Tag Archives: visual art

“Sleep and Forgetting”: a new collage

My most recent collage, “Sleep and Forgetting.” The title is from William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.”

The original is sold, but the work is available as an archival print mounted on stained wood panel.

“Sleep and Forgetting” is now uploaded to my website’s Gallery 5, “Afterimages of History.” Click the image to link to the gallery:

Camille Martin

Film Noir collage

I just added the collage below to the “Americana” gallery of my website:

The alternating strips are stills from two different films noirs. When I was researching the genre for this project, I found a lavishly illustrated book of film noir posters. Some were in monochromatic half-tones, which inspired me to tint the two stills as a way to allude to this type of poster as well as to contrast the alternating strips. I had tried several combinations of images, but the arrangement of these two seemed to allow a mysterious and compelling interaction between the characters and shadows.

Camille Martin

Collages by Derrick Tyson

          Thanks to Derrick Tyson for referring me to his wonderful collages—below are some of my favourites You can see more of Tyson’s photos and collages here.
dream sequence
dream sequence
Ozymandias Complexitus
Ozymandias Complexitus




Camille Martin

two collages

a double exposure remembers

full circle

Camille Martin

Jiří Kolář

My partner, Jiri, just arrived back from Czechoslovakia and Paris and brought home some gifts from Jan Sekal, a friend in Paris who is a professional photographer: for Jiri, a black rabbit felt fedora that suits him to a T (without making him look orthodox). For me, a signed, original collage by Jiří Kolář:

The collage consists of two postcards, one of La Place des Vosges with the central grounds torn out, and the other of Portrait des trois hommes by Vincent François André showing through the gap. It’s fairly simple in its execution, but deceptively simple in what it evokes. The gap looks alternately like a reflecting pond in a small-scale model of the Place des Vosges, in which two giants are reflected (the third giant is out of sight, just to the right of the gap), and a window into the fantastical depths of the earth. It also looks like what it is, its process. The materials are found, as in so many collages: two superimposed postcards in dialogue with each other through the torn hole.

I was holding an original collage by one of my most admired artists, and felt a visceral connection with the past that has inspired some of my collages. I felt a little giddy.

Jan also gave us both some of his own photographs, which I will post in the next couple of days.

Thanks, Jan.

Camille Martin

a collage for the new year


under the dome

collage: Camille Martin

collage: Camille Martin



Camille Martin

Creeley and Clemente’s Anamorphosis: Death and the Stuff of Dreams

Francesco Clemente, from <em>Anamorphosis</em>

Francesco Clemente, from Anamorphosis

Robert Creeley’s companion poem to Clemente’s painting:

Inside my head a common room,
a common place, a common tune,
a common wealth, a common doom

inside my head. I close my eyes.
The horses run. Vast are the skies,
and blue my passing thoughts’ surprise

inside my head. What is this space
here found to be, what is this place
if only me? Inside my head, whose face?

The remainder of poems and paintings in Anamorphosis can be found at 2River View.

This week I’m revisiting some collaborative pairings between poets and artists in other disciplines, in preparation for a collaborative performance series, Figure of Speech, that I’ve been asked to participate in. I’ll be working with a singer (who also plays the guitar), a guitarist who specializes in Baroque music, and a dancer. I want to address the things that can make an effective collaboration.

The 1997 collaboration between Robert Creeley and Francesco Clemente, Anamorphosis, strikes me as one of the most evocative and beautiful collaborations between a poet and a visual artist. I’m all for exquisite corpses and other processes incorporating chance, but there is something to be said for the way that Creeley and Clemente seem perfectly attuned to one another’s work. I don’t know whether Clemente made his paintings based on Creeley’s poems or vice versa, but they expand the meaning of one another through their sustained and rich dialogue. A good example is the first pair in the series, “Inside My Head.”

