Some Thresholds

(a response for AY)


He wrote me that the Japanese secret—what Lévi-Strauss had called the poignancy of things—
implied the faculty of communion with things, of entering into them, of being them for a moment.
It was normal that in their turn they should be like us: perishable and immortal.
- Chris Marker, Sans Soleil

To think is an act. To feel is a fact.
- Clarice Lispector


While considering how to begin writing a text for you, I positioned myself on the shallow step where my room meets the small garden. It’s a good spot, being half inside and half out, and from this angle the space is portioned in a way that makes the outside feel like another room.

The small border of a threshold seems to merit pausing. Maybe this is required in the straightforward actions of opening a door or taking off shoes, but the delay in this routine before you enter another space also gives the impression that the other space is waiting to be entered.

Your drawing is a rectangle placed on a spacious page, yet it appears to operate apart from the surface, like a window or a recess. I am aware not only of looking but also of looking in on something.

We see an interior where two women are engaged in a craft. Their postures hold a quiet concentration. We seem to find them at a moment when their task is almost complete.

The drawing is a meticulous copy of a photograph its details minute and precise. Even a glass bead is translucent. But unlike the finish of the photograph it duplicates, your copy pulls me back to imagine the process of its creation, a process that is handmade.

Your chosen image pictures a scene of making that conveys the slowness and patience from which a crafted object emerges. While you gradually remake the image, you also parallel its subject, as if positioning yourself beside the two women silently focused on their craft.

While a photograph often gives access to a moment or atmosphere, here the mood has been deepened by your attention. The soft layers of graphite seem to have slowed the scene down and the presence of the two figures poised in their work becomes so immediate there is almost a sense that looking might disturb them.

The intimacy of drawing imagines or feels its way into the movements taken by the hand in making, of the women’s hands forming glass beads into artificial fruits and then, in turn, the marks that your own hand contributes in shaping this relived scene of intimacy.

I remember you saying

I have to run my hand over a thing in order to understand it.

If to feel is to understand, the contact of your pencil will provide the same recognition as your hand tracing the surface of a new object.

The term draw can also be a pull, an action to bring something near, towards oneself. The method of copying will go further still, as if to immerse you. It is a way of inhabiting the same space as the image you have chosen.

This drawing is part of a series entitled Others. The method of making has set out to overcome the distance of the other in the title, to meet the subject and bring it into a situation of close acquaintance. Yet the ambiguity in the title is also upheld.

I remember a moment in a film I watched recently where a character tries to describe a thought forming, touching her finger to her temple to locate the place where she senses it arriving.

A small piece of your drawing is unfinished and graphite smudges are left in its corners. There is a sense of finding something discarded or in mid-process like a leaf torn from a sketchbook.

When an image is photocopied or scanned, it can be distinguished from its counterpart by the inky lines at its edges. The image you have remade is also defined by the marks that cluster around it.

While thinking about writing this text for you, I recorded in my notebook some terms used by Husserl and Levinas to describe the moments surrounding consciousness:

Halos                Fringes                Horizons

I wanted to place these names beside the other of your title. The language that describes the beginnings of thought also shapes itself around edges. I think back to the idea of a threshold edge as a division or point of balance between spaces, perhaps as a place where the other is received. An edge can be a beginning, an entrance or point of receptivity.

In the margins of this replica image, there are traces of intuitive action. A turquoise strip of ink hovers like a neat spill and two faint, wobbly circles overlap.

These additions seem to belong to different spaces and timeframes while sitting side by side on the paper. The inky brushstroke is all quickness; it could be a pattern of light, a hazy afterimage or blur. A sense of movement still feels present on the surface. Precision is seen in the midst of these fluid moments.

In contrast, the replica carries a certain distance, a sense of time being recalled, as if its details weren’t copied at all but summoned from memory. At one corner the drawing grows faint and remains unfinished. Something is kept back.

There is a gesture I often catch myself making whilst concentrating, of touching my thumb and finger together in a circle, as if this point of touch were somehow capable of fixing an elusive thought.

The eye continually returns to the left-hand border of the drawing where two circles intersect.

And just across the doorsill at my side, away from the light in the room where I am writing to you, I notice it is suddenly evening.