‘Buikspraak/Gutspeak’ by Dominique Edwards has just completed its one-month stint at commune.1 in Cape Town. After studying under the installation artist, Alan Alborough, she has gone on to create a body of work that spans the entire gallery through three interlinking spaces. The exhibition explores the repetitive activity of human labour, and the notions of time and space, which Edwards explores through drawing, installation and video. Her use of unconventional materials and traditional drawing techniques illustrate the conscious response to the visceral sensations that are experienced through these processes. Edwards’ work interrogates the ’artistic process’ and captures the ‘feeling body’ and the ‘thinking body’ through the visual experience.
The key to unpacking this exhibition is understanding the ‘artistic process’ as a fundamental theme in Edwards’ work; ‘Buikspraak’ has been two years in the making and as a result one can see how Edwards’ work has shifted through the various processes of ‘art-making’. Her exhibition can be divided into three sections that support different phases or chapters of the ‘artistic process’: traditional drawing, unconventional material use, and the ‘gutspeak’ section. By experimenting with various mediums, Edwards’ work connects the traditional discipline of drawing with the gut feelings that determine the artistic outcome. Her ‘unconventional material section’, where Edwards plays with her material’s form and function, thus acts as a bridge between her ‘traditional section’, where ink drawings and carbon copy prints are neatly presented, and ‘conscious, or gutspeak, section’ where Edwards plays into the theme of process with her paper crafting.
Edwards’ time, labour and energy, which have clearly gone into the production of the exhibition, is undoubtedly associated with her basic use of materials – ink on paper, photography, video projection, packing tape, found objects, handmade paper, automated dowsing rods, glue, mops, enamel paint, plastic and more. These all contribute to the multi-layered meaning and visual impact of her work. By using unconventional materials Edwards’ addresses the artistic process through experimentation and play. Like Alborough, Edwards’ finely tuned consciousness is skilled at playing ontological games, particularly with mundane materials that set up unexpectedly interlinked associations and the simplicity of the process is truly enticing.
By testing these various materials, she allows them to become something different; her vigorous use of enamel paint – which she spills out and picks up – allows the material to take on sculptural elements. Though some would classify Edwards’ work as multimedia, an understanding of her work as drawing can stretch its categorisation much further. As a primary language act or gesture, drawing can never be narrowly defined. It is always changing and remains in constant flux. Art historian, Norman Bryson, proposes that drawing is distinctive because it “always exists in the present tense, in the time of unfolding …[as] a continuous incompleteness”. Looking at Edwards’ use of mops and intestines, one can see how she creates temporal and gestural lines, planes, and surfaces through the act of drawing in various materials. These gesticulated drawings also become dynamic through Edwards’ use of video installations. But drawing is ultimately about mark making and Edwards’ work captures how the ‘made mark’ is the result of a conscious, but also unconscious, process. Which is ultimately affected by our primary visceral signals, namely, the ‘feeling body’ and the ‘thinking body’
Through this Edwards raises questions about our being-in-the-world. The work interrogates our relationship with the material world and how we know and experience our lived environment. Drawing between the subjective and the objective, the internal and the external and the private and the public, these connective and merging processes open into a third and alternative realm, or in-between condition. This third realm acts as a liminal space where Edwards’ ‘traditional drawing’ section and ‘unconventional material’ section become one to create the third ‘gutspeak’ section. What one could perceive as two processes and two locations, now become one – a place and process located simultaneously inside and outside – producing its individuated traces in-phase with the self and her personally experiential engagement with the material world. This is ultimately communicated through her ‘conscious, or gutspeak, section’ where her work links the spaces between two ‘languages’ – the gut brain (where she allows the materials to speak) and the thinking brain (where the drawing discipline controls) – both of which are ‘of the body’ yet which respond to different sensory inputs and have different feedback mechanisms.
Her ‘conscious, or gutspeak, section’ consists of various paper experiments where she has taken her material and repurposed it by firstly destroying it in a tumble dryer and then, from the pulp she forms new sculptural pieces. Again we see how Edwards gets intimate with her materials through processes of play, reminding us of the artist’s creative methods. In a way Edwards ‘saves’ her materials after she has pushed them to their limits: She reconstructs paper pulp and picks up spilt enamel paint. By doing so, she pushes them out of their conventional context, but also draws attention to the material residues of our primal acts and gestures.
Edwards’ works illuminate an inherent transitory quality that moves between the visceral and cerebral processes of art making. Her installations investigate place through experimenting with unconventional objects and materials in a sequence; objects build in pace, first as if waking or lulled by a gentle tide, then systematically accelerating before residing back to their resting place. The cycle continues indefinitely, as a reflection of time. Her interest resides in the creative process, an area she explores methodically. Moving between, or rather, ‘drawing between’ the ‘feeling body’ and the ‘thinking body’ is what Edwards’ ‘Buikspraak/Gutspeak’ exhibition ultimately interrogates.