Since each of us was several, there was quite a crowd. Here we have made use of everything that came within range, what was closest as well as fartherest away. (Deleuze & Guattari, in the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus, 3)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

On Balance

Last night at yoga we spent the session concentrating on balance and, as I was having particular difficulties maintaining my balance, I thought there must be a message in it for I started with the quilt and the concept of 'balance' in aesthetics and design. All three of the quiltmakers I am interested in have a particular way of approaching 'balance' (to which I add, in my opinion to all points, of course!):

  • as an architect, Emma Rowden would bring a very special set of precepts (whether conscious or not), her training and tendency would be a 'balance in terms of the spacial arrangement' the units or blocks making up the quilt surface (I need to remember this point when exploring 'space' further)
  • Judy McDermott was a potter before a quiltmaker and her surfaces bear the mark of her experience in moulding pots. Many of her quilts are large and weighty--I had a personal experience of this when hanging her exhibition, there was no way many of the larger quilts could be hung single-handed! J was cognisant of the theory but would often challenge it intentionally with the result that the viewer would be put 'off' balance, a potentially unsettling experience
  • Pamela Fitzsimons has a strong commitment to aesthetics and design in a work, whether it be hers or someone else's. Her works are evidence of this and very beautiful (and satisfying) to look at i.e. balanced in a visual sense

Then there are considerations of balance in the narrative sense:

  • by definition a quilt is one-sided, some makers use both sides, as in both points of view. Em and Judy utilise both sides (I make this statement and start to think of one does!)
  • can terms such as 'narrative arch' be applied to quilts, I need to think more about this, particularly in terms of my examples
  • does 'binding' add balance (resolution)? This is where quilts confront notions of 'smooth' space which is un-bounded

There are the linguistic uses of 'balance', for example:

  • if I am 'unbalanced' I am unstable, off my head. with relevance in terms of one quilt's connection with the site of a mental hospital and potentially another series with a gaol...I am getting ahead of myself in this blog as I realise I still have to set out the parameters of my use the vernacular and say someone is off their block...
  • does justice aim to be 'balanced' i.e. fair...allow both sides of the argument to be heard?

Now I am looking up the various definitions of 'balance' in the OED (there are lots!)

  • apparatus for = an object, let's use a quilt as the central pivot
  • counteracting force
  • regulating device
  • harmony and proportion (ref, art as above)
  • in the... in dispute, uncertain
  • strike a ... moderate course, between anecdote and theory perhaps

Images: Judy McDermott, 'Love Will Nail You To The Cross' 1995-7 (200 x 140 cm); Pamela Fitzsimons, installation shot (details to come)

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