LIGHTNESS OF BEING
In the novel by the Czech writer Milan Kundera, lightness relates to the originality of existence. Not necessarily to originality as ingenuity, but to that ofa life unfolding only once. As an ephemeral instance that cannot recur, life is said to be characterized by lightness. We exist but briefly. And despite our best attempts at posterity, at heaviness, things turn inevitably to the opposite. One is reminded of the imagery of Shelley’s Ozymandias, the weight of stone has crumbled into sand and is swept by the winds.
Here, however, lightness refers not only to weight but also to visible light, to illumination. The dazzle of sunlight as you step outside. Photography seems to bring these two facets together. On one hand, one attempts to affix onto a surface something that is nonetheless fleeting. The seconds of our lives evade our grasp, disappearing into time. On the other, every image implies, or necessitates, the presence of visible light. But to take photographs, no matter how recent, is to dabble with memory. After all what is the camera but an external memory device? It uses the light of the past. And in choosing cyanotype, Naguiat further imbues the clarity of images with nostalgia. Here is the Prussian blue of shadows, of memories. The blue of distance (as Rebecca Solnit has poetically put it). A mountain of longing.
But as with previous exhibitions, Naguiat combines images with the tactility of embroidery, a process she traces back to her family roots. The artist had often used thread and yarn to make marks upon images, sometimes to occlude, to question its directness, or to add another layer of material and signification. If in the past she had mostly sewn texts, here, the stitches are closer to marks made by a draftsman or painter. In some cases, the embroidered lines follow the contours of land. In another they fill up empty spaces of a grid or become pops of color as if of flowers on shrubs. Puncturing the picture plane, their intervention brings particular inflections of color and texture onto the image. As if to say that the straightforward representation is lacking. As if to insist on the poignancy of subjective remembering.
– JC Rosette