An essay, LMW to JB

Yesterday I published here a small text I wrote for a show, Internal Forces, Painting. Linda Marie Walker curated the show, a gathering of her friends – their work. Linda's essay for the wall sheet is below. Internal Forces opens tonight at Praxis Artspace, a relatively new artist run space in Bowden - right there amongst all the new development. Patty Chehade is the Director, it's a beautiful space. 

All this I painted some time ago, and on another Sunday …

This exhibition remembers John Barbour, my friend and colleague, and friend and colleague to several artists in the exhibition. John passed away six years ago. Time flies …

… and this exhibition is, more or less, about time flying, or thought flying, falling, rising, sinking (with effort, patience, practice) through space …

… it touches upon thought expressing itself otherwise, showing itself in myriad (and fractured) ways, saying what presents itself and flees at the same time, passes in fact …

John Barbour’s ‘dunce’ (immuredinpace, 1988, charcoal on linen) stands in a corner with a tall pointy hat on his head; then, almost twenty years later, a single glowing light bulb hangs in a corner close to the floor and two pieces of crushed organza are pinned to the walls either side of the corner join (close my eyes, 2006, installation). The body has disappeared, light and lightness remain.

A work of John’s from 2005, titled work (returned) – tangled bundles of coloured silk thread hanging from needles tapped into the gallery wall, gently moving, quivering, in the air, there but barely there – emanates courage and reserve. And in his very last exhibition (work for now) there was the painting THINK, made in 1990; the letters of the word on their side, black on white, stacked, hard/soft bars, stretched edge to edge. John let thinking change his art and his mind, and both in terms of forms, materials, and intentions; “There would never be a whole story, only fragments that would reflect in distorted and fragmented form – as a systematic registration maybe – my ‘internal encounter’ with the world.”(2)

We see and feel things, develop complex emotional ideas/beliefs about our situation/environment/self/other, that are, or can be, in an instant, dissolved, reversed, unsettled, crushed, and so on … causing holes, creases, brilliant alignments, sudden joys, shadows, faint distant realms … we vanish, they advance, it withdraws and, in tiny leaps and bounds, forces transform …

These ‘forces’ distribute themselves across the works (paintings, watercolours, sculptures, film, textiles), all parts of the surfaces are significant; the peripheries are everywhere, the centres are de-fused (diffused). They resist, they conjoin (peri-centres)(3); they are contingent, emerging from the past and from the future, cutting through moments in all directions, letting go, and pinging across voids.

Hilma af Klint is considered “… an intermediary of abstraction …”, an anticipatory force, whose enigmatic paintings – cosmic arabesques, mysterious flowers, mystic couples, hermetic alphabets, lines, colours – came, she said, dictated, ordered, from ‘the other world’.(4)

“She aimed at making visible the interrealations beyond those the eye can perceive … Hilma af Klint never exhibited her abstract paintings in public during her lifetime, mandating in her will that this was not to occur until at least twenty years after her death … [she] painted pictures for the future.”(5)

Each artist’s work in Internal Forces is of an individual independent constitution with its own source matter and operational, implicatory, conditions, and composed of innumerable decisions, reckonings, and configurings. Painting – or to-paint/to-make with colours, shapes, materials, from before (even) anything ‘shows’, and before/in-front-of the gathering storms of stuff and substances, and with (then) time, and processes, and ‘what to do’ and ‘what to do next’ and the next day too – (painting) watches itself arrive. The painter watches paint paint, from his/her own side, from (with) his/her own presence. The painting/work cuts/layers space … there’s nothing there, waiting, then the cut/layer, the mark, is ‘given’ over and over, spreading, fading, turning … strangely coming-to-be a plane-upon-plane to which I/we (then) appear, and are regarded (in their light). One has (then) the option to be reserved, and reserved, be(come) un-guarded: “… painting is, each time, the entirety of its own discretion, and of the discretion of painting. … Discreteness is plastic: stroke against stroke, colour against colour, stroke against colour. (And when speaking of fragments, of fragmentary discreteness, for example, one necessarily speaks of sculpture.)”(6)

“Silk is produced by the worm – the result of slow, patient labour. Harvesting the threads also requires patient labour, a returning of the material to a primary state to be worked. I think of this process as being like a meditation – a kind of homage to the worm.” (John Barbour)(7)


  1. Clarice Lispector, The Stream of Life, trans. Elizabeth Lowe & Earl Fitz, University of Minnesota Press, Minneopolis, 1989, p. 11
  2. ‘Interview’, Anne Thompson & John Barbour, in HARDSOFT, Australian Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, 2011 (And: “The current work, no less than earlier ones, stem from a very consistent concern with exploring the tension between subjective experience and what I call ‘thingness’ (my ‘republic of things’). And in fact my work has always celebrated stylistic disjunction, inconsistency and contradiction – because I see these as positive and appropriate strategies for trying to express the complex business of being human.” (Joao Solitaire/John Barbour, in HARDSOFT)
  3. Made-up word using the peri from periphery; ‘peri’ is a prefix meaning ‘around’, ‘about’, ‘beyond’, or having an intensive force.
  4. Pascal Rousseau, ‘Premonitory Abstraction – Mediumism, Automatic Writing, and Anticipation in the Work of Hilma af Klint’, in Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction, ed. Iris Müller-Westermann with Jo Widoff, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 2013, p. 161
  5. Iris Müller-Westermann, ‘Paintings for the Future: Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction in Seclusion’ in Hilma af Klint …, ibid., p. 33 (I don’t know if ‘interrealations’ is meant to be ‘interrelations’, I’ve left it as I’ve found it.)
  6. Jean-Luc Nancy, ‘On Painting (and) Presence’, in The Birth To Presence, trans. Brian Holmes and others, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1993, p. 347
  7. In HARDSOFT, ibid.

LM Walker 2017

Francis Goya, Caprichos, Plate 23, 'Those specks of dust'. From a small 2006 JB archive.