How to say the thing I wanted to say and not to say the things I didn’t want to say

This thing (the thing I wanted to say) is large,
something like
the elephant in the room,
an awkward presence
that will not allow itself to be seen or defined.
Despite this absence of legibility
It has a quiet assertive force.
It is quite certain of its presence
(a presence that has come about through a great deal of careful reflection, cogitation and distillation)
although this certainty is perhaps the only certainty
that it will allow
or certainly the only certainty
it would like to commit to.
The rest is your responsibility, up to you.


In the last century, a new notion: the viewer must complete the work. This does not address the problem of the body that has its own way of encountering other bodies, its own ways of sensing a physical presence, because at that time, bodies and eyes were still as separate and as interdependent as those of John Donne’s Renaissance lovers whose orbs – leaving their physical beds – thread themselves onto a doubled string of ecstatic coupling desire,[1] an image of eyes moving in and (more frequently) out of bodies that pursues us from Oedipus through Shakespeare to the odious Coppelius aka the Sandman in the Gothic Hoffmann tale. And then on to the peeping Surrealists and their friends, the mirroring psychoanalysts: for them perception happened through sight and sound, in other words, one body encountered another by projective visual action, in which the eyes transmit the necessary information to the brain, and the body – and its lower organs – are more or less bypassed.


A problem for sculpture today: how to speak a visual language at once inchoate and perfectly formed? What is the relationship between eyes and hands?

The elephant is large and silent,
it walks on muffled feet
the result of feelings pressing
from the inside and from the outside
the result of thoughts unspoken
inarticulate, arrested and solidified
its presence is palpable, almost.
It takes forms that hover on the edge between figuration and abstraction
coming into being or leaving
we will never know

be suspicious of language and the hollowness of received speech


we talk and we talk and we talk
and I am trying to understand and she is trying to help me to understand and I am trying to find meaning although I have understood that there is no singular specific meaning and she is trying to help me find the meaning even though she does not want to identify a meaning and I am trying to find the means to express what she is both trying and trying not to express I am trying to use words to explain to you what it is she is trying to say and trying not to say through the words she has used to help me to understand what it is I am trying to decipher although we all know that the purpose of art is to express precisely those things that cannot be expressed in any other way, making words on the subject redundant.


A bridge of words between us
Questions and answers
Unfinished sentences


Speech, communication, interpretation, attempting to express with tentative touching
things that can barely be grasped


the memories of a distant physical sensation


they travel from the infinite receptibility of the artist’s skin
transmitted by numerous neurons through her nervous system
to the great central processor her brain – of which parts function
consciously and other parts less so

here they are chewed, digested, processed
to produce an image that forms itself in her mind’s eye
transmitted to her pencil-wielding hand they generate a small, diagrammatical
or doodle
in a small, black-bound pocket notebook.

A simple line drawing
The one that has integrity needs to be made into a three-dimensional form.


Arms push and pull
fingers pinch, press and squeeze
drop-scone portions of clay
When she shows me how she does it – in space – she is using both hands at once
her arms reach out and round
they embrace matter, warmly
She sees from one perspective
which might be better described as
a singular viewpoint
But she feels things (from her fingertips to her shoulders) in the round.


Traditionally sculpture – modelled or carved – yielded its form to the searching hand of the artist, who found his figure or object in the material, a shape that has mass, gravitas, readability, a weight and concrete form

a solid mass is easier to believe in

Here, forms take shape in a process of accretion. The clay wall is built up in small pieces that are blended into each other to create a thin skin producing a shell that is formed by pressure from both sides

a precarious place
holding in tension and balance what cannot be said and what needs to be articulated.


An observation:         
you can see someone looking
but you cannot hear them hear.[2]


The same goes for touching, thinking, feeling. For these senses and actions, rather than projecting outwards, an inward-projection is required. This empathic, multi-sensorial world of the imagination is not separable into mind and body,
or thought and thing.


Bodies that think and thoughts that take place inside bodies
and on the surface of bodies on the very skin
the restless surface
that carries the evidence of a continual searching for visual words
for the form
that can adequately express that thing
the means to say that very specific and particular thing.


an essence of uncertainty

The drawings have lots of gridded surfaces. This patterning is like a veil: it literally blocks them in (blocking in space). At the same time it blocks our way into them.
Its gaucheness and clunkiness are intentional: deliberately difficult


abrupt                                                                                                              obstruct


Geometry bridges figurative and abstract.
The specific characteristics of the clay are supremely important: responsive in small portions to gentle persuasion, in larger volumes this dumb matter is very reluctant to perform certain actions. Its resistance mirrors the intractability of thought that fills, blocks, deadens the mind, without careful and tender manipulation


and love

Even though love may be at an end – of roses
‘it is at the edge of the
petal that love waits’[3] 


this edge
drawn by hands in space
from the tips of fingers through knuckles to palm
is where the art happens


the cutting away of something with form and meaning
producing something without a sentence
without a name


Building and then taking away
building objects and then removing them
building meaning and then taking it away
this activity of making is like ruminating – masticating– spitting out
this is its relation to language


The work ‘falls exactly within the gap’ between a thought or a feeling and an image or an emblem. How to separate such entities seems as impossible as trying to describe a form without a line, which in three dimensions becomes a skin – a description, an indication, potentially a shadow – that suggests its inner space and volume without letting you know the colours and shapes – the specific viscerality – of its contents.


Envisaged as an image, a wrapped drawing
this three-dimensional object may be the imprint of a more complete work that exists only in the fourth dimension
A place where thinking and feeling have their own physical structure, although those structures constitute precisely that which cannot be seen
psychological conditions
conditions of things
image and object reversed and reversing


Body parts come from personal beginnings
(for example the ear – a part of the body not usually remarked on – or much noticed – but how particular it can be – how very particular!)
(for example a pair of legs – how hard it is to pull them through space, to walk them through this obstructed psychological arena, weighted down as they seem)
They are punctuated by thought space – a space conceptualised as an empty text box. The outcome at this stage is unknown.
The gap becomes a mass, a thing that fills what was a gap


the suggestion of the presence of a body that might have been

Fingers press from the outside in
and from the inside out
press and prod and pull
to the edge of recognition.

A feminine sensibility that may be envisaged as a moebius strip[4] in which the boundaries between inside and outside are less certain than they were before
positive and negative have no hierarchy; things are spoken through touch
blindly muffled
You can close your eyes, except that this language is visual.
So in order to hear, you must first look.


How to translate experience into physical form
especially if you don’t want to be too specific, if you want to talk about something without actually mentioning it, show it without revealing it
Can a shell also be a veil?


A gentleman I used to know (who was trying to become my lover) once told me that he would like to be like an egg.
I guess he meant he’d like to have the smooth and dry outside that conceals everything
All that wet yellow protein on the inside, slipping and sliding about
I thought it seemed a pretty fragile state of being myself.


How would an egg protect itself?
Especially if there is an elephant walking around the room…


Elizabeth Manchester


[1] John Donne, ‘The Ecstacy’ (early 17th century).
[2] Marcel Duchamp: Note from the Box of 1914 headed [voir].
[3] William Carlos Williams, ‘The Rose’, 1923.
[4] Elizabeth Grosz, Volatile Bodies (Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis 1994).