RE: FIGURING MEMORY
RE: FIGURING MEMORY – THE ART OF KRISTEN ALVANSON
_ A. Gargett
“I look at you and think of the evening I first met you, and you’re not that person anymore. I mean, the elements are the same, but you’re different. Look at me right now.” Christy lifted her long arms right up in the air, still holding the dripping spoon, asking me to take in all of her. “I will never be this person again. When we walkout of here today – when tomorrow morning comes – I will be somebody else, not exactly the same as I am right now. Maybe that’s all dying is.” Ethan Hawke – Ash Wednesday
Quirky, yes. Offbeat, certainly; but more than that, with its mixture of media and its oblique take on the very act of being an artwork, the paintings of Kristen Alvanson imply that their creator’s vision is wrested from the world rather than being at home within it. In an era when so much art strives for the ready-made statement – in reality provoked by the times but seeking nonetheless to be provocative of them – Alvanson’s work remains carefully stated. The working is always shown; an art of passion in which the terror of – and desire for – abandonment, is expressed with consummate cool.
Alvanson’s art is an art of presences and resonances, acts and allusions. Perhaps it is viable to start with memory. With memories that are positioned before our eyes. What here has been remembered? How does the painting work to remember? It is not that these paintings simply turn around the interaction of memory, histories and representation, it is more accurately, that these themes present what comes to be framed within the paintings as their own apposite topos; and within that topos, their presence is intricate and complex. At work within the field of the painting they source the paintings with their work. What this means is that the paintings draw on and develop the resources that inhere in memory, history and representation. The specificity of their work, however, is connected to what occurs when these elements are themselves put to work. In this, their supposed determinations – the already given particularity of memory, history and representation – no longer control, and even though these elements need to be understood as encompassing, and enacting, the material presence of tradition, what is enacted takes the form of an active questioning rather than a painterly or interpretative “fait accompli”. It is that their movement into work is traversed by a questioning of memory, history and representation. This questioning comes to be at work in the frame and thereby forms an integral part of the work’s work. This questioning is no mere idle speculation; it is rather a questioning that, once acknowledged, forms a resolute part of the present.