Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Looking for a word for new artworks

I’ve been coming back to creativity for a few weeks via back channels, initially combining some old photos from 2007 with a sonnet written in 2014 (and edited in 2020), the photos taken at Top Ryde, a place in the north of Sydney, at a time when I was struggling. In fact it was the beginnings of a mental breakdown the following year. 

The sonnet describes some of what that episode felt like, but while the images were taken when I was unwell the poem was written at times when my mental health was stable. It’s very difficult to write coherently when you’re in the middle of a crisis, the sense gets jumbled and you cannot express yourself with the force necessary to communicate with a reader, though because memory persists over time it’s possible to make something meaningful at a later date.

I got the Top Ryde photos printed at Pixel Perfect in Chippendale, they do good work and are not expensive. It’s far and away the best way to get a good result for a reasonable outlay. I got encouragement when I went to the Sydney World Film Festival over a few nights this month, it was also in Chippendale in the Central Park complex on Broadway. I’m able to get there by bus by catching the 309, which is handy, and I spoke one night with a woman who listened to my problem and made appropriate comments.

I then had another problem with nomenclature for the new assemblages I also started making (using words combined with images) as “montages”. This word has a specific meaning in the world of filmmaking that is different from what I’m doing, however, and so I set myself a goal of coming up with an alternative label. Initially I thought about “imards” and “compomages” but such portmanteau words are a bit pretentious, so when an old secondary school friend suggested “paramontages” I was delighted.

This word exactly captures what I want to do, which is to go beyond (“para” as a prefix can mean “beyond” whatever it is attached to) mere assemblages of photographs. As I’ve made more of these compositions I’ve come to understand the possibilities of the form, how you can vary the colour of the text, or of the background underneath the text. How you can move the text box around the composition, placing it near the bottom or on an edge. There are a wide variety of subtle changes that can help to lend meaning to the whole.

On Monday 16 May I went to Pixel Perfect Prolab and picked up one I’d made the week before, the thing came in a tube (I asked about reuse but was told I could bring it back the next time or not, they didn’t have a preference) which I carried home on the bus. I was very pleased with the result but regretted that I hadn’t used italics for some of the text (a word in Italian), placing the finished object on a bookshelf upstairs in the studio with four other items they’d made for me.

Saturday and Sunday were busy days, and even when I got back on Monday I made two more of the files (I use JPEG format) having become used to the manual labour involved to get the job done. Working like this is easy for me as for many years I did desktop publishing with a variety of software packages including graphics editors, and manipulating the interface took me back to those many years of happy toil when I was working in Japan for a manufacturing company. 

The object has changed but the skills are the same. 

I still find it hard to sit down and draw because of the many wasted years. I’d wanted to be an artist but dad’d wanted me to go to university to study and get a degree so being a dutiful son I complied with his wishes, which was disastrous for my health and wellbeing. Had I chosen to be more bolshie when I was 17 my life would’ve turned out very differently but going against the man’s wishes was for me impossible as I loved him and even if he was stubborn he was a good communicator.

While the lost time bothers me, by making paramontages I feel connected with both of my legacy skillsets, the design talent firmed up by years of doing layout, and the writing.

I started writing poetry in 2007 after I got some stability in my life, and wrote constantly also on the blog and professionally as a journalist over the years since 2009 (when I went freelance). Paramontages give me access to a broad range of capabilities in creating meaning, so I plan to make more of them in future. My current plans include matching more of my sonnets with photographs, including for one work where the photos haven’t yet been taken. Look forward to it.

The paramontage above is 'Syntax prescribes - II', which includes images taken on 2 June 2019 between 11.01am and 12.51pm and words written on 9 December 2020; 8, 9, 11, 20 March and 15, 26 September 2021. 

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