Sunday, December 1, 2013

Merton's Calligraphy -- "...cooperating with something …"

"Merton's long experiment with abstract calligraphy dates to the hermitage period … 
"Merton had started with direct brushwork on paper and, with characteristic curiosity and verve, moved on to a home-made, primitive, but effective form of printmaking.  He would lay down a pattern in ink of make and then ink a pattern composed with found materials -- envelopes from his voluminous correspondence, whatever else was at hand.  And then press a sheet of paper, by hand, to take a single impression.  THe method was naive, but the results could be impressive, not only to us but to Merton himself because he would never quite know what marks and textures would transfer.  Chance or providence intervened; the finished work had its own trajectory, its own mind.  Merton as artist was cooperating with something.  Something good, something that deeply interested and touched him.  The process detoured the ego-driven notion that he was the artist, the skilled maker; the finished work emerged of itself....
" This is visual art at its best.  It speaks -- but what are we being told?  Merton wasn't given to precise interpretation.  He valued pre-verbal, visceral appreciation: another detour, this time around the chatty mind that thinks it knows.  … There is something scarcely known but insistent in our natures.  Some would call it a will to live; others would experience it as a need to arise and find our way."
-- Roger Lipsey, a bief commentary in "Meatyard/Merton - Merton/Meatyard", an exhibition at public, The Louisville Visual Art Association Gallery, At Whiskey Row Lofts, Louisville KY, May 13-22, 2013

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