This work is driven by a combination of anthropological curiosity and a fascination with imagined worlds. By anthropological curiosity I mean less what it is to be human than what it is to be non-human, or rather in contact with such invisible forces and magical creatures of cultural lore and ritual. What stories about giants, other worlds, or the shaman contacting his ancestors through ritual means might reveal about life out of the ordinary. In thinking about the accessories to such lore, how do we actually know these contacts or talismanic forces are not true when for instance the only thing that stops someone from breaking that oath is the repercussions from invisible forces?

Low art materials, such as scrap-booking paper, discarded clothing and op-shop finds referencing the ordinary materiality of the social world, given prominence in previous movements like Arte Povera, are employed to create personal, spiritual and alternate historical narratives. Works emerge that don’t lend themselves to definitive interpretations but which open to suggestions of the fantastical, if malformed, where ritual or weird magic takes place. These folkloric qualities find similarities in contemporaries such as Francis Upritchard and Mikala Dwyer.

In applying the exercise of automatic drawing established by surrealist artists like Andre Masson to explore the unconscious, the creative process is begun. Rather than the dreamy state of hypnagogia – a state between awake and asleep favoured by the surrealists – the unconscious is entered by immersing myself in a natural environment, such as walking through Tarwharanui Reserve. Bodily senses are heightened, shutting off the rational mind and giving over to a tacit knowledge between the physicality of self and environment.

In the studio, shapes taken from the automatic drawings are defined by colour, sourced from the low art hobby of scrapbooking.  A new pictographic language is forming. In attempting to make a new language, there is an interest in exploring the limits of any, with a nod to Paul Klee and the invention of his own personal abstract pictorial language. Although conscious thought is eschewed in the making of these pictograph-like forms, they are suggestive as carriers of word or thought. They also convey an interest in the act of pareiodolia being brought into play: the act of seeing an image in something which is not intentionally there.

Clay is chosen as a drawing tool for its ability to register the pressures of the body and as a material that lends itself to fast intuitive making. Ceremonial vessels such as oath-taking objects suggest the fetishistic where they are understood to bind the handler to something supernatural.

With all this, the practice attempts to open up the space between art object and fetish, with all its associations to a lost world of lore and ritual that might reveal alternatives to a life that is out of the ordinary.


Paula Friis 23-6-17



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