NEDÉLA - ENIGMA : A Suite of Variations # 2
1996, Janis Nedela launched his trilogy of self-prescribed exhibitions
under the designation ENIGMA: A Suite of Variations. In that exhibition,
Nedela presented ten large wall objects thereby liberating his work
from the use of the book as a primary means. Whereas in previous exhibitions
books had been used sculpturally in the manner of found objects, in
this instance, text rather than the book itself, had been elevated as
a source, as much for its pictorial significance as its meaning.
Gablik's 1986 publication Has Modernism Failed? provided a key for that
exhibition, not only through Nedela's adoption of some of the author's
ideas and arguments, but also by providing a text that the artist transcribed
using a colour code to represent the words from specifically chosen
passages. The resulting works were fields of coloured patterns and signs
on black or white grounds. The configurations were lively, lyrical and
reminiscent of the rhythms of dialogue. Nails, golf tees, door stoppers,
adhesive tape and coloured pencils were the markers.
current exhibition, the second in the trilogy, is significantly more
ambitious building upon the previous approach and in some ways enabling
a more consummate response to Gablik’s tenets. The number of works is
far greater, the variations infinitely more complex and the materials
more experimentally exploited. Nedela has worked systemically and obsessively
to deliver a series of predetermined objectives. These objectives manifest
themselves in a number of parallel ways, and through an imposition of
restrictions the work has been paradoxically given increased potential.
This body of work clarifies Nedela’s investigative intent and strategic
scale of the works has been kept to two sizes, a reduced square format
and a comparatively expansive rectangle. The media has been limited
to pencils and crayons in favour of the diverse found objects in former
work, thus emphasising the subversion in using such materials as the
marks instead of a means to make marks in a conventional sense. Additionally,
all applied materials have been exhausted by incorporating every component
to avoid waste and to further underline Gablik's premise for the possibility
of art being made from anything. Nothing is discarded. Residue is non-existent.
The wooden shell of the pencil, be it split and splintered, is treated
equivalently as the lead. The shavings from sharpened leads and stubs
of crayons are embedded and fixed into position to complete surfaces.
Swirling eddies and ridges in the paint have been formed by a scraping
action with the edges of pencils.
relationship between ground and surface, too, is more thoroughly considered,
as is the inherent tension in the conjunction of the rational and the
intuitive in the course of constructing the work. The ground is a site
that is regarded either as a surface to build marks upon, or alternatively
as a receptacle to be filled or concealed. Occasionally, works confound
by sharing both distinctions. The works comply easily to serial or sequential
readings, with set or pairs being devoted to certain variations of colour,
material, form or codes. Many of the works again encode Gablik’s text,
some attributed to a passage of forty-eight words while others quote
Nedela remains committed to the works being displayable in any permutation—
that is without a right way up. He also elects not to reveal the actual
passage of text that he transcribes. This ensures the primacy of the
process of making and the materials over representation or readability.
Nevertheless, allusions to the book, landscape or phenonema seem inescapable.
The square format is at times imaginable as a book page with the space
between pairs conceivable as a spine. Pencils undulate like landfalls.
Flecks of crayon look like confetti or confectionery and the embedded
matting of pencil fibre and shavings appear organic. The deliberate
shadow plays also serve to heighten the allusions and help bring a painterly
impression to the work.
speaking of the work Nedela scatters references to music that he has
listened to in his studio while making each work, or likens the actions
of moving paint and placing elements as habitual and yielding as the
raking of Japanese pebble gardens. Clearly a conundrum lies within these
bounds of intuitive or sub-concious gesture in unison with the intervention
of calculated agendas. The works move between the pure and the impure
and our response is similarly dualistic, between the sensuous and the
intellectual. The colours, patterns and tactility are superficially
seductive, yet we can accept the markers as signifiers of language,
even if we are deprived of the meaning or intent of that communication.
Here the muteness of art is challenged by the artist and in turn it
challenges us. We are participants in the game.
as this suite of variations is released from the artist's studio Nedela
is critically evaluating the results and setting himself the charter
for the finale. One suspects that the unleashed exuberance of this suite,
as rewarding as it is, may be reigned in or focussed to close the trilogy.
Nedela has advanced wide-ranging explorations and is generously sharing
with us his journey of inquiry. To borrow a book reference, he is allowing
a considered glimpse of the manuscript before the proposition of this
three part tome is complete.
Moore July 1999