Milestones and moving on

Bertien van Manen1

Image by courtesy of the artist Bertien van Manen from her work “Beyond Maps and Atlases”

So that’s that then. I have submitted to final draft of my dissertation, its accompanying (albeit very short) Abstract which means that the twin courses of BoW and CS are now completed – just the revisions and assessment gathering to do. A sense of relief is starting to settle, but also the idea that I can now more naturally focus on the future with SYP.

I was extremely surprised, not to say delighted, to receive a gift from the OCA at my last meeting in Barnsley, a new work by Bertien van Manen “Beyond Maps and Atlases.” It came as no surprise that my tutor Wendy had chosen it, especially as it chimes very strongly with both my BoW final project and the underlying  critical framework for my dissertation. Perfect.

What I like especially about the work are two things. No words, apart from a short extract from a poem by Seamus Heaney – that I didn’t know, and secondly the visual language. The images seemed at first to be disparate, unconnected, but slowly as I seeped into the work a narrative, perhaps my own started to emerge. The way the images mostly had a skein of substance between me and the subject; it might be the windscreen of a car, the apparent poor processing of the film, or the inexact exposure of the image. Something came between this viewer and the object and that to me seemed to be the purpose of the narrative. To interject, to infer a layer of personal history in order to re-narrate the image in my own likeness. The images became part of my history.

Bertien started making the work after her husband died, they were made in Ireland – she is Dutch and lives in Holland. She was taken around by artist acquaintances in Ireland having, apparently no personal connection to any of the destinations (or people) she photographed. It is a beautiful and tender book, but I don’t think it’s a eulogy.

She says on her web-site:

“At first, working in Ireland I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. My husband had died. I dispensed with the people and reflected on the atmosphere. I was guided by a feeling and a search, a longing for some kind of meaning in a place of myths and legends. There was mystery and endlessness at the edge of a land beyond which is nothing but a vast expanse.”

I keep thinking the same thought at periods in the course that something has changed, I have changed. And its as true today as it was when I last thought it. Things have changed.


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