(dis)connectivity and obscuration of sentiment
In Cultures of the Death Drive Esther Sanchez-Pardo argues that the troubled political atmosphere leading to the two world wars created a loss of coherent and autonomous selves and a fragmentation of social order. In essence Sanchez-Pardo argues (through the work of Melanie Klein) that melancholia permeated, and even propelled, modernist artistic discourses.
I find Jo Pickup’s recent series of prints melancholic and in their construction no less modernist. It’s an interesting, even slightly perverse mix to bring to the table in this new millennia but I think Pickup has hit on a recent wave of return to ideology and a desire to (re)connect with social ideals. In contemporary art this is often achieved through over sentimentality but in Pickup’s designs I see a conscious attempt to obscure this and it’s in a dualistic act of covering over and simultaneous erasure that sentiment moves deeper into her work and a sense of pervading melancholia arises.
Pickup’s method of layering print and paint attempts at connection and a pervading friction of hope and despair/ light and darkness. Sanchez-Pardo’s discourse is about the sense of loss that enveloped Europe just when a brighter future based on new fervent ideologies was supposed to take hold. I think Pickup’s series of prints, produced as they were over a short timeframe of intense activity, allude to similar sentiments today. The conflict apparent in her work of our connection to a bright future being weighed down by a heavy past (and the cyclical notion of this) is imaged through a strong architectural framework which gives us not only a sense of potential but also illustrates our frustrating habit of containing this.
This becomes enmeshed in our identity and Pickup’s use of erasure is particularly important here. As Derrida’s concept of sous rature explains, erasing or crossing something out but leaving its form still partly visible expands its meaning and like a memory, this is imminently entangled in our desire to obscure sentiment and further to this, our need for an autonomous self.
Ric Spencer 2010