Gv Art gallery, London - Generation Exhibition Catalogue

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Exhibition Catalogue that is released in conjunction with the Exhibition titled 'Generation' an Installation by Rosalyn Driscoll and Tereza Stehlkov at GV Art gallery, London from 26 September - 5 October 2013

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  • Generat ion Installation by Rosalyn Driscoll and Tereza Stehlkov

  • GENERATION

    Installation by Rosalyn Driscoll and Tereza Stehlkov

    GV Art gallery, London

    26 September - 5 October 2013

    Every grain of wheat and every maiden contains all its descendants and all her descendants

    an infinite seriesthe abyss of the nucleus.

    Kerenyi and Jung, Essays on the Science of Mythology

  • Front Cover

    Detail from sculptural video installation Generation, 2012

    GENERATION A collaborative work by Rosalyn Driscoll and Tereza Stehlkov Published in 2013 by GV Art gallery, London 49 Chiltern Street London W1U 6LY www.gvart.co.uk Designed by Charles Gollop Publication GV Art gallery, London Essays the Authors All artworks the Artists All images the Artists, courtesy of GV Art gallery, London, except where indicated. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission of the copyright holders and publishers. VISITOR INFORMATION 49 Chiltern Street London W1U 6LY Nearest tube Baker St Tel: 020 8408 9800 Email: info@gvart.co.uk

  • Contents

    Excerpts from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter 1

    Generation: the installation 4

    Artists Tereza Stehlkov and Rosalyn Driscoll talk to writer, Kay Syrad 6

    Excerpt from The Pomegranate by Eavan Boland 14

    Rosalyn Driscoll, Biography & Artist Statement 16

    Tereza Stehlkov, Biography & Artist Statememt 18

    Related Readings 21

    List of Exhibits 22

    Acknowledgments 23

    About GV Art gallery, London 24

  • 1

    Excerpts from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter Translation by Helene Foley

    Demeter I begin to sing, the fair-tressed awesome goddess,

    herself and her slim-ankled daughter whom Hades

    seized; Zeus, heavy-thundering and mighty-voiced, gave her,

    without consent of Demeter of the bright fruit and golden sword,

    as she played with the deep-breasted daughters of Ocean,

    plucking flowers in the lush meadow

    The mountain peaks and the depths of the sea echoed

    in response to her divine voice, and her goddess mother heard.

    Sharp grief seized her heart, and she tore the veil

    on her ambrosial hair with her own hands.

    She cast a dark cloak on her shoulders

    and sped like a bird over dry land and sea,

    searching

    For mortals she ordained a terrible and brutal year

    on the deeply fertile earth. The ground released

    no seed, for bright-crowned Demeter kept it buried.

    In vain the oxen dragged many curved plows down

    the furrows. In vain much white barley fell on the earth

  • 2

    At once he [Hades] urged thoughtful Persephone:

    Go Persephone, to the side of your dark-robed mother,

    keeping the spirit and temper in your breast benign

    Then all day long, their minds at one, they soothed

    each others heart and soul in many ways,

    embracing fondly, and their spirits abandoned grief

    the fields would soon ripple with long ears of grain;

    and the rich furrows would grow heavy on the ground

    with grain to be tied with bands into sheaves.

  • Still from In the Field video, 2012

  • 4

    Generation: the installation

    Czech film-maker Tereza Stehlkov and American sculptor Rosalyn Driscoll merge video and

    sculpture to create a haunting installation about the progression of life through generations of

    women. Drawing on the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, the artists explore the fluid

    exchange between conscious awareness and unconscious forces, and the contradictions be-

    tween possibilities and limitations that lie at the heart of our embodied lives.

    Stehlkov filmed her grandmother, mother, daughter and herself in their country house in Bo-

    hemia, focusing her camera on the bonds and tensions between the generations. Driscoll's or-

    ganic, translucent sculptures, made of rawhide, paper and beeswax, convey the complexities

    of the mother-daughter relationships.

    Stehlkovs videos are projected into Driscolls sculptures, transforming both. The projected

    images animate the sculptures, while their visceral physicality reveals a hidden dimension un-

    der the womens seemingly composed surfaces.

    The installation fills the gallery, moving from the outer world of the house and fields, and de-

    scending to the underworld, a rich, mysterious inner world, where the women seek their way,

    individually and together.