Clemente’s painting depicts a single image from Creeley’s poem: imagining horses. He gives a part for the whole, a relationship of synecdoche. Although the painting is a somewhat literal interpretation of Creeley’s imaginary horses, it doesn’t belabour that correspondence. Instead, the image is executed in such a way as to evoke other themes in the poem, such as mortality, identity, and imagination.

For example, in a painting whose colours are primarily pastel, the bold black lines depicting the closed eyes stand out, emphasizing the visionary quality of the man, which is also reflected in the poem. Clemente’s images of head and horses are elongated, further emphasizing painting and poem’s dreamlike quality. And the head of Clemente’s imagining man reclines with eyes closed, which could signify the shutting out of the world and the opening up of the world inside the head. It could also signify death or “death’s second self.” In all of these possible interpretations, the images sound sympathetic vibrations with the poem: death and the stuff of dreams.

As well, the simplicity of Creeley’s almost nursery rhyme-like poem with its repetitions and formal balance is well suited to Clemente’s simple but evocative image.

In depicting thoughts of running horses, perhaps these two had in mind Saussure’s use of the horse to describe the relationship between the referent (the external object, the actual horse), the signifier (the word “H-O-R-S-E”) and the signified (the concept of “horse”). Turning Saussure’s ideas on their head, Clemente and Creeley suggest that the signifier invokes the actual referent: Creeley doesn’t talk about thinking of horses, but instead there seem to be real horses running in the head. Similarly, Clemente’s painting depicts real horses galloping behind the speaker’s head.

Creeley also seems to be alluding to Andrew Marvell’s celebration of the world inside the head in “The Garden”:

Meanwhile the Mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness:
The Mind, that Ocean where each kind
Does streight its own resemblance find;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other Worlds, and other Seas;
Annihilating all that’s made
To a green Thought in a green Shade.

Green thoughts are echoed in Creeley’s poem in the speaker’s surprised blue thoughts.

In this dialogue with Saussure and Marvell, Creeley and Clemente assert the reality of the world of the imagination: that world possesses its own reality, and that reality is powerful, capable of extinguishing the exterior world through its concentrated focus on its thoughts and images. But it also spawns a meditation on the nature of personhood, cognition, and mortality.

The poem and painting of “Inside My Head” are both intensely interior and introspective, relieved only by Creeley’s paradoxical assertion of the commonality of the mystery at the heart of the human experience of subjectivity. Even inside the head, there is a “commons,” a place that is at once enclosed, private, subjective, as well as open, public, shared.

Creeley and Clemente’s collaboration is successful because the two works are in close dialogue with one another, which cannot happen if one simply holds up a mirror to the other.

Camille Martin

Finds at www.collageart.org


Recently viewed at collageart.org:

Antony Densham, Bravado

Antony Densham, Bravado


Martin Davies, 4 Giraffes

Martin Davies, 4 Giraffes



Camille Martin

Gail Tarantino: Learning to Use a Spoon by Reading Braille


    I was excited today to discover the visual art of Gail Tarantino through three works in the December 2008 issue of Cricket Online Review. Her bio tells of her “not-so-secret desire to be literary” in her work, and her weaving of “compressed narratives and distilled description” with the “rhythmic and musical aspects of language.” Like artists such as Ann Hamilton, there is a conceptual sophistication in the way that Tarantino uses language in her work. Interestingly, both have used Braille. For the 1989 Venice Biennale, Hamilton rendered Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony: the United States (1885-1915) into Braille in an installation entitled Myein. On a much smaller scale, Tarantino’s One Act in Cricket features a sentence in Braille:

Gail Tarantino, <em>One Act</em>

Gail Tarantino, One Act

    In order to understand the interplay among the images in the three horizontal fields, it is necessary to decipher the Braille, something that I at first resisted. But my curiosity prevailed and I arranged the work on my screen next to a Braille alphabet and proceeded to decipher the sentence, letter by letter, yielding the following:

        a spoon worked most effectively
        when he discovered the bumps
        an act of retaliation

