Figure of 8
When I am alone, it is not I who am there, and it is not from
you that I stay away, or from others, or from the world. I am not
the subject to whom this impression of solitude would come ― this
awareness of my limits; it is not that I tire of being myself. When I
am alone, I am not there.
― Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature.
This exhibition by Mark O'Kelly describes an engagement with theories of linguistic and figural representation that continue his practice of repurposing cultivated imagery. Most literally, these paintings explore the concept of the linguistic form of the unconscious and the acts of transformation, substitution and negation inherent in such a concept.
Thematically bound by the figure of eight, and by its motivated absence, each work in this series contributes to an original authorial system of ordinal representation. That is, each work can be considered its own sign within a structured, invented model and each work bears weight in a shared symbolic structure. The implications of such a model ―and of broader theories of signification and condensation―becomes metonymically represented in these forms.
Within this system, as in the unconscious, there is inevitably fracture and slippage. In this sense, the literary and poetic figures of Maurice Blanchot and Elizabeth Smart most visibly punctuate the work. Similarly in the infinite regress of the figure of eight there is an implication of an always-there presence bearing along its concomitant dialectical absence. In the textual quotations and literary fragmentation we return to the position of the auteur, signification and audience. Within these acts of displacement, in the arc of unconscious movement, the site of proper discourse remains the unconscious, remains a dream state.
Within the boundaries of these thematic and formal concerns, these paintings progress O'Kelly's sustained engagement with theories of representation, reproduction and quotation. Situated within his wider body of work, these paintings demonstrate a structural movement towards an engagement with questions of cognitive representation and the psychological poetry of the image.