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Amy Sillman’s Landline — Camden Arts Centre

Before flying back to Manila for my strangely-timed “holiday”¹, I scrambled to see as many of the shows that would be closed by the time I’d be back. Because the rest of my life is also strangely-timed. By which I mean, I’m bad at timing and also scheduling and also at not being lazy. By which I mean that I didn’t get to as many shows as I wanted, which, not a big surprise.

I did manage to make it to Amy Sillman’s Landline, which was on when Zaxx and I coincidentally booked places at a talk at Camden Arts Centre. I took a peek and some pictures (which, to be honest, are a bit lacking, just in terms of how extensive the body of work shown is) and here are some thoughts, which may or may not be valuable, but who reads blogs these days anyway?

My first inclination is to pick which series of work is my favourite, since Sillman experiments with a lot of mediums, but I found that I enjoyed most of them, which is a funny thing to kind of come to realise. First I encountered a video and a few small paintings that dotted the entry space connecting all the rooms in which Sillman’s work are displayed.

I quite like this series as an installation and the way it was displayed reminded me of a much smaller work I made two years ago (lol I know, I should shut up), and I can’t help but be attracted to a sort of fragmentary collection of work like this one. I think it’s really difficult to make abstract art, so I’m always in awe of people who (to my eyes) make abstraction compelling and even appear new.

The larger paintings, for example, were captivating, and I’m a bit sorry that I don’t have more photos of them. And I’m backtracking on what I said before: I think these might be my favourite.

In my mind, it’s really, really difficult to compose and create a multi-layered, seemingly simple composition that makes sense visually, unless you’re a natural, which I think Sillman is. (Let the record show that I have come to this very founded conclusion based on experience, by which I mean, I am not a natural.) Twombly, for example, I think is a natural. Sure, his work, and perhaps Sillman’s work, looks like it could be done by children—a common contention of figurative/realist/etc. snobs—but, it’s actually quite hard to make abstract work that is a) ACTUALLY INTERESTING, and b) immediately looks like yours.

But maybe I’m just exposing myself as a dumbfuck who can’t make abstract art for shit! Who knows!

In my favourite room is an installation that kind of “flattens” her moving image work into one continuous image. The different moments are distilled into one two-sided image and reworked with different types of printing processes, which in a way imitates her process for the fragments and paintings. CAC’s notes on her exhibition mentioned the “gestation” period of her paintings, which apparently take between a few months and years to make, with Sillman returning to the pieces, bit by bit, before she deems them finished.

What possibly interests me a great deal when it comes to this body of work is the implication that time is an element that factors in quite majorly into the work, and not simply in a narrative or linear sense, which obviously is clear in her moving image work. That you can see traces of time and her process in the way she works and the actual finished pieces is certainly a point of interest for me, especially in that these layers each form some sort of foundational aspect of the work, whether or not they are immediately visible to us as spectators.

¹ My holiday is going great, especially if like me, “holiday” to you means “exorbitant amounts of sleeping, eating, reading, and kissing canines.”