Saturday, 11 June 2022

The poems in paramontages

The reason I label these artworks “paramontages” is because they go beyond collage and beyond literature, they’re a hybrid form with no particular bias one way or the other. If science as we know it was the product of the attempt by scholars in the Renaissance to find a universal form of knowledge, and if the first manifesto of the method was written by a lawyer (Francis Bacon) who was always trying, in his life, to navigate a median way between the interests of Parliament and those of the king, then it’s fitting that I, 400 years later, should seek refinement in a middle way with two distinct disciplines, for why are they kept apart?

In fact the socius is cluttered with a melange of text and image. Personally, I found my first expression in this vein at school making projects. I found my first inspiration in children’s books and later in magazines, where words and pictures are married for strong effect, in order to communicate complex ideas and to educate people living in the wider community. 

When I think about imagery and artmaking it’s remarkable that I didn’t start making work like this years back. For many years employed in the then-nascent field of desktop publishing, I honed the skills needed to make paramontages over a formative period equal in importance to my childhood but it was in childhood that I first became enamoured of art in the form of drawing. It wasn’t until I hit 17 when my father forbid me from dropping French so that I could pursue art that I found a conflict in reality. That discussion changed my life and almost destroyed me, so when I started making things this year it’s because in the late 70s I wasn’t able to do what I was made to do. 

Now that my parents are dead I let the muses advise me. Poetry was something very easy to get into, easy because all you need is a desk and a computer. While drawing and painting have certain material requirements that make it more complex to get involved in doing, poetry allowed me to say things that could only be said through art but to do so at home in the quiet of a small room. I also didn’t have to face my demons with poetry, whereas drawing would’ve required me to confront the terrible sacrifice my younger self made on the altar of my father’s overweening vanity.

With the longer free-form poems I use in recent paramontages I am able to explore more complex arguments than with the short, 6-line clips I made in the collection I titled ‘Before Dawn’. The short poems can be meaningful and punchy, however, so I continue to write them, but I also appreciate the discursive nature of longer poems. The sonnets are another facet I explore using a different set of tools, though I am not sure what it means to write a sonnet in 2021. Perhaps they’re just baubles or a passage to other realms, I don’t know.

What I do know is that matching a poem with an image or set of images isn’t always the same process. Because I have the ‘Before Dawn’ PDF I can sometimes look through a series of photos and settle on a match having just gone back to the PDF for reference. Sometimes I’ll go out and capture images in order to fit a particular poem, and this might be a quick exchange or else days might elapse before the relevant photos are ready to use. Sometimes I choose a poem after viewing an image. 

Each work has its own logic, just as I choose different fonts to go with the words based on the overall idea of the item itself. What I’ve found by printing the things out on quality paper at high resolution is that impact is important, so I will prefer now to use a very bright colour for the text, or else I might touch up a photo so there’s plenty of contrast between the text and the background image. What looks ok on-screen might very well fail to have enough impact when it’s put on paper. I live and learn.

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