Ha Ha

Contemporary British Art in an 18th Century Park

Essay by Claire Oboussier

This exhibition proposes a dialectic of several creative aspirations as fourteen artists, responding to the distinctive qualities of an immaculately styled environment, realise their art for a definite context. They work with an imaginative reading of a specific place and relate to signs of an era manifested through the richly evocative language of a Romantic landscape.

Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier (transposed from a conversation), July 1993:

Litterae lucentes

The most commonly asked question in the face of this work has been ‘what do the words mean?’ as if this revelation would provide the answer to the conundrum posed by the work. The assumption here is that there exists a central, replete meaning to be revealed. The area the figures of Litterae lucentes are moving in however, allows that there can different meanings other than semantic. The literal meaning of the words matters little. It is their resonance, that which is yet not defined, at a multitude of different levels which is of interest things can mean in different ways. Accentuating the aesthetic quality of the figures, their materiality, does not remove their semantic meaning but it means that it is their visual effect which precedes their naming function. It is their materiality as it relates with the materiality of the surroundings: the red of the Victorian kitchen garden wall, the different densities of the luxuriant ‘exotic’ vegetation, the typical rural English backdrop which produces meanings for the work. It is for this reason that the words have never been translated. A frustration is deliberately provoked. To name is to possess, to own, to control. Just as the ‘exotic’ plants which surround the words have been imported and named in Latin. The work picks up on this process of naming and brings into question the manner in which it is approached. Paradoxically, the words of Litterae lucentes deny access to the semantic; they cannot be read in the usual way. They can only be seen. Whilst acknowledging the impossibility and undesirability of eliminating language what this work asks for is a different relation to it: one which does not assume it to be an enclosed code to be adhered to but rather a material entity ever malleable which can be worked and reworked.