A rhythmic narrative with peripheral memories, caught in the corner of an eye, a perpetual riff of remembrance.
Porcelain, enfolded with glimpses of a letter-press poem and below, a satellite fragment clasping the pattern leads to a black porcelain curl, printed with the letters R O B I N; folded, but not fully, letters visible, but only just.
Engravings onto transparent layered glass; the pattern barely visible in the shadows that sigh onto a blush hue borrowed from the central glaze of the wedding saucer.
Paper, laser-etched with the pattern, lace-like and almost slipping off opposite corners, and looking down, an embossed porcelain print, horizontal and quiet.
Fine gold powder rests gently on embossed paper, sitting off-kilter, but alongside its maker – the polymer plate still saturated in gold.
My mother’s poem…her reminder to notice the little things.