Gemma Cossey & Jane Ponsford

Curated by Jane Boyer


November 2017

“Thus the perception of the infinite is somehow prior in me to the perception of the finite…”                                                 René Descartes


We exist in infinite space, even though our daily lives, filled with minutiae, take us far away from that infinity. Gemma Cossey and Jane Ponsford embrace the infinite in humble ways. For them, infinity is not a place far away; it’s a place deep inside.


Both Gemma and Jane work indexically, directing attention and producing temporal traces of presence, moment by moment. Each line drawn, each impression of pulp made indicates the temporal ‘here and now’ of their actions. Reminiscent of the chronophotography of Étienne-Jules Marey (Tate Papers No.18:4), Gemma’s rippled field of lines, whether across the surface plane or formed in geometric shapes, show not only her hand in their drawing, but more importantly, they are the site where her concentration, muscle tension, pen or brush, and surface conditions converge in the present moment of their making, as she confronts the unknown future of each movement forward in its trajectory. Gemma explains, “The overall balance and interaction between mark making and background only appear and make sense on completion of the chosen process, and often differently to how I imagined. One intention is to create distinct viewing experiences; a calm minimalism of a distant gaze and something quite different revealed or discovered when the work is experienced at close hand.” Hers is a collapse of time as past, present, and future combine in the making of the work. What we see as a result is an index pointing to the infinite.


Jane’s paper sculpture is an indexical trace left by physicality, either her own or that of the place where she is. The making for Jane becomes a fully physical gesture of fluency similar to Margaret Iversen’s summation of Marey’s images, “Marey’s significance has nothing to do with the impression of movement, but rather with the invention of a kind of involuntary, bodily language of drawing (ibid:25).” To explain this, Jane demonstrated her process for making the paper petals, an element which recurs frequently in her work, by placing a pinch of paper pulp in the palm of her left hand, then pressing and forming the pulp with the pressure of the thumb of her right hand gripping the centre of her palm; like a nervous tick of the righteous, rubbing and rubbing at an invisible stigmata. This is “drawing in the most complicated way possible,” says Jane.


We can’t speak of infinity without reference to Yayoi Kusama, arguably the artist most engaged with the subject of infinity. Gemma’s striking resonance with Kusama’s Infinity Nets is clear, just as the repetition of form in Jane’s work echoes Kusama’s obsessive repetitions of dots. However, both Gemma and Jane diverge from Kusama in one important way, obliteration does not concern them. Gemma and Jane ‘record’ time, experience, movement and place in their work. Jane says of her paper pulp, “I enjoy using this material because it brings together surface and form. It is evocative, reminiscent of documentation and archives. Staining and tearing easily, it can be seen as the receptive surface for forensic investigation or a blank form to catch light or shadow....I am interested in working with the materials of particular settings and landscapes, the chalk and clay and silt and the traces that they leave.” In this way, Jane’s activity and experience of place is made present through an indexical trace for those who view her work. Gemma and Jane share a passion to engage with the tension of dual purpose: to work with directed and planned engagement, while inviting serendipity out for a stroll.

Artists weblinks:  Gemma Cossey  Jane Ponsford

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