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DIALECTICAL PAINTINGS: READ CONCEPTUALISATIONS BELOW

Conditionality of Intimacy
Reflections
The Pelvis
Not at my feet
Conditionality of Intimacy
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Conditionality of Intimacy, acrylic and marker, 2022

 

The conditional statement in math ‘if P, then Q’ commonly written as ‘~P → ~Q’ is the primary narrative structure of this conceptual work that draws its visual language from elements of mathematics and physics. It comments on the rejection of the primal Freudian id in intimate relationships where one partner offers to be a safe space only so long as the other partner stays within the parameters of their comfort zones. Thoughts or behaviors that do not follow social graces, or have potential to evoke darker feelings like jealousy or insecurity in the listening partner, for example: privately pleasuring oneself to friend or family member, are asked to be ‘toned down’ (id represented by the color red, socially comfortable narrative by the color blue on the ‘descending’ slopes), or worse completely suppressed and ‘removed,’ in intimate communication with the partner. Coming from a place of selfishness, ignorance, and denial and rejection of the primal due to social conditioning, the listener refuses to listen without judgment. The partner’s safe space for the other partner is thus ‘conditional,’ offered as a ‘if you keep quiet about those uncomfortable primal elements and live up to social graces, then alone am I a safe, loving, nonjudgmental space where you can communicate without filters and fears.’ Even though such primal instincts or thoughts cause harm to no individual, disclosing something so personal to a partner is ‘forbidden.’ Hinted at, of course. Through a shrug. Or a glare. Or pure cold emotional disengagement.

Within this complex, geometric abstraction, please look for:

i) Vertically down the left column of the painting: two mating animals represented as four-legged tables sharing a common leg (that extends upward as a tail), and the letters ‘DNA’ written within representing blood ties or alluding to the ‘forbidden’ through incest

ii) A voltage regulator circuit/‘window for communication output/transparency’ (V-in and V-out labelled on two sides of the regulator). The original voltage (red square in window) is toned down to a lower voltage output (blue square in window).

iii) The mathematical notation: ‘~P → ~Q,’ P is red, and Q is a visual image made of dots. The soft, porous textures and dots in Q symbolize safe space. It is ‘the prize’ but a conditional one earned after ‘the primal’ is toned down before talking to the partner. The piece isn’t simply laughing at the hypocrisy. It’s mourning about the conditionality of something that shouldn’t be conditional.

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Reflections
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Image properties:

real

enlarged

inverted

Reflections, acrylic and marker, 2022

The narrative body of this piece builds on multiple ways of looking at the ethics, efficiency, benefits and dangers, implications, understandings, and more of ‘boundary play.’ The work uses imagery from physics, the formation of an inverse, large image of an object from a concave mirror. We are brought up in a society where we are taught that communicating boundaries is our responsibility but so is enforcing them. What if we do the former but not the latter? What does ‘enforcing’ mean for different people, and how much ‘force’ must be exerted? What may be observed or learnt about our psyches and our characters during ‘boundary play’?

There are two characters - character A represented by the large blue circle, and character B represented by the bulb box, whose reflection appears in the form of an inverse, larger image (an upside bulb box) from a concave mirror. Individual B’s (bulb box) character value, self-awareness, and conscientiousness may become reflected within a relationship with another individual (individual A) who is fully aware and cognizant of their boundaries, and communicates them, but is not always enforcing them in a militant way. Character A represented by the blue circle has a ‘fluid,’ ‘softer’ way of being which can be seen through the porous, combing strokes that define its boundaries instead of a hard edge. Character B is represented by the box with the light bulb and the tick-mark symbol- the bulb representing how self-aware they are (especially of their subconscious, primal self which is inclined towards self-preservation and well-being over another’s comfort) and the tick mark representing how conscientious they are. The red concave surface is a mirror and as the light rays hit character B and reach the mirror, the mirror returns an inverted, real, and slightly larger image of character B.