  • Rift detail, 2013

  • 6

    Artists Tereza Stehlkov and Rosalyn Driscoll

    talk to writer, Kay Syrad

    Kay: You are both members of Sensory Sites, an international collective of artists committed to

    exploring the integration of the senses in art making. Can you tell me how this concern takes

    form here, in your examination of life as it progresses through generations of women?

    Tereza: At the simplest level, it is a question of the body, which channels the world to us.

    Having been with a partner who had long term health challenges, I was reminded over and

    over how the experience of the external world either dominatesin moments of losing one's

    body, where the body is in perfect harmony with the external space that envelops it, like the

    experience of swimming in a beautiful warm sea where little effort is needed to stay afloator

    is suppressed by the body, which in turn dominates through pain (physical or emotional),

    obscuring our view of the external world, closing us down: the body an agent of so much

    pleasure and so much pain.

    Motherhood then is a fascinating experience on all these different sensory and sensual levels -

    it is the extending of one's life into the future and the past, beyond one's individual life.

    Becoming a part of this chain is itself a form of mythologizing of life, making it larger,

    impersonal. This experience starts with pregnancy, where much attention is turned inward,

    while birth itself is such a brutal act of separation. But as one is being drawn forward into the

    new life, the more one feels connected to and in need of understanding what came before,

    and one perceives this in a light that is now transformed. I thought of this very much as I was

    spending the summer with my family in Bohemia, where I had the privilege of observing my

    daughter, my mother and my grandmother all in the same room: my daughter playing various

  • 7

    games of clapping hands with her great grandmother; my grandmother, who is so full of life,

    now struggling with hearing and also sight. It is a natural process of course and she has been

    luckier than others. The body, as an instrument of perception, is slowly losing its sharpness and

    precision. A faint veil is falling over the sensory image, making it less vivid. She is retreating,

    almost imperceptibly, into some kind of interior world.

    The cyclical aspect of lifethe feverish process of decay and renewal upon the point of

    existence, so beautifully described by Thomas Mann in The Magic Mountainis embodied in

    the relationship between these women who are an integral part of my bloodline, tied closely to

    me by biology that somehow transcends itself: the initial dependence and basic need is

    transformed into the complexity of love, which already contains the shadow and pain of

    inevitable loss. [1]

    Roz: We chose the Demeter-Persephone story because I could see elements of it playing out

    with Tereza and her daughter, mother and grandmother, as I had lived through it with my own

    daughter, mother and grandmother. Now with two granddaughters by my daughter, the

    successive generations of women assume mythic proportions. All these roles are embedded in

    each of us, the way a woman's eggs develop in her body before she's born. Working with

    Tereza, a woman my own daughter's age, allows me to re-experience these core relationships

    through our collaboration and through my art, and to mythologize them.

    These relationships play out in the body, as Tereza says: holding my baby in my arms,

    wrestling with my teenage daughter, caressing my mother during her dying days, washing my

    grandmother's body after she died. These are somatic, sensory memories. The sculptures distil

    these bodily exchanges into the very place where we meetskin. Skin is both inner and outer

    at the same time. When I was growing up I was taught there is a barrier between inside and

    outside, the senses are separate, the mind and body are distinct, and individuals are isolated.

  • 8

    The second half of my life has been devoted to transcending those divisionssensorily,

    somatically and artistically.

    Gestating my daughter inside myself and then separating in the powerful emergence of birth, is

    a positive experience of the two poles of relationship within which we live. The dynamic

    movement between intimacy and distanceas we engage and withdrawcan be represented

    spatially, sculpturally, as it is in this installation. The sculptures range from womb-like enclosure

    to winnowing baskets that toss grain into the wind. The videos show the generations moving

    apart and coming together.

    Kay: How does the visualsightfit in with this tactile, physical sensibility?

    Roz: When I first started making tactile art twenty years ago, I denigrated sight for its

    distancing, abstracting qualities. I sought to exclude from my art any phenomena lacking tactile

    dimensions, such as light, shadow, colour, transparency, mirroring. But I've come to embrace

    the fullness of sight, which responds to and stimulates the somatic senses: motion, sensations,

    feelings, emotions, balance, even temperature. In our installation, we fuse seeing and feeling.

    We combine ephemeral, moving images with solid, corporeal sculptures. The projected,

    moving light touches, enters and transforms my sculptures. The transformation of the two media

    is like our collaboration, as we penetrate and transform each other's images, artistic media and

    ideas. In the same way that the senses influence and augment each other, we two influence

    and enrich each other's sensibilities.

