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Archive for the ‘narrative’ Category

After the Woods: Ernesto Caivano.

In Archetypes, Art, Drawing, narrative on January 5, 2015 at 9:19 pm
Philapore Tug (Due Tension), 2009 4.25 x 5 Inches. Ink, marker and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

Philapore Tug (Due Tension), 2009
4.25 x 5 Inches. Ink, marker and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s fondness of a good yarn. Stories are passed down for generations, sometimes over the course of centuries. We read them in magazines and see them performed on television, in the theatre and on the big screen. We read novels and biographies, picture books and comics. We sing them and celebrate them.

So what place does the fictional narrative have in Fine Art? While most people’s thoughts will immediately flicker to the rapturous brushstrokes of the Pre-Raphaelites or the classical painters, contemporary artist Ernesto Caivano has striking and enigmatic methods of putting his own epic narrative on paper.

Philapore Tug (Due Tension), 2009 4.25 x 5 Inches. Ink, marker and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

Philapore Tug (Due Tension), 2009
4.25 x 5 Inches. Ink, marker and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

It seems that all Caivano needs is some paper and ink. Give him these materials and the outcome will be a delicate, complex and alluring image, both in technique and concept. Take, for instance, Breathing Through the Code, in which we see one of the protagonists in the artist’s ongoing story After the Woods. Her name is Polygon, and one can assume here that she is communicating with her lover-from-afar – the knight Versus – via what Caivano has titled Philapores (they are the birds that you see in the images).

According to Caivano, Polygon and Versus are lovers who were separated a millennia ago. His drawings depict their attempted reunification in the near future on a cosmic, geometrically ambiguous world. Versus’ powers reside in the growth and evolution of plants, Polygon’s in the capacity and possibilities of technology (she herself is epitomised as a spaceship). Their only communication relies on the Philapores. It is these narratives that Caivano illustrates within the scope of Versus’ and Polygon’s wider universe.

Suspension of Elements (A Kind of Reassembly), 2009 18.25 x 45.25 Inches. Ink and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

Suspension of Elements (A Kind of Reassembly), 2009
18.25 x 45.25 Inches. Ink and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

Innumerable possible interpretations lie within each image, as is the case for the narrative as a whole. Brian Sholis writes in Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing (2005) that “the story can be seen as a metaphor for our attempts to reconcile technological development with non-human life and the natural environment”. Visual allusions to molecular physics and fractal geometry reside alongside more literary medieval references, forming an almost archetypal narrative that brims with nostalgia and trepidation.

And yet despite this apparent complexity Caivano is far less ambiguous than his artwork. As to the fate of his protagonists, of the Philapores and of the beautifully sinister cosmos in After the Woods, he is deliberate about not stipulating direct connotations and meanings. Even he doesn’t know how the narrative will end. I suppose that’s the success behind any good story. We can only look on and wait to see whether or not longing will be transformed into reunification. But whilst After the Woods may resemble fairy tales in some respects, fairy tales by nature are not as delectable as one may first assume. After all, there’s nothing more boring than reading a story and seeing the words ‘happily ever after’ written at the end.

You can find more images of Ernesto Caivano’s artwork at the Richard Heller Gallery website.

This post was originally written for Guy.com’s Daily Slice.


Lies, all Lies! (or the problem with trying to write non-fiction).

In fiction, narrative, non fiction, storytelling, Writing on September 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm

‘Saint Jerome Writing’ by Caravaggio, c. 1605-1606, oil on canvas, 112cm x 157cm, Galleria Borghese.
Maybe I should get a skull for my desk…

I can’t really write a blog about how non-fiction is really, really hard to write. This is because I am sure that fiction is also really, really hard to write and I don’t want to turn this into a competition.

So I’ve decided to make this blog about whether or not non-fiction actually exists.

Bear with me. Yes, non-fiction is an expansive genre that you can physically witness by stumbling into any old Waterstones. It encompasses biography, science, politics, self-help, travel, art, how-to books. There is lots and lots of non-fiction around.

Now let me offer even less clarity on the matter: when I am questioning whether or not non-fiction actually exists, I’m referring to narrative non-fiction. Think Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood or Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. These books use techniques associated with fiction writing – scenes, dialogue, action, suspense – to tell emotive and exciting true stories built from memories and various, more tangible sources.

But memories are dubious and biased. Writing narrative non-fiction feels the same as making autobiographical art: you pick the best bits and then make them look even better. Or, if you’re not that kind of person, you siphon the nice bits and make it gritty and dark instead.

Even journalism has fallen prey to this occasionally. Just look at Luke Harding’s article about Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński and his apparent tendency towards fiction in his war reports. I’m not saying that these claims are true. I’m merely questioning whether or not it is possible to write non-fiction without taking advantage of creative license.

For instance, in the book that I’m cobbling together like a perplexed ‘newb’ I have a conversation with my mother. She’s cleaning, I’m not, it’s all very domestic and pleasant. We have a conversation and it gets emotional, we laugh, we cry, etc.

That conversation definitely took place, but it was a year ago. I can’t remember what we said! I remember the gist of it and knowing that I would probably look upon that moment as significant, in that mother/daughter kind of way.

So I guess this is an apology. If my book ever gets published and any of you happen to read it: I’m sorry for lying to you.

At least I think I’m lying. I’m not quite sure.