Traditionally, we are taught not only to be aware and communicative of our boundaries but that asserting them is also solely our responsibility, for both our well-being and another’s. This piece about boundary play tries to play with the idea of getting to see someone’s inner critic, ethics, and self-awareness when we don’t assert our boundaries militantly, when we give them a little ‘free room to wander.’ ‘Giving space’ is not the same as ‘giving rope’ (referring to the proverb that a thief will hang themself when given enough rope) since the latter implies a sinister kind of conscious ‘vetting’ with a cruel, selfish goal to shame or judge someone’s primality and humanness and rid oneself of all personal accountability. Boundary play isn’t trying to shame someone if they put themselves over another and if they let things ‘slide’ when the opportunity seems to allow it, especially when their desires are in direct opposition with another’s. It is simply an experimental way that allows a special way of looking at another person’s inner critic and high levels of conscientiousness, creating a unique window to explore idealistic love and spiritual connection. The experiment is a risqué, unsafe way of engaging with someone (thus the red warning triangle in the painting) as we can bring harm upon our self since we don’t have prior knowledge of the other person’s ethics, conscientiousness, how active their inner critic is etc. Yet, it has potential to reveal very interesting facets of the psyche of two individuals. To demystify boundary play with a petty example- if A doesn’t like to do the dishes every day and has communicated it to B gently, what would B do if A doesn’t assert the boundary militantly going forwards? For some, boundary play is purely delusional and dangerous, not to mention ignorant, selfish, and callous. For others, it’s an idealistic curiosity to explore how developed another' s inner critic is so that they can warmly encourage its growth in a safe space- it is not a cop out from taking personal accountability, nor intended to humiliate another because of personal denial and disillusioned notions of the truths of the human psyche, or smugly riding a high horse in a state of blinding delirium.

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Clinical vs. Personal Caregiving series (still in making): Band-aid (1), Gift of Remembrance (2), and Contingencies of Codependent Bonding (3), mixed media on black fabriano, 2022

 

This series revolves around the potentials of personal/spiritual caregiving, deep therapeutic work through a friend or well-wisher, instead of the same with a clinical caregiver or therapist. The first work with the band-aids within a thought bubble simply represent the act of caregiving to the mind and its issues and functions as an ‘intro’ to the latter pieces.

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Traditionally, healing the mind successfully has been attributed to the ‘observe, don’t absorb’ methodology where someone is watching the mind of the one requiring healing but not personally absorbing their feelings, thoughts, experiences and more. It is impersonal but deemed an effective form of healing since there is just the right distance to untie the knots. But highly sensitive individuals might find it hard to heal in an impersonal setting/dynamic, no matter how successful, safe or comfortable the relationship built may be, and this is where personal caregiving as someone’s friend or a well-wisher comes into place, where ‘observe from a distance and absorb/retain’ can be creatively used and be equally successful. By absorb, the artist is not referring to absorbing the disturbing or distressing feelings or psychological traumas of someone but rather ‘absorbing’ the individual into our own warmth, kindness, and more to let them know they aren’t someone we will forget or get rid of from our mind when they leave our company, that they aren’t someone with whom we begin and finish business at a $140/hr relationship, but that we personally care for them.

This is where Contingencies of Codependent Bonding with the golden shield and text loops enter. It captures the dangerous contingencies of such a personal relationship of healing if the individuals aren’t mature or evolved. The text loops are written by repeating the word trauma (close-up in portfolio) and there are small spheres with subtraction symbols within them. The golden shield has four suns and four plus symbols next to them. If the individuals aren't self-sufficient or actively looking to be empowered, and lack a high degree of self-awareness and self-control, then it predicts something dangerous. If the individual being healed wants to hold on to their victimhood for sympathy purposes (minus signs) and the individual providing healing is addicted to ego-strokes/feeling needed/need-to-play-savior complex (sun/plus signs), then the environment is ripe for codependent bonding.

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However, a contingency isn’t a reality and just because an environment or dynamic like this is ripe for harmful attachments, it doesn’t mean it cannot benefit others. Some people who are internally stronger but also highly sensitive would heal better if the person they are working their trauma with is a friend instead of a professional. There’s a special gift promised there. The culmination of this series happens in the work with the red poppy flowers called The Gift of Remembrance.

On the top left, there is an inverted garbage bin housing an inverted newspaper and inverted black television inside. Much of what we consume in media is stuff we hit ‘delete’ on internally and don’t lie in bed thinking about. The same happens with clinical caregiving- the caregiver hits ‘delete’ on an emotional front because it’s a professional responsibility and not a personal one.

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The Gift of Remembrance captures the artist’s sensitivities and sentiments of healing relationships that don’t involve hitting ‘delete’ so easily, where someone’s emotional distress or experience isn’t like a football match over beer or a Friday evening news coverage that we see and forget. Being listened to feels wonderful- sure. But there are very few things that feel as wonderfully healing as being remembered and mattering personally to someone. The red poppies are Canadian symbols for Remembrance, celebrating all that we don’t want to forget, and in the healer-healed dynamic, one of the most precious gifts that can be offered is ‘the gift of remembrance,’ of not having one’s deepest experiences being hit ‘delete’ on. It is spiritual, personal caregiving that has tremendous potential. Since it’s the ultimate present, the work is encased in a blue gift ribbon bow.

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