Dimensions: 210 x 210
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“Our lives appear in the balance of their moving parts” - Veta Gorner
Human lives are like clocks. Our individual experiences, desires, shortcomings, and personalities act as the cogs and gears – the moving parts – that work together to make our time on this earth pass. Through the artworks in this exhibition, Veta Gorner strives to encapsulate in print the abstract feelings and happenings that occur throughout the course of our short human existence. The main series in this exhibition – titled ‘Time on My Hands’, ‘Fireworks’, ‘Push Pull Twist Turn’, and ‘Hypnopaedies’ – as well as additional individual works on display, all cohere to form a visual portrayal of the intangible elements of our lived experience. The majority of these pieces were conceptualised and made since March 2020, when our collective way of living shifted dramatically. During these months, partially because of the uncertainty and stress caused by the world around her, Veta stated that she had to “put aside all of the conceptual ideas I might have had before and allow myself to ‘go with the flow’ and be open and reactive”. This process caused three major themes to arise in her new collection of work, although there are many other motifs that perceptive visitors can tease out. These themes are time, adaptation, and balance.
Time has felt both compressed and sped up since the commencement of the pandemic. The pace of the news cycle, and the constantly developing understanding of and guidance around the virus has made it seem to many that time is passing at an alarming rate; but the restriction to one’s home stretched the hours out, sometimes interminably. Many of Veta’s new works – through the positioning of the body or bodies within the composition – suggest this simultaneous shortening and lengthening. We can see this in the silkscreen External Lines XL, in which the figure appears to be both frozen in a web of fine lines, and also spinning and turning at a rapid speed. In the ‘Time on My Hands’ series, intricately etched hands are shown playing with, sculpting, or carrying gold threads and shapes, which represent time itself, the gold tone suggesting time’s preciousness. In this series, Veta conflates the mundane / everyday (human hands) with the conceptual / abstract (time). This tension – between big and small ideas, the cerebral and the material – can be found throughout Veta’s oeuvre.
Adaptation is also a necessary element of human life that plays out in the grander narratives of Veta’s ‘Moving Parts’ exhibition. Every piece of work in this show has a genesis in Veta’s mind and in her studio, therefore no one print can be detached from any other. In one very material example of Veta’s artistic adaptation, the small pieces in the ‘Hypnopaedies’ series are printed on handmade paper that Veta has chosen to recycle and adapt from the offcuts of her larger pieces. In this way, “the work is interconnected, both materially and conceptually”. The smaller pieces, according to Veta, are ideas that needed to be “whispered”, while the larger artworks required more volume: “an orchestra for maximum effect”. Each ‘Hypnopaedies’ piece, like each individual person, is an adaptation and reaction to a specific environment. The Putty works, part of the ‘Push Pull Twist Turn’ collection, also suggest adaptation, as putty is a malleable, changeable, adaptable substance – much like the ‘time’ being kneaded in the work My Own Time.
Balance, to Veta, means paring back to the uncomplicated essentials. One of the main balances in Veta’s aesthetics is between the art of the east and west; these essential elements of her work are “placed to confront each other”. The ‘Fireworks’ triptych, for example, has been influenced by the art of the Middle East and the Far East. The three subtitles within this series: ‘llusions of thought and desire’, ‘Illusions innumerable as particles of dust’, and ‘Illusions about nature of existence’ are all taken from Buddhist ideas about the fantasies and delusions that mankind creates for itself about the material world. Veta acknowledges that indeed the very nature of art is itself is a constructed representation – an ‘illusion’ – of how humans see and perceive themselves. An additional influence of the cultures of the east can be found in Veta’s work Samsara, whose title comes from a Sanskrit word that translates to ‘wandering’ or ‘world’ and that relates to teachings in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Samsara alludes to the cyclic, circuitous, but balanced change in our universe.
These three themes, and many others besides, are communicated through the androgynous figure that populates Veta’s prints as it falls, jumps, pushes, or pulls through space. When I asked Veta who this person is, she responded that the figure is “a What, not a Who”. It is trapped in time, arrested in the moment of composition but still suggesting movement. Veta adapts the figure from one series to the next; the entire body becomes just hands in the ‘Time on My Hands’ series, and the torso morphs into and grows out of a column in ‘Push Pull Twist Turn’. And finally, the balance of this figure is always imperative, whether it must balance on its own in a composition or, as in the ‘Fireworks’ series and Samsara pieces, it is balanced upon dozens of tiny iterations of itself. In these and the rest of the images in this exhibition, the body is perched on a precipice of change, a moving part.
Christine Slobogin, November 2020