Asleep or hallucinating: artistic responses to literature

The final Reading Art talk today rounded off the series nicely, with an excellent talk by Richard Schofield, Lecturer in Visual Communications at BCU. With particular reference to his work ‘I am still asleep’, a response to William Golding’s novel Pincher Martin, he discussed the ways in which an artist might respond to literature, raising some fascinating questions. This work, involving Richard’s immersion in the novel and creative responses to it, is not illustration; rather, he describes it as collaboration (with Faber & Faber’s agreement, if not Golding’s – though I’m sure the writer would have approved). Golding’s writing, often abstract in its descriptions, suggests atmosphere rather than concrete ideas, and it is these to which Richard’s work corresponds.

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An ‘unfixed, or floating narrative’, characteristic of his previous projects, also appears in this work, in text which swoops around the images, virtually transparent.

I was struck by a quotation from Theodore Adorno which exemplifies Richard’s work:

The after-life of artworks […] transpires between a do-not-let-yourself-be-understood and a wanting-to-be-understood: this tension is the atmosphere inhabited by art.

After all, if you want to say something, art isn’t the quickest way to do it – but it might be the most powerful, or creative: atmosphere and ambiguity work together to create this tension. This collaboration allows the artist to use the work of literature as a filter to express his own subjectivity, bringing to it all kinds of other approaches, emotions, interests, etc. As Richard pointed out, visual and conceptual ideas are fused in writing, using a palette of words, which generates ideas. But the words are mechanical, selected from a tool-box of language, while the paint is molecular, about expressing thought in a different medium.

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Richard’s latest work, ‘Slow Wet Tar‘, is on display at the Parkside Building, BCU, now.

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