Friday, October 05, 2007

The Porlingland Oak

Following on from the last posting about ‘The Printed Path’ - a few more words about Simon Pope, who provided a landscape-related performance piece just before lunch. The idea was that he would stand up and “recall” a John Crome painting in the Tate collection, The Poringland Oak (see below). He ignored the figures in the painting and tried to describe the tree itself, speaking in a hesitant, indefinite fashion which gave his monologue a vulnerable quality and left me, at least, feeling slightly uneasy. It seemed to be about the impossibility of re-presentation, of understanding what it was the painter saw, either in reality or in his mind’s eye. Watching him I was reminded of an occasion when I was hunting for a slide to illustrate a talk and, not finding it, was advised by a passing art historian that I would “have to ekphrate!” The performance last weekend would certainly have qualified as ekphrasis, which, after all, comes in many different forms.


John Crome, The Porlingland Oak (c1818-20)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Waterlog exhibition featured The Memorial Walks in which Simon Pope asked writers to memorise landscape paintings, walk out into the real landscape and then try to recall them. In the gallery, the paintings were ‘draped with black silk, reminiscent of the ancient Dutch ritual practiced in homes in which there had been a death, whereby landscape paintings and mirrors were draped with mourning ribbons in order that the departing soul would not become distracted upon its final journey’.

1 comment:

terrypitts said...

Simon Pope's ekphratic performance piece in which he tried to verbally recall a painting from the Tate reminds me of Sophie Calle's project "Last Seen", where she asked museum employees to describe the works stolen from Boston's Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

His piece also calls to mind Vik Muniz' early series called "Best of Life," in which he tried to reproduce iconic Life magazine images from memory. These are just a few of many examples of artists describing or reproducing other works of art as a way of making some kind of comment on the nature of art itself.