Monday, 5 September 2011

The Poetry of Fragments

Return to the Earth: The Poetry of Fragments

‘All that is solid melts into the air’ Karl Marx

The human instinct to collect, preserve and record is vital to the content of this exhibition, as is the sheer magic of the fragmentary form. On a playful level, the child-like impulse to beach-comb is present in the work, with artists taking inspiration variously from pieces of glass and bone, shells and leaves, petals and pebbles - the disconnected language of the landscape. There is also a second layer to this engagement: that of preservation and dissemination; the instinct of the historian, the curator, the archaeologist. We associate the fragment or the specimen with the museum: something to be preserved for the edification of the people, framed in wood and glass. In museums we use fragments to build a story, often speculating on what might have been based on an incomplete fossil skeleton, an architectural fragment or a shard of pottery. In this way fragments from the landscape speak of loss as well as of preservation.

Many of the exhibiting artists have confronted natural decay and frailty in their work, from skulls and bones to delicate and vulnerable plant forms made permanent, as well as more abstract collisions of materials. Some works are vulnerable, others as enduring as heavy boulders or rock faces. It is not just the fabric of the landscape that we read, but the details, which tell the story of the evolving life of the landscape and its inhabitants, both past and present. This tension of presence and absence gives fragmentary forms their poetry, evoking the passing of time.  

We live in a culture of constant updating, replacing, reworking and improving, where the new is valued above the old, and where our technologies, fashions and culture all decline quickly, to be replaced by the new. The thirst for the new that characterised 20th century life has not abated in the 21st century, and this will leave a telling impact in the remains we leave behind. Think of the detritus of modern life, the fragmented symbols of modernity. While the inspiration for this exhibition was the rural landscape, consider also the story that fragments drawn from the modern city would tell….

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