    As I progressed, the act of decoding it became easier, due to my increasing familiarity with the configuration of dots and the fact that after a few letters, guesswork came into play. A long word beginning with “effe . . .” can be guessed pretty accurately. But the slowness of my reading made me aware of how much take reading for granted, in a similar way that I take eating with a spoon for granted. Mulling over each letter in Braille slowed down the process. My brain, racing ahead of my slogging pace, was thinking of various possibilities, leading me to make incorrect assumptions a couple of times. I was taking too long to think about the text, so my mind was impatiently filling in the gaps in an effort to understand.
    After deciphering the words, I realized that my effort was roughly analogous to a child learning to eat with a spoon: both are, as the title suggests, “one act.” This analogy is supported by the echoing of the shape of the Braille’s background colour, which is reminiscent of a spoon.
    Tarantino compels viewers who do not know Braille to experience the unfamiliarity of the text and the opacity of its meaning until we decipher it, letter by letter. And in the act of doing so, we become conscious of the configurations of dots in each letter, recalling our original experience learning to read as a child, tracing the shape of each letter, as well as discovering the shape and usefulness of a spoon. Our reward is discovering something about writing as medium for communication, its thingy existence, as opposed to it being a system endowed with inherent meaning.
    Significantly, the understanding of the Braille sentence is crucial to speculating on the meaning of the middle and top portions of the work. The middle portion consists of a series of spoons, one rather flat, like a knife, and the others in the familiar rounded concave shape.
    The top half of One Act consists of scores of what look like little bowls. Some are missing, so that the pattern echoes the Braille in the bottom half. They are also different colours, resembling perhaps little pots of paint or perhaps bowls of soup, or food in the concave part of the spoon, the reward of the savvy child.
    The question arises as to why Tarantino would describe the act of learning as on of retaliation, assuming that I am understanding the Braille sentence correctly. Retaliation requires first an act to retaliate against, so it seems plausible to assume that “he’ is retaliating against the opaque meaning of the spoon’s shape prior to his figuring it out, an opaqueness that strikes him as an act of hostility, which he counters by learning the usefulness of the spoon’s “bump.”
    Carrying over the ideas in the message to the analogy of learning to read, the Braille sentence might suggest the concept of violence in the act of understanding. This idea is expressed in a set of conceptual metaphors in English, such as “to attack (or tackle, or surmount) the problem,” “to struggle with the meaning of something,” and “to fight ignorance.” These all suggest that understanding is a process of overcoming that which we don’t at first apprehend: the child “overcomes” the spoon’s unintelligibility; the uninitiated tackle the illegibility of Braille. And that violence is a retaliation against the violence of opacity, of being faced with something that is (at first) illegible.
    Derrida’s theories on the violence of writing come to mind here, of writing regulating meaning, inscription as prohibition, law, circumscription. Before we deciphered the Braille, its meaning was opaque to us; it shunned our desire to understand it. Thus it might appear that Tarantino is turning the tables on the idea of violence inherent in writing, for the text (or the spoon) do their violence by remaining unintelligible, and the reader retaliates by learning and understanding. The violence of the reader is not the same as the violence of writing, for in Tarantino’s work, the reader’s violence is against illegibility. And meaning, interpretation, writing, and learning are not inherently acts of violence.
    I may be overreaching in my musings here, and I certainly don’t mean to suggest that this is the only way of approaching this work. As One Act implies, there can be many different rewards to learning how to use a spoon, as the many bowls of soup in different colours attests, and by extension many different ways to understand a text.
    In any case, I sense an acute intelligence at work in Tarantino’s work. It grapples with (to continue the conceptual metaphor) questions of representation, writing, legibility, and meaning in a condensed yet open-ended work. Did I mention that it’s also beautiful?
    I highly recommend her website, where many of her works can be found:


Works consulted:

Derrida, Jacques. “The Violence of the Page.” Of Grammatology. Tr. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1976.

Marsh, Jack E. “Of Violence: The Force and Significance of Violence in the Early Derrida.” Philosophy and Social Criticism. 35.3 (2009): 269-286.


Camille Martin