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Love Ballasts / 2003

" We gaze at and probe the earth in the hope that we can discern in a wash of sand, a dispersed or chance pile of stones, mound or hollow, some evidence that this might be the spot where a life ended, a dream was confirmed or lost.


Land absorbs history and all but the grandest traces of action. In that sense, it, history, is everywhere about us. Whilst the evidence of the moment is quickly lost, yet still the presence of place persists, and we construct from traces, however intangible. So what are we left with, a sense that the air, a sighting of muddy river, or, that outcrop of rock so implacably bland in the light of midday, is undertowed by memory. My attention is forever fluctuating between that which is known, the implacably bland, and the more insistent void of the fugitive."

                                                                             Clive van den Berg

Love Ballast statement


For some years now I have been working on ideas of love and sexuality, how in some ways love is an index of memory, our own but also the memories (or instructions to love) that we inherit. I am struck by the inevitable connection between acts of love and memorializing. Each kiss, is a re- inscription of those that other men have made. My freedom to love is weighted by the acts of other men, often with a cost attached.


The collection of work I am now working on is titled Love’s Ballast. It attempts to image a vocabulary of skin and structures, porous with memories of others before me.

Identity, (alas, that hackneyed term) is yes, constructed by such terms as race, gender, geography, class, cultural context, but my concern is how love, its languages, enactments, cultural celebrations and strictures, fundamentally constructs the self, forms the body, determines it’s actions and occupation of space in the corporeal and spiritual realms.


Skin and Underneath


I use different languages in this work. A leg carved in low relief hosts an outgrowth carved in a different manner as if our vision had shifted from an exterior to an interior place. This three dimensional fragment is placed within a frame, the background of which is covered with a kind of swaddling cloth. This surface is penetrated by two funnels, which allow a porous relationship between exterior and interior.

The leg in style and indeed in iconography is a quote from another time. It is a bas-relief interpretation of the left leg of David, Michelangelo’s David.


I use this Renaissance reference because I am fascinated by one of the illusions of that illusionistic language, the sense that bodily beauty, a beauty of surface belies and perhaps can stave off confronting the complexity and indeed frailty of the interior body and its attendant moods. It is that relationship, between the grace of exterior beauty and the visual languages developed for it’s expression, versus the linguistically less explored interior that compels me.


For me, this shift from out to inside is also a shift from a confident modern vanity to an imaginative language more medieval in structure.

Medieval in the sense that for the last two and a half decades, since the identification of the HIV virus we have been subject to irrational fear.  Developing technologies for coping with these fears and languages for their expression and rationalisation is the frame for this and much of my other work.  

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