Text by Angela Darby
The International Residency programme at Seacourt Print Workshop offers a selected artist the opportunity to work in a new environment and share their knowledge during a three-month stay at the groups print facility in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Over the past 11 years recipients have included artists from Japan, Canada, USA and across Europe. Altea Grau Vidal from Valencia, Spain is the present recipient and her exhibition, Marchant Parules, contains a selection of combined processes including intaglio, relief, screen-printing, handmade paper and sculptural objects formed from rusted printing plates. The artist identifies the works under four separate headings; Because I know that the dreams are always corrupt, Object Poems, Object Books and Visual Poem.
The number of works, attention to detail and quality of production reveal an intensity of purpose that might benefit from being placed in a larger space. Each work is immaculately crafted with processes allowed an importance uncommon in contemporary practice. Line, mark and gesture combine in rich displays of tone and muted colour. Across the picture plane, repeated rectangular forms compete for dominance with scribbled textures as if the artist is revealing her own struggle between defining structure and free expression; between rules and liberty.
This dynamic also plays out in relation to text and our understanding of its meaning. Poems in poetry books have been rendered illegible through the stitching of thread entangled with wool. Written words may have assigned meanings but they are not the things they describe. They rely on the pre knowledge of the reader to decipher an understanding from what is really only the shadow of an empty shell. The creative re-interpretation of the words by the reader is the essential element in decoding meaning and in the process the reader can be transformed. It is this alteration of consciousness that Grau Vidal’s meditative works celebrates. It does this by being infused with ‘time spent’ and is made more remarkable for having been produced over a two-month period.
Several works are particularly striking. Mi tiempo entre dos olas and El mar sigue moviéndose incorporate the same form echoing an inverted arch. In the first version this is a velvet black form on white, whilst the second is a negative rendition; white on grey. Hovering above the black form are small squares of thin paper scattered with the empty rectangles and scribbled notation described above. Across the white form are marks suggestive of calligraphic strokes imposed on pale indigo rectangles. These rectangles imply the absences of words, their meanings replaced by a shimmering, transcendent colour. Aquí seguimos, a pesar de los humos presents white glyphic symbols on a stark, black background. These personal ideograms communicate in spite of being unreadable in the usual sense. They convey an energetic belief that thought conveyed through writing is an essential element of what it is to be human.
Altea Grau Vidal: Marchant Parules continues at Ards Arts Centre, Newtownards until 2 December.
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Courtesy the artist