End of Empire

"End of Empire" - Etching/Monoprint by Eric Waldemar

Some kind of Gene Wolfe parlor of tarnished escutcheons, faceless poise, and rotting velvet, with remnants of ruling families maintaining the procedures of dignity as any trace of distinction and inbred purpose fade. Ancestral identity becomes mere cashflow and costume. Vast, dim, cobwebbed atriums (atria?), occasional letters to sign, from estate lawyers. Biscuits and the sherry bottle. Cuddling with grandfather’s trophies and certificates.

Gao Xingjian’s “Return to Painting”

This is a favorite book, a gift from my sister a few years ago. Gao draws astounding forms from black ink and paper, pulling image from abstraction and bleeding ink in a way that reminds me of Joseph Beuys’ early watercolors. Also, though, I return again and again to his writing about his own work process, the cultivation of a state of mind that invites wonders to emerge from the tip of the brush. Curiously, this great painter also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000.  Gao lived through ugly times in China, and he’s skeptical of art world  “revolutions” and post-historical jargon. He’s also suspicious of the conceptual tone of much of contemporary art. Gao’s paintings are proof enough that the tactile mysticism of the brush that has thousand-year-old roots in China is alive and well, even amidst a generation that strives to forget it. (Click below for more, including short quotes from the book.)

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Odin-Odeon Cinema Fragment One

Several monoprints from the same intaglio plate, prints and cinema by Eric Waldemar

Several monoprints from the same intaglio plate.

Each Wednesday (Woden’s Day) night this Spring, when possible, I went over to the studio to make prints. I had several etched plates lying about, each of them suggestive of image, while not quite readable without interpretation. The ways in which an intaglio plate can be inked, and stroked into art, are infinite. Each of these shuffling images is a “reading” of the same etched printing plate. You can see the traces of a common origin, if you care to pause and look for a moment. If this is no interest, if this kind of transformation isn’t your cup of tea, well, then, by all means, you’d best move along and not waste any more of your time here.

Old Tongue

from "Old Tongue" by Eric Waldemar“Old Tongue is a piece of nearly-abstract visual music that rushes forward repeatedly, then pauses, breathless. A tiny screen invites one to focus close, and the attentive viewer is rewarded, as rhythm, shape, color, and glimpsed imagery meld in a cinema that is both intricate and intimate. Old Tongue was shot primarily on the Antrim Coast, in Connemara, and in the Poisoned Glen in the summer of 2009. Spirits seem to merge with the vivid present, and even familiar imagery seems somehow unreal.”

(Video installation for “Letters & Speechlessness” at ArtWorks, Letterkenney, Ireland, July 3-30, 2010, 7 minute loop, tiny video, 2010)


I love the feeling that I’m coming to an understanding of something that’s very complex, that’s too intricate and layered to put into words. Like jazz harmony this afternoon, when it began, as it sometimes does, to get out of my brain and into my fingers . Like all the rest of it, too, all of it, on a good day. Rewards of aging, reward for decades of dogged rumination and attentive daily experience. The moment passes, though, and I keep muddling along with really only brief, occasional moments of clarity.