“The poetic image is not subject to an inner thrust. It is not an echo of the past. On the contrary: through the brilliance of an image, the distant past resounds with echoes, and it is hard to know at what depth these echoes will reverberate and die away.”
-Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space: The Classic Look at how we Experience Intimate Spaces.
Echoes in Conversation is a printmaking exhibition featuring works by second year Wits Fine Art students. The prints were created in conversation with Wits Art Museum’s (WAM) collection of Intaglio Prints by South African Printmakers and Artists.
To employ the term “echoes” in framing these artworks-as-conversations begins with the idea of an echo as the sound that reverberates after the original sound has stopped. In speaking with, and to the WAM Intaglio Print collection, students visually and/or conceptually echoed an element of a work from the collection as their starting point. The resulting conversations present moments of inspiration or take on forms of critique in conversation with the original artworks. The overall process took on various shapes and forms, eventually arriving at a point where the student’s own voice and position became “the last sound heard”.
Our working processes began with collective and sometimes performative drawing exercises where we would respond to memories, phrases, sounds, instructions, and questions through the medium of drawing and written text. These time-based experiments allowed us to find, develop and refine a drawing language that was not always premeditated, resulting in creative ways of working that opened up the potential for us to express our concepts through feeling, line, and text. The ongoing reverberation between our own conceptual frameworks and personal processes were later echoed and further “lost in evolution” through our encounter and engagement with the collection at WAM. The visual conversations with the prints at WAM through drawing further transformed our approach to mark-making, which was retransformed through the etching process, and then retranslated to a final print that was produced in conversation with a master printmaker, and in our absence; a material echo that was based on his knowledge and experience of working with the medium. We learnt to let go and trust in the process. The resulting prints in this exhibition mirror our processes while acknowledging that each step of our images-in-the-making has been an echo-in-conversation, with no desire to mimic the image that preceded it.
The online exhibition and occupation of the Behance site also serves as a collective reverb of the Intaglio Print collection at WAM. As an “echo” of the currently inaccessible (due to the COVID pandemic) collection that is housed at WAM, our intervention takes place on a series of platforms in an ‘outside, yet virtual world’. A consideration for inner dialogues is made visible in the continued extension of our physical prints onto multiple digital platforms that continue to echo our thoughts and process. We present multiple conversations that take place side-by-side, but also keeping the necessary distance for individual voices to be heard. Having worked both collectively as well as individually throughout the national lockdown meant that we were limited to communicating and sharing our working, drawing and etching processes using only online platforms. This limitation presented us with interesting challenges that led to us creating a ‘virtual studio’ for engaging with each other’s work and receiving feedback.
The virtual studio space for our collective spoken, written, and visual conversations while isolated at home would at times amplify our listening experience. The time, space, and distance between our own voices-in-conversation would create a cavernous cave in which the etched silences of ‘muted’ voices would give way to reverberations of voices that ‘needed to be heard’, perhaps this as a call to hear ourselves and each other differently, again, and again. At times lines would cross and lost words would only be solidified through repetition.
We became echoes in conversation,
Welcome to the conversation,
Curatorial Team: Hannah Sarakinsky,
Vidya Chagan, Emma Schumann
Documentation: Kamogelo Kgaswane,
Thobile Mavuso, Moagi Moshoane, Ndodana Ntuli
Creative Advisor: Donna Kukama
Master Printmaker & Technical Advisor:
Photography Advisor: Akona Kenqu
Assistant Printmaker: Ndodana Ntuli