This past spring/ summer I had the opportunity to exhibit my work at Augustus Jones on Davies Avenue in Toronto. Every context brings a new perspective.
What follows is an article written by Véronique Tomaszewski after her encounter with my work, and after a lively discussion that we shared.
Attracted by a red bench in the shape of a feast of whale ribs, I entered Augustus Jones almost by a fractal accident on my way to Merchants. Walking through the chairs, armchairs and tables reminiscent of a French café, I was seized by an overwhelming feeling of peaceful softness emanating from long blue sheets of paper floating here and there through the open space of the white industrial walls. Moving slowly amidst metal arms and wooden legs, I reached a secret chamber to the left. Two chairs, disappearing within a forest of descending ropes from where paper cells were dangling, invited me to a conversation with this ethereal yet enduring encounter. I sat, my body and senses saturated by the multitude of round paper shapes. Their random holes allowed me to breath through the tension between presence and emptiness. This is where I met the artist, Tania Love; where we weaved our sensitivities, our mutual attraction for things Japanese, and our Polish ancestry together in and out of these cell structures. “I left Elora and the landscape of the gorge with cedar trees and went to Toronto Island, she said. I was immersed in the open expanse of the lake and was inspired by the grey toned patterns in the sand. I am very drawn to the elements where I am living.”
The cell structures floating around in the intimate space act as a living organism, an opportunity to rest and contemplate the contrast between ovals and lines; between surfaces and holes; between undulation and solids. The shadows cast against the walls by these slow moving structures echo the impermanence of life. The dance between light and darkness celebrates the codependence between life and death.
A well-meaning organicity springs out of the Kozo Japanese paper which texture evacuates all notion of technicality. The vertical arrangement of strings holding the cells up in the air, here and there, evoke either snow flakes in their shades of white and grey, or Christmas balls juxtaposing a multitude of round and open apertures of different formats.
The lightness and yet stubborn repetition of the randomness of the installation mirror the resilience of human life.
Tania used the suminagashi Japanese technique with sumi ink floating on water, finding a balance between elemental and intentional moments of creativity. “The ink expanded according to the shape of the vessel I was using. It felt like using a petri dish but also like I was a participator in this experiment… I observed cell like shapes appearing before me. They also looked like water bubbles or salt stains and I understood how elements connect. The fire element is in the ink born from the burning of wood. Air contributed to the paper lifting.”
Absorbed in her witnessing, Tania acknowledged that it required a quasi- meditative state to carefully hand cut out hundreds of hole, bowing to whatever emerged. Beyond the cognitive aspect of identifiable objects our mind connect to, there is a subtle but strong presence of the life force manifesting in such a gentle connection of the tactile aspect of the Kozo paper and the manual cuts through the paper which tears testify of the human imperfect perfection at interacting with nature.
The quality of the Kozo paper confirmed that the artist had made the best choice at the Japanese Paper Place. Kozo paper is manufactured to be the most resilient and able to be dipped into water without breaking or dissolving. It is also a sustainable choice since only the long fibers of the inner bark of the tree are used to create this sturdy paper.
Some wax reinforces the top part of the cell from which a waxed string is attached. Again with wax comes into play fire and earth in an immaculate white, an indigo blue or a greyish black arrangement of strings becoming a harp playing a visual symphony.
Cell Structures like a Haiku brings our consciousness to the edge of the phenomenal world or to the end of a French crêpes cooking session. Each reveals the same readiness of matter to arrange itself in flat patterns that our appetite for meaning will devour. Here the grey surfaces are playful reminders of the superiority of nature over culture; of the superiority of poetry over discourse. How come? Will you ask? The beauty experienced sitting amidst the Cell structures transcends any constructed meaning both in its abstract evocation of the passing of time over matter and in the depth of realization of the contingent existence of space to time.
In the evidence of decay suggested by the holes, humility progressively takes over our pride in mastering earthly materials.
Cell structures also reminds us of our insignificant yet essential existence despite the perceived infinity of the universe. They both justify and cancel our arrogant attitude towards death because they softly recede in their own lightness of being to allow for our physical body to feel as a powerful amalgam of living cells regenerating themselves in a constant harmonization of fluids, and flows of substances and energy.
The Shinto revelation
In many ways, Tania’s cell structures correspond to the Shinto approach to life.
Shinto puts the emphasis on life as a natural harmony, in a mild natural environment to be embraced by us. Life is common to all who manifest on earth: humans, animals, trees and plants, stones, rivers and mountains. As manifestation, all possess the kotadama (power of speech), therefore, also, a mystical power, a kami, that can take different aspects: water, wind, sun, moon, storm, but also emperor, chief or hero. Of all the Kami, the kami of generation (musubi nokami, the most remarkable of the powers of life) is regarded as the highest kami. It holds the mystery of something being born or appearing. Tania Love as artist is a musubi nokami. She interacts with what is generated in a continuum, not because of an extraneous will, but by the fundamental and essential factor of generation, away from any tension (between creator and created) and any sense of guilt, evil, or sin. Seating amidst the Cell Structures environment makes us experience life as a vital force that synthesises idea and matter, which makes the invisible visible. It gives birth and reveals something by pushing its appearance forward. What is it? The cells exposing the transformational aspect of Nature reveal the mystery of life instead of sublimating it. It is left to us to experience the invisible power of life and reach some level of deep mystical realisation in the silence of the Japanese paper, in the curve of a hole within the cell. Total contemplative absorption in its purity freed from good or truth valorizes the æsthetic dimension (the one of the senses) rather than a moralistic one (of the mind).
Into the chasm between world (Yu) and nothingness (Mu)
The lightness of the ink patterns around holes and edges of the Cell Structures
manifests the subtle equilibrium between the truthfulness (Shin) of the living moment of contemplation of the piece and the echo of a past moment of action (of the calligraphic gesture of absorption of the ink for instance). This calligraphic trace gives emphasis to an endless possibility of examining our sensitive relationship to this moment of Truth, brought into the chasm between the perception of the world we inhabit and from where we observe, and the openness and void created by our awareness of the distance between present and past. The cutting out of paper exacerbates this sense of void that is not empty after all since we fill it with awareness that there is no past.
The fading of the ink more or less diluted according to the play of water on the surface of the paper and the latter’s readiness to absorb ink and create patterns both illustrate the Japanese concept of Yugen, the sadness about the imperfection of human existence shining through otherwise the beauty of life. There is something both painful in feeling how ephemeral and fragile stages of Nature are (especially when they dried out on paper), and something splendid about the uniqueness of each moment, each leaf, each drop of ink on water captured like magic by Tania’s artistic mastery.
Charmed by the intimacy created between our bodies and the Cell Structures swinging softy from the tall ceiling, a feeling of peace embraces our being as invisible airflows circulate around us in the tight space. This poetic moment has no other equivalent than within the peaceful caress of love: love of Nature, love of art, love of life itself.