Tower of Shit

Words, labels, descriptions, knowledge. Knowing how to comprehend the world around you often begins and ends with some conscious affirmation that comes in the form of words. It could be contested that actually comprehension begins with the senses but this is OK to overlook. Having moved away from an age where the unknown is acceptable or a way of life it is now imperative that one knows everything all of the time. Knowledge is carried with us virtually, we learn from light-screens, we communicate with light technology that allows us to know anything, “anywhere”, all of the time. In this world words are of course important. Not only in communication between individuals but also in that scientific way of knowing something. By knowing the name of the world around us we can control it.

Tower [Detail Sheep] 2011
Tower Detail: Sheep

This reading of the world might be a little far from the drawings that I am making at the moment but the sentiment is the same. I began by attempting to create artificial landscapes from profanities, things I called Towers of Fuck, or shit-scapes. They were humorous constructions that looked like one thing but would be composed of something else. They were the meeting of ideas with form. Now because we are talking about language this might get quite complicated but what constitutes an idea in this context is actually the intent behind the words being used. For example in this case, a tower made of fuck is absurd. Fuck is an etymologically difficult word so it is difficult to understand it and why it constitutes such a profoundly disturbing reaction within so many people, the contemporary meaning of such a word though is quite interesting, denoting a sex act that is either paralyzingly (in a positive sense), senseless (in the emotionally destructive sense), or animalistic (rough/destructive again). Maybe even a conglomerate of these ideas. Needless to say, a building can’t be constructed out of such a intangible rhetoric device, instead the use of the word in a drawing has two major effects on the image. Firstly, one could assume that the tower must be a symbol/icon/metaphor that is using the lingual/interpretive meaning of the word “fuck” as a sort of parenthesis or guide in its translation. So the words used in the image weight the content with a particular meaning. Secondly, the relationship between the viewer and the image will rely on the viewers active engagement with the image itself, is it a tower or is it a monument to the word fuck? So the visual spectacle is broken between form and content.

Today Wikipedia says this about the word fuck:

“Fuck” can be used as a verb, adverb, adjective, imperative, interjection, and noun. It has various metaphorical meanings. To be “fucked” can mean to be cheated (e.g., “I got fucked by a scam artist”), or to be broken or ruined (e.g., “my computer is fucked”) as well as to be sexually penetrated. As a noun “a fuck” or “a fucker” may describe a contemptible person. “A fuck” may mean an act of copulation. The word can be used as an interjection, and its participle is sometimes used as a strong (not necessarily negative) emphatic. The verb to fuck may be used transitively or intransitively, and it appears in compounds, including fuck off, fuck up, fuck you, and fuck with. In less explicit usages (but still regarded as vulgar), fuck or fuck with can mean to mess around, or to deal with unfairly or harshly. In a phrase such as “don’t give a fuck”, the word is the equivalent of “damn”, in the sense of something having little value. In “what the fuck?!”, it serves merely as an intensive. If something is very abnormal or annoying, “This is fucked up!” may be said.

Recently a larger scale piece of work was made following the above theme, the resulting images displayed below are from the “Tower of Shit” illustration that can also be found as a print on Saatchi:

Tower [detail: birds] 2011
Tower detail: birds

As I continued to draw I began to look at the world around me in a different way. How was I perceiving the landscape in comparison to my immediate environment? There is a clear distinction that is based upon scale. Looking at a landscape the cities, composed of houses, churches, roads and people, are actually just cities. That is how I identify them. On the other hand, proximity changes the way that I read the world around me. At my feet I see the cracks between the tiles, the dust in the cracks, the blade of couch-grass, a bottle cap, the door, the lintel, the window and the ledge. Even just changing my perspective a little will make a difference. The tiles, the paving slabs, become a path. The doors, windows, frames, plaster, and cracks, first become a wall with a door then become an avenue. So I began to think about this labeling of the world based on proximity. What can we do with that? Logically I think this way because it is how one might communicate it to another person. If this is so then isn’t it important to know what the world is composed of, it is not just images in my mind, but words. In fact my internal dialogue is constantly telling me what a thing is, whilst my eyes and my understanding of the composition of what I see is something else. Consequently I began to develop the series, that I have decided to call the Nascent series, to work with this idea of knowing.

Mdina Rooftops
Mdina Rooftops

I am currently working on a rendering of Valletta Harbour and there are varying scales and ideas that are being played with at the moment. The earlier sketches attempted to render varying details of the image into words so that the whole image might be a mesh of text, however the use of space quickly became a subject of interest. Space is an interesting tool and provides a necessary reprieve for the eye especially when the complexity of the ink forms can be so heavy. In the later work that is shown here in-development.

Valletta Harbour draft

Valletta Harbour draft detail
Valletta Harbour Work in-development


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