“For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that colour of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The colour of that distance is the colour of an emotion, the colour of solitude and of desire, the colour of there seen from here, the colour of where you are not. And the colour of where you can never go. For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Sporadically, like little irregular eruptions, I receive photo messages from Eloise Kirk on my phone. Often they come in a flurry, like percolating bubbles, mostly without any accompanying text, or maybe sometimes with the occasional minimal non sequitur, like: ‘playing with bits’ or ‘just gave birth to this guy…I think I like him…’
Eloise’s photo messages are like pictures you might take from a car window as you are traveling through a landscape, and, in the quest of capturing a remote mountain looming in the distance (that seems to be constantly moving away from you), you are not exactly successful in an authentic rendering, rather you have managed to capture something of its essence. Eloise’s photos are cropped and without an apparent contextual logic, and there is something paradoxically dynamic about their capture, as if she is trying to apprehend the total presence of something that hasn’t yet formed, by suspending its evolving parts.
These photo messages have been taken in her studio and convey works in progress. Unencumbered by ‘being finished’, they are enigmatic and in a state of materialisation; growing, deforming, becoming erased, reforming, and I am captivated to find myself at any random moment a passenger in her capsule as she navigates her imaginary terrain.
In high school our geology teacher would quote Heraclitis in ancient Greek: Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ, and then translate for us in English: Nature loves to conceal Herself (or, Nature loves to hide). She would answer our questions with questions, which was slightly annoying but I respected the opacity of her stone-walling us, as it enabled her to become the lithic subject she taught.
So we found our agency to anticipate partial geomorphic signs, to think of geology not just as a tectonic cycle of forming and breaking, but as an arcane force that inherently sought to remain something of a mystery. Acquainting us with the secret subterranean realms that exceeded our vision, we came to know deep-focus earthquakes, subduction zones, brittle crusts and liquid earth. Land features that had formed through volcanic eruption, metamorphic folding and metastable states were now visible and compelled attention. She got us thinking about how their mesmerising forms conjured a feeling of the body, a feeling of the feminine, a feeling of the sublime, and how they might be as much located in the physical world around us, as within our own emerging psychological terrain.
These formative adventures in geology established enduring propositions for me:
In witnessing the destabilising of form through a delayed temporality, we measure an affective register as much as the shifting of elements
Geological events and artefacts afford an index of precarity that not only unsettles but compels a reimagining of a relationship to an increasingly unstable world
Geology provides a ground from which we imagine our lives
Eloise has told me about how she likes looking out to a remote horizon occupied by mountainous forms. She is quite discerning about their formal composition, maintaining a distinct notion of what she finds pleasing, and dismisses what she doesn’t. There seems to be an aesthetic code she is working from, based on a collage of visual references she has collated throughout her life, in tandem with her gut instinct.
While filtering out the formal attributes of a landscape, I think she is also exploring the forces within and outside the mountain and her, the precariousness at close range or in the distance, the elemental or complex participation of a body in finite and infinite space.
I think she is feeling the atmospheric distance between herself and the mountains.
As a creative proposition Erin Manning writes ‘becoming-bodies feel-with the world. Feeling-with is not without thought. It is a force of thought. Don’t mistake feeling with emotion. Emotion is the description of an affect, feeling is its force. Affective tone is an environmental resonance of a feeling-in-action, a vibratile force that makes the milieu felt. Feeling is a pulsion to think, and thinking is a pulsion to feel. Thought feels the prospect for concepts within processes that becomes work.’
A burgeoning simulacrum of all the volcanoes, mountains, abysses Eloise has ever seen and imagined are in a state of becoming in her studio. The motion of her body impacts on the material and shape of the work: gestural sweeps form precipitous plaster flanks; delicate, incremental sanding erodes topographical contours, revealing substrate material and collaged pictorial fragments. Thinking through feeling, the works begin to register the presence of her body, taking on their own bodily presence in sympathetic resonance to hers.
Eloise is flexing her capacity to colour; colour as defined as the facility to move, affect, influence. Her geomorphic/amorphic forms loom and hover, receding with a gravitational pull.
The works hold a delicate, architectonic occupation of space. They are simultaneously rock/architecture/body and their presence bids the viewer to enter their space, to use their own body to move around and through, in order to navigate the terrain of the work, tentatively, instinctively, encouraging a corporeal engagement.
Through a palette of invention, precarity and transition, Eloise colours distance, emotion, solitude and desire. Her discerning gaze reveals the far edge of what can be seen; there seen from here, of where we are not and of where we can never go.
SOLNIT, R. (2005). A field guide to getting lost. New York, Viking. Pg 29
MANNING, E. (2008). Creative Propositions for Thought in Motion. Inflexions 1.1 “How is Research-Creation?” www.inflexions.org