The Dreamer

Ron Giii

May 16 - June 14, 2003

The Dreamer

The Dreamer , 2003
oil and sanguine on paper
76 x 57 cm

The following text accompanied an exhibition of works on paper December 20 - January 24, 1987 at the 49th Parallel Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, 420 West Broadway, New York, NY under the directorship of France Morin:

The Atomic Theatre and The Dictator's Opera

To open the doors of the Atomic Theatre your eyes have to open up like a vast reservoir of water falling from another planet. Once the mind has turned inside out, the springs of time will emerge as the centre of your cognition. The Atomic Theatre takes its pulse from the anti-matter of materials that exist in an unknown dimension called invisibility. The material is chalk and pencil with the intangible edge of feeling as the centerpiece upon which the drawings live side by side. Each drawing stays in its own time power as if seduced by the creative force of humanity. Each instance of conception is a view of a theatre that has no words nor semblance of a rational world with all its contradictions and confusion. Indeed, the Atomic Theatre is that world where the formless components of atoms are released like charges of energy that evaporate into the sun and its radiation.

The translucent world of the Atomic Theatre was first conceived in the body art silence of desire and sexuality that was the main focus of my work during the 1970's. Desecrating space and the eruptions of tiny time capsules were central to the early work- each movement on stage became an opening to another world where the laws of action were undiscovered and liberation of the spirit was always close at hand. Making the quantam leap into drawing was as natural as opening and closing a door. However, the magnitude of time and space was altogether a new experience in which the exhilaration was of a different nature- like a new wine, sharp to the taste.

To relate the drawings to performance art, I decided to construct an entire theatre. Each small drawing would behave as an actor endowed with the right amount of electrical balance necessary to maintain the overall production. The art of balance- its timing and placement- preoccupied me for three years. Finally, in 1983 I knew that the Atomic Theatre was transferring all its power into one final stage in which all the faces had a special space in and amongst all the other drawings. Without any pre-knowledge on my part, this formless world pulled me into its own colours and space. The entire work became a journey through space and time with no beginning and no end.

The Atomic Theatre passed into this timeless world where the spirit and the magic of drawing deepened in my mind like a star that had no connection to reality. Reading Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols, I felt for the first time that notion of the "eternal recurrence" which had evaded my art thus far. The faces in the Atomic Theatre smiled like human beings yet they would disappear just when I was on the verge of understanding their emotions. I realized that my drawings were laughing and hiding from me as if they had their own reality. This discovery became the central focus of the work, as each drawing possessed another layer which extended beyond my normal perceptions of reality. This key moment, when a sign becomes both real and unreal in the same split second, was my introduction to the world of the "eternal recurrence". A symbol at one level became different at another level. A piece of string or a cup of water in the foreground of the picture was quite capable of many tiny explosions. The more I saw, the less I actually knew. Finally, I realized that the drawings breathed more life into my spirit when I simply gazed at them, my eyes totally open and aware of the boundaries and distances in the works. The key to the drawings lay in the use of chalk and pencil which created a softer atmosphere and a greater sense of transparency. Space could shape itself naturally, its timing all its own. the sense of timing was so different from what I had experienced in performance work, that it was like entering a new dimension where a field of golden eyes could become a vapour or a gas with no earthly connection. Convinced of the magic qualities of the chalk and pencil, I decided to draw the larger full figure with as much vitality as possible.

As the full figure emerged and I began to play with movement and balance, I began to view these figure as characters having their own distinct qualities of light and absorption. I had the feeling that I was merely directing a cast of characters who already knew they were on stage. Some figures became slightly evil while others grinned or smiled at me as if their expressions were painted on like a mask with many layers.

As my knowledge of opera comes from the European stage, I viewed the figures as a group of characters from the music of Mozart. I saw my opera as embracing the whole gambit of human folly in one large production rather than concentrating on just a few aspects of the human condition. The more I observed the new work, the more I became convinced that this was an opera about power and about rulers who had their own control over history despite the forces of nature. Each drawing became an entity unto itself. I also saw the theatre of time as the grand ruler of each piece and the entrances and exists from the black paper became more and more central to the overall stage.

By this time I knew I had to arrange the work in some sort of order that would build up the sense of mystery and magic. This became another preoccupation; some figures assumed a medieval character while others became more primitive. I soon realized that I would have to assume the role of conductor, composing an arrangement that would have all the tensions and contradictions of nineteenth centruy opera. I began placing the figures next to each other as if they were preparing to say something grand or provocative, until I realized that a conductor, in the true sense, is a Dictator who stands alone, isolated from the human condition. Acting on the feeling that not all rulers are equal, I began to see some of my figures as jesters or magicians. Others became clowns or buffoons who saw the world as a very wicked place. The whole production came to portray both good and evil as well as pleasure and fear.

Returning to the "eternal recurrence" and its theme of evil and love dancing in the same house of cards, I knew that the key to timing in the art of drawing was its capacity to allow entry into its world at many different levels or shades of mystery. This chemical feeling in drawing or metaphysical space involves a lifetime of exploration into its complexities. There are very few rewards other than the feeling that you must go on with a sense of risk, as each drawing takes you further along the eternal river of no return. To dance in drawing is full of twists and turns yet its intoxicating nature will continue on as its power is one of the most seductive acts of love you can master.

Finally, chalk reveals a type of space where a high transference value allows major and minor forces to work in the same picture. After looking deeper and longer into the texture and matter of the drawing, lines begin to appear and reappear. This type of residue opens up the formless transmission into an empty world and dissolves the hard edges into shades and degrees of timing which are central to the work.

To hesitate during the moment of conception is like losing your breath- the chalk dares you to go over the edge and lose the chance to find the perfect moment when all the forces are at the height of their value and power. The power in drawing is like a magnetic cloud that floats just above your head as you search for that magical smile or attractive colour that meets the needs of the picture. Each close shave with disaster is like walking a tightrope: the end is in sight yet you are walking in the dark and you cannot see where you have come from. It is this sense of timing that the Atomic Theatre and the Dictator's Opera continually play with and it is in this timing that the musical and phosphorescent display keep the conditions of the works always on the edge. The final work has evolved after many false attempts and missed opportunities at finding the right moment for all the components to mix in atomic harmony. In this respect, the political or social fabric is always on the threshold of exploding, blowing up the order of arrangement of reality. Thus, in many ways the drawings reach the edge of time before a disaster occurs and in this narrow precipice lies human courage and subtlety. While the Dictator often goes over the edge in excessive abuse, it is a fact of the human condition that others will follow. Many will never return from that space.

The art of knowing when a picture is at its highest moment or deepest space is the result of a long and often tedious labour of love. Yet, the rewards of finding this timing in art are so rich and varied that one can never really grasp the perfect moment- the instant you recognize it, it is gone like a vapour.

- Ron Giii,