Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Emily Falvey's essay, part 2

That which strikes the eye breaks its orbit and sends it into space. Crackle on the surface of formalist paintings has this effect - it strikes at the heart of pure painting, picketing its surface with textures and sonorities in a kind of multidimensional revenge. This sort of orbital strike also resounds in a work like Walker’s The Ottawa Airport and Railway Lands Seen from a Satellite in Space, which depicts a celestial view of Ottawa’s transportation system, reducing it to a formal pattern. The constellation of nails that holds the composition together also inflects it with a residual percussion, a rhythm that is palpable, just as written music embodies notes that one hears in silence. Diagrams are equally paradoxical phenomena, conveying movement through stillness in the way that Walker imbues his measured, immobile compositions with a dynamic sense of force. Such aporias lie at the centre of modernity, and so we might say that modernity has no centre. It is a conundrum that plays lyrically throughout Walker’s work. In his constructions we encounter modernism and its myth of progress as a ghost story - a haunted ruin. The almost audible, diagrammatic movement of his compositions carries a sense of nostalgia that has always tainted the modern, which is in fact, its ironic precondition. In Walker’s visual arrangements modern progress is also its passage, utopia assumes dystopia. Modernity is certainly an oppressive discourse, but it is also a fleeting one - it has always worn postmodernity on its sleeve.

And what should we call this soundless sonority, which plays havoc with our notion of visual art, even undermines it? Which words should we use to call the silence that calls us instead, calls us up short, like a consciousness? There is a range of neologisms that one might choose from, the most popular being, of course, deconstruction. The texts that surround Walker’s work describe this resonance more variously as a sense of humour or play, a fine line, an infectious sense, inventiveness, cleverness, hidden narrative, potential drama, a sinister quality, delight, bewitchment, and finally, death. In the end, however, what we call these pictures may not be as important as what they ask us to recall - an uncertain, and indeed ethical situation in which the eye starts hearing things.

Emily Falvey