catalogue essay for ‘a toy boat on the Serpentine’

an exhibition of works by Aurelia Carbone

Gallery139, Adelaide, February 20 to March 8, 2009

a toy boat on the Serpentine
a toy boat on the Serpentine
32 x 61 cm
Image © The Artist

Big fish, little fish, 1,2,3 fish
big fish, little fish (oh) swallowing whale
Jonah rides from the teeth of the whale
(3 days and 3 nights)

on a rush of green, sea green pea green
a baleen boat from the whale’s mouth
and sailing

sailing on these seas, the knee seas
so many knees to make such tumultuous seas under the sheets
(7 in the bed and the little one said…)

and you rolling and falling catching in the billows of these eiderdown seas,
falling into the troughs of elbows and knees
(so many waves and such a little boat to sail in, oh little you)

Landing here (there now) on the rise of a hill,
Lift the coverlet of green for papery skeletons
un-fleshed, un-anchored, banging about below stairs

waiting for the girl in mourning black and cherry coloured hair to
loose her thoughts from the sun and come
to the warm dark below, come
dancing in their featherlight arms
(don’t forget your shoes)

Beware the river’s curves green sibilants
serpents, serpentine, the rivers hiss

its curves cool and slippery, the weave stiff under your reading fingers
(up over the arm and across the cushions)

Careful now, on the edge of slipping, the cusp of sleep
(there’s many a slip betwixt cup and lip)

(for) this is the skeletons home; the plague pits, the whales mouth, the forest.
A night sky is silk, stars pinpricks in cloth

Red and Ted keep each others backs against the world eternally
No Lilliput this. No world for giants
shaped to me and the width of your hand
the chicken footed trees lean in knowingly, lithe and live
(Baba Yaga can’t be far!)

travelling outwards and towards,
a world under glass and time blossoms like dust clouds
infinitely expanding, infinitely now

don’t fall in, don’t fall in
keep on the path
of breadcrumbs or leaves or pebbles or birds
directions for the careful reader

So many waves and such a little boat
(oh) little you.

Here the trees lean in knowingly, skeletons dream under empty cities, the forest has eyes and is keenly aware of the figures moving though it who are encompassed themselves in an animated world, one that is sensate, cognisant and immediate.

A world like that of the child’s before categories are known and boundaries fixed where the child’s consciousness flows out into the world imbuing everything with knowing life.

Not simply childlike or fantastical, Aurelia Carbone’s lustrous images of her complex, constructed worlds concretise these inner states where knowledge comes as a cascade of sensation and the profundity of moments where something, everything is realised instantaneously. Irreducible to language, these instants of sensation and emotion are fixed into extended time through their translation into the miniature.

Personal, intimate, the intensity of this sensate experience is embodied in the very fabric of their making, their dense and specific materiality. Sky and water are rendered as silk, grass becomes felt, the River Serpentine transmutes into a stiff brocade. All materials held close to the body, we experience the feel of them from memory setting off a rush of sensory associations and memories; the temperature of silk, the fuzziness of a hand knitted scarf, the nap of blankets and smothering of sheets, of being again in this vivid and sensual world.

picnic at Blackheath by Aurelia Carbone
picnic at Blackheath
61 x 53 cm
Image © The Artist

To us, the viewer they seem moments from an unknown story, one unwritten or still in progress perhaps and so they pull us in. We go under the glass into them but what holds us in the miniature’s thrall is not their verisimilitude, proliferating detail or the cleverness and care of their construction but the arresting of time.

Before language, before we have a name for it, we know that time moves and that things do not stay the same. We move from the sensate moment, to a continuous self to memory, time and narrative. From the beginning we recognise time’s narrative and ourselves in its moving stream.

In these images time is not so much frozen as gently held, each charged moment cupped in a limitless now of possibility. It is this moment and only this one that matters. Not knowing how the story begins or ends these are moments alive with the potential that things might turn out anyway at all.

your place or mine? by Aurelia Carbone
your place or mine?
61 x 72 cm
Image © The Artist

We move into language, into narrative and it takes us up into its current and carries us.
In its stream of time we lose the path to this gentle, intimate world of sensation and feeling, these moments of pure sensual being in and of the world. Of falling and catching.

For us looking in, the promise to step out of time’s story into the single moment is the secret seduction at their core.

So many waves and such a little boat
(oh) little you.

catalogue with essay on facing fold