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Memorist evocation : painting as a mnemonic device


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Nay, MW 2016 , 'Memorist evocation : painting as a mnemonic device', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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By investigating the connections between the real, remembered and imagined, this
research project set out as an inquiry into the capacity of painting to function as a
mnemonic device. People who use such devices can be referred to as “memorists”
(Reber, Allen & Reber 2009). Through process-based drawing, collage and
painting, I placed objects, imbued with traumatic family histories, into
compositions that were visual attempts at remembering spaces of my childhood.
My intention was to test relationships that exist between drawing and collage and
how each of these processes could bring to painting the experience of
remembering. Painting, I concluded, was an articulate practice that benefited
from the disjointed and fragmentary nature of collage as a preparatory process.
The paintings draw on remembered events with the backdrop of the 1960s
and 1970s of my childhood. Inherited objects from this time provide evidence of
my ancestral trauma of penury, diaspora and war. In my hand these vestige objects
have the literal weight of their primary function and the metaphoric weight of
memories. Vestige describes a disparate group of inherited ancestral objects
including a bayonet from the Great War, a family bible, and whimsies such as a
ceramic figurine. The paintings are about these real objects and their histories
painted on canvas from life or photographs, coalescing in contextual spaces based
on uncertain childhood memories.
The project was supported by research into theories of memory, objects
and landscape. Each contribution, philosophical or clinical, co-acted for strategies and methodologies in making. Psychoanalytic theories (of van der Kolk,
Laplanche and Pontalis) provided working definitions of memory-recall that
aligned with painting strategies in the studio. The work of Maurice Halbwachs
offered insights into existential questions relating to physical objects in daily
contact and notions of permanence and stability. Ian Farr theorised on the role of
landscape in the consciousness of childhood. Jill Bennett, in her work Empathic
Vision, discusses the use of fiction and fantasy in art that endeavours to visually
register experience of traumatic memory.
Artworks discussed in the Context chapter, 2 are significant because they
exemplify the evocative potency of trauma, memory, banal objects and interior
spaces in collage and painting. The work explores various interpretive modes of
painting that challenge ways of perceiving the encounters between subjective
realities and the above topics. Examination of work by Albert Tucker and Imants
Tillers provided a perspective on trauma and diaspora. Paintings by Matthias
Weischer and Dexter Dalwood are used to discuss the relationship between
pictorial ‘interior space’ and memory. Historical perspectives on still life and
collage in the work of Picasso and Braque are contrasted with a contemporary
collaging of ‘tabletop’ space in the work of James Lynch.
In conclusion I found that vestige objects have the ability to draw
something out of the painter, more than could have been understood at the
beginning of the project. An intimate engagement was established with the objects.
They were near enough to be touched and constantly scrutinised. This intimacy
allowed me to reflect on their original intended functions: killing, advertising and story-telling, all being different from their banal utilitarian, domestic functions as
remembered from childhood. The paintings problematize the relationships
between real objects, their remembered banality and their representation in paint.
My thesis demonstrates that, with the techniques I have employed, I can
bring these things together. Paintings have considerable coherency (structurally)
to offer a plausible pictorial account of how one might visualise and make sense
of the snippets of childhood memory that have such a significant role to play in
psychological and social formation.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Nay, MW
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Copyright 2016 the author

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