The Irresolute Potential in the
Martin Gantman, Query 1, August, 22, 2003
Gold leaf and acrylic
54 x 54 inches
It begins with a wall, broad and bare, and the imminent possibility of dying. The wall, blank stucco and inexpressibly colorless, spans the width of his yard. The yard itself begins at the edge of a concrete porch, which defines the rear of his recently purchased home and slopes gently but increasingly downhill as it approaches the barren (for lack of a more appropriate term though the most accurate may simply be indescribable) wall. To be fair, it is not as if the wall is imperceptible or, conversely, repulsive. It is an object to regard, the sight of it from the porch interrupted only by a few sparse brambles that dot the terrain between.
Not onerously high, the wall is about eight feet tall but, due to the curving slope of the yard, the bottom of the wall is not revealed until one has stepped well away from the porch. This concealment of the base supports an almost mystical sense of inscrutability. If that degree of emphasis is at all appropriate given the blandness of the wall, then it is a factor in the walls surprising attraction. Its complete lack of allure could suggest there might be something worthy in the unseen. In fact it is these two elements, the invisibility of the walls base and its extreme blankness (like a clean canvas tempting the artist to complete his first otherwise non-essential stroke) that first drew his attention and made his decision to produce an action on the wall imperative.
To fully describe the site, it is also necessary to note the nuanced significance of the yard. It is this vast, intervening (almost funereal) space that separates two limiting elementsan unadorned, concrete porch and a remote, expressionless, unforgiving wall. The yard is austere as well, save for the aforementioned brushwood. Its color is just short of brown and its surface is soft, yet barely dense enough to avoid being called dusty. It is this predisposition of the yard to divide yet mysteriously beckon which first allowed him to see the wall as a dimensional canvas. He did not see the wall as a backdrop for an installation but a surface with the potential to frame and define a three-dimensional space. It was as if this space was itself challenging him to give it life and value, even in the anticipation of his own waning.
It was unavoidable that this would be an atypical project for him. Unlike the previous ones, this would intentionally include the ingredient of time. He had always felt that he could push his work as far as he desiredmanipulate it, extend it, destroy and rebuild it. Unconsciously, he would manifest within himself a sense of urgency in order to discover what he would term the truth of his piece, resolute until he could hear the call of the ending and accept that there was no longer a benefit in continuing. But in this instance, it was crucial that time itself be integrated into the work.
Time presented such a limiting aspect for him that he felt compelled to utilize it as an aesthetic component. He would work as usualimplementing, executing, editing and structuring. But, if at any point during the process there came a moment when he could no longer continue, the piece would be whole. And, within that wholeness, using time to his advantage, he would have inevitably incorporated the attribute of timelessness, left behind through a bizarre confluence of the finite and infinity.
Almost immediately he visualized the kind of action he would undertake. It would be an application. The material would be stone, the stuff of presence and infinity. It would cover only a portion of the wall, the measure in length and width that would serve as evidence of a span of time he once called his own. He made a trip to the quarry, remarking on then finally braving the unfamiliar descent. He stepped tentatively and cautiously down the access way into the pit to personally select the stones that would be applied to the wall, as well as the larger complementary stones that would dot the yard in front of the uncovered portion of the wall. For him, this would mark the fact that even when the artist was no longer present, there would be a continuation.
Martin Gantman, Query 5, September 6, 2003
Gold leaf and acrylic
54 x 54 inches
The stones that were to be positioned on the wall would be partially inset. The resulting effect would convey the impression that the stones were a component of the original construction of the wall. The color, texture, and number of stones would seem, to any observer, like the perfect number, texture, and color. But for him there was only one right number and composition of stones, one that he would characteristically know only when that time arrived. Given the contradictory circumstance of time arriving and time limiting this task he had set for himself, he would endure the irrevocable duplicity of being complete without being finished. At every stage, the piece must exude completion.
When the stones were delivered and stacked adjacent to the area he had selected to begin his work, he paced the length of the wall, back and forth, noticing that his new limp, almost a hobble really, was becoming more familiar to him. He relished this time, the anticipation of beginning, and thoughtfully pondered the words difficulty and completion that circumscribed the project, realizing how interconnected they were. Both were innately relative, yet at the same time also infinite. It is extremely difficult to know completion, whether one has met it, stopped ahead of it or slipped past it. For completion can only be sensed within a range of potentials.
The challenge to experience completeness through the totality of his project, in spite of the strong probability of not reaching an end, set up a conundrum that was intriguing to him, not only because of its artistic difficulty, but also because it presented a circumstance that sufficiently corresponded to the nature of his condition. He did not want the end result of the project to be accidentalin other words, have the conclusion of his life determine the completion of the work. But completion is a perception belonging as much to the beholder as to the artist. For both the artist and the audience, completion can only be sensed through the nervous system and is questioned by those who do not perceive wholeness or feel a question answered.
Within that space between the artist and beholder, there exists a communication that entertains the realm of trust. The artist trusts that when a work is finished he will have formed a coherent statement that may be received by an ascertaining viewer. The audience relies on the belief that the artist will be true to that goal. It is with the knowledge of these parameters, and the potential to subvert them, that a work is begun. Given the nature of this conceptual basisthat the physical facade of this project could never reveal its working parametersthese considerations would soon relocate to his subconscious, guiding him though lost to the conscious process of his creating. He would attest to this while wholly focusing on the placement of each stone, one after another.
In setting for himself this task of doing battle with the faceless idea of timea contest that is never wonhe had decided he would nevertheless find a way to prevail. Thus, his one final intervention would be a direct challenge to the notion of completion that he had so craftily devised. He would establish a strategy to attend to the almost unbearable duplicity of the project. His approach must simultaneously incorporate and contradict the customary process of creative interplay between a work in progress and its author. He knew that any work, from its conception to its determined end, converses with its creator. It is the ability of the artist to recognize and respond to this continuing communication which allows a work to approach the status of a thriving entity.
Difficulty? Here he is shambling back and forth along the base of a barren wall, his energy ebbing. He contemplates the approaching time when it will be too great a struggle to lift a stone, much less tap it into place. He knows that at such a point, the endeavor will represent his striving toward a solution that will exist as a completed product, despite his personal immersion in a dynamic dialectic with the wall. Poised in front of his site, feeling the union of trepidation and audacity that strikes any artist at the inception of a new work, he laboriously places the first stone.