    Kay: And how is the sensory represented here in what you describe as the tensions between

    surface and interior, world and underworld, conscious and unconscious, life and death?

    Roz: Surface and interior form one of the dichotomies I seek to overcome. In these sculptures,

  • 9

    the skin forms both surface and interior. The shapes look like internal organs. Light lands on the

    surface of the skin, but also penetrates it, the way a fetus can see light through the mother's

    skin.

    World and underworld is another, related dichotomy. I thought using touch in my work was a

    way to reach beyond myself and more fully connect with the world, but to my surprise, touch

    led me below the surface, into the underworld of the body: gut, joints, muscles. It called me to

    engage with the world from my depths. Outside and inside turned inside out.

    We're imagining the underworld not as the Greeks did in antiquity, as the bloodless land of

    the dead, but as the unconscious as the rich, inchoate realm of internal, bodily, emotional

    experience. In our installation, we've reversed the usual imagery of world and underworld

    conscious and unconsciousso the world on the street level of the gallery is sepia-coloured,

    even ghostly; descending the stairs into the underworld, one enters a darker, but more

    textured, embodied, colourful realm. Our videos show the different generations of women

    struggling to find their way in this confusing under-world.

    As for life and death, the skins used in the installation connote real deaththe slaughter of a

    cowbut that death has generated new life through my art. Theres another kind of life and

    death as the moving images give the skin life whilst that skin presages death. The women are in

    their lives, but their lives play out contained by their death. Death and life are fluid rather than

    absolute.

    Tereza: We are very much thinking of the artistic process as a form of submergence into the

    unconscious, a way of opening oneself to its mysterious influences, while at the same time

    directing the flow of its impact so that something articulable can come into the light. The

    descent into the underworld can then be seen as a way of entering a different, subliminal

  • space, where the sensory input from the external world is cut off, forcing you to turn inward,

    towards the bank of your own sensory memory and imagination. Down there the world is

    recreated from within. What happens there in the dark, so to speak always contains an

    element of mystery, because when you return, back to the surface, your perception is different

    from before: what was invisible is made visible, at least momentarily.

    This thought brings me back to somebody I knew quite well who (as a boy of 15) was put into

    solitary confinement in prison, with no access to daylight for about six months. From his prison

    cell he described to me his first encounter with a tree when he was being moved elsewhere. I

    could sense, in the intensity of his description, the vividness and the power of his experience.

    The tree this boy saw was a tree intensified by his months in darkness, longing for the world.

    The impression must have glowed like a beacon of organic life in his sensory deprivation. This

    is how I imagine Persephone would think of a tree when first kidnapped and imprisoned in

    Hades.

    Somebody else I know, an Arctic photographer who spends long periods of time at the North

    Pole, described to me once the experience of landing, after months away on ice. He told me

    the smell of earth that suddenly hit him was quite profound. The whiteness and cold can be an

    equivalent of darkness a similar kind of sensory deprivation. The longing for colour,

    variation, for sensory input, enhances appreciation of them on their return.

    I think of these temporary absences as small rehearsals for the ultimate absence from the

    phenomenal world that is the condition of organic life. Keeping this inevitable fact always

    close can have the effect of heightening everyday experience. It is this painful intensity,

    amongst other things, that I try to convey in my work: the world as seen from a place where

    world is no longer accessible; a dream of being in the worldoften a place experienced more

    vividly than the real world.

    10

  • The exhibition here with Roz is a variation on the theme the jewels of memory islands

    glowing in the darkness; tangible images in the skin and golden wax and paper, yet somehow

    inaccessible; the women in the images moving within a liminal space of their own. There is a

    ritualistic aspect to this process, which has to do with cycles of returning seasons, of

    generations, of comings and goings, of greetings and goodbyes. In my collaboration with Roz,

    a ritual of its own was born. Every summer the four women (my daughter, myself, my mother

    and my grandmother) meet in our house in Southern Bohemia and participate in the ritual of

    filming. And there is, of course, the ritual of working with Roz.

    Kay Syrad, September 2013

    www.kaysyrad.co.uk

    11

  • Descent, detail, 2013

  • Threshold, detail, 2012

  • Excerpt from The Pomegranate

    by Eavan Boland

    14

    I could warn her. There is still a chance.

    The rain is co...