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“Eyrie- A collaboration of Image and Word

by Ingrid Anderson

South Africa

2010

A chance connection online, a shared vision, a similar interest in an Irish painter and a generosity of spirit were the elements that made this dynamic creative initiative a possibility.

In 2009, Netherlands poet Joop Bersee and South African fine artist and photographer Cecilia Ferreira connected through the internet. Their conversations resulted in Eyrie, a powerful collaboration – a dialogue of the poetic and the visual.

Bersee’s volume of poetry, Eyrie, was in the process of preparation for printing and was dedicated to artist Francis Bacon. He offered the manuscript to Ferreira to make of it what she wanted and dedicated some of the poems in the volume to her.

Interestingly, Ferreira’s striking, often brutal work has been compared to that of Francis Bacon. She, still raw, deep in the grief of a still-born daughter, found resonance with the description of the woman who inhabited Bersee’s poetry – a woman who lives in what Ferreira in her exhibition notes calls “the dark crevasses of the human mind… who sees all the way to the other side, all the way to death”. In her visual response to the poetry, she began the hard process of grieving.

Ferreira attempted not to illustrate the poetry, but to capture the images it evoked as well as its impact on her. She deliberately left the work open, “unfinished”, to leave space for interaction with the poetry.

In her biography, Ferreira says that for her, art involves the inevitable process of “brutally expressing and releasing my own emotional baggage”, using what she calls an “exaggeration of form and colour” that reveals through its honesty. She comments that “humans in general do not like being confronted by their own issues and emotional flaws”.

Throughout Ferreira’s work in Eyrie is the sense of the mutability of life – the fluid nature of things. Loss happens. We die. Things are not as they seem – nothing can be depended upon. Thin, transparent images bleed downwards. There is dissolution – in every sense of the word. A line chosen from the poetry by Ferreira as a starting point for an image reads:  “Face and death/listen and shatter what/has never been: foothold.” (Woman on a chair)

Ultimately, the dissolving images point to the inadequacy of both word and image to convey meaning. Bersee’s poem They read her, dedicated to Ferreira, seems to capture this elusive quality:

They read her on water, they read her on paper, words written, it’s her.

It’s a lie; she’s no one, nowhere, disappears as the light goes out,

as the words blend, with the dark.

In the paintings that make up this collection, Ferreira plunges the dark, emotional depths of being human, but at the same time, maintaining a tension with an objectified portrayal of humanity. In the unmediated outpouring of feeling, her work is raw in the power and intensity of its images. It is defiant in its unsettling confrontation of the viewer.

Images of entrapment, of drowning, of violence, in particular, that of the ragdoll-like, constructed woman with the hollow circles for eyes, (Ghost Woman) demand a response.

And yet, there is hope: one crucified, drowning woman has (barely) kept her head above water. But the thing from which she hangs is an instrument of entrapment – a hook.

Here, salvation cannot be that simple.

Inside Cecilia Ferreira’s Eyrie
By Anton Krueger
Published in A Look Away magazine, 2010

Taking into account Cecilia Ferreira’s description of her way of working, any attempt at trying to be true to the spirit of her images would have to entail an immediate, visceral, intuitive response which refuses any rationalized premeditations. Unfortunately, the construction of long sentences like the one before is not something that happens spontaneously, so already I have betrayed the ethos of her work.

Cecilia is at the centre of every Eyrie image, every figure is flagrantly herself. Some of her pictures, like “Disfigurement Assumed”, “Standing on Eve”, “Deeds of Anger” and “The Goodness of their Destruction” reminded me of the face emerging screaming from the bricks in the original poster for Alan Parker’s movie of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. In Cecilia’s images one also detects a presence anxious to escape the canvas, some spirit barely contained which tries to destroy the surface within which it’s captured. The irony, of course, is that the very structure which traps it is also the one which brings it into being in the first place. So these spirits of Cecilia find themselves caught somewhere between the impulse and the image, not fully formed.

These figures seem introverted, but they appear to be turned inwards for the sake of exploding out again. Cecilia’s configuration of herself is brutal, as though she is trying to crack open her own ego. She detonates herself, spilling raw angry seeds of herself onto the world. The way in which she shamelessly projects herself reminded me of a line by Randolph Driblette, a character in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), when he protests against readers overly concerned with discovering the meaning in his text:

I’m the projector at the planetarium, all the closed little universe visible in the circle of that stage is coming out my mouth, eyes, sometimes other orifices also… (80)

And Cecilia has also been known to incorporate all of her bodily fluids into her work. But despite her attempts at revealing herself completely, totally, nakedly; despite trying to show us her inner hurts and fears and whatever else boils in turmoil down below the surface of her canvasses; despite the bloody ripping open of her carcass and the splashing of her heart onto the page, Cecilia’s pictures still remain mysterious. They remind us that it’s impossible ever to completely reveal ourselves, because, communication is a kind of concealment; an imprisonment within the construction of a frame by means of which to articulate meaning. Also, what we are revealing can never quite break through the projections of the viewer. As Pynchon’s Driblette goes on to say:

You could fall in love with me, you can talk to my shrink, you can hide a tape recorder in my bedroom, see what I talk about from wherever I am when I sleep. You want to do that? You can put together clues, develop a thesis, or several…You could waste your life that way and never touch the truth. (80)

Although we’ll never get to the truth of Cecilia, one can admire her for trying to show it to us. There is a kind of desperate urgency in her work, a frantic desire to communicate her very being, her pith, her soul, her guts. Some of these images verge on the erotic, but none of them are pretty. And yet after one has given up wading through the explanations one could offer of her worked; after one has stopped trying to unravel her inscrutable presence, what remains is the experience of a beautiful horror.

Reference
Pynchon, Thomas, 1966. The Crying of Lot 49. Philadelphia: Lippincott.

About Eyrie, by Joop Bersee
Amsterdam, 2010

Energetic. Raw. Spontaneous. Unfiltered, in your face. Subconscious and unaware of what is going to happen. I remember Ferreira telling me how she ‘drops’ the paint onto the surface- and then it starts, looking for the images, something recognizable, something that presents itself.

Once found, the artist starts to excavate what she sees, a person or and object. Compared to someone like Marlene Dumas whose work is often presented in a clinical way, although emotionally highly charged, Ferreira’s work is often an explosion of expression, splashes of paint. But at the same time she is very much in control, hence the astonishing works on the wall.

Her work is not a ‘translation’ of the Eyrie poems. Not a visualization. She lets her subconscious take over and a whole new level appears. It’s more like adding the Eyrie experience so to speak. Something new after having read the poetry, each work seamlessly connecting to the atmosphere found in the poems. No repeat. No easy way out.

An easy way out would never be an option of Ferreira. What she did do, was to stay close to the honesty in Eyrie. Hence the spot on atmosphere. Her paintings breathe on the walls, their raw, astonishing beauty.

Ferreira is fascinated by people, their behaviour, how they try to shield themselves, their confusion. She portrays the truth in people. Velazquez, the great painter comes to mind, he was Francis Bacon’s great example, Bacon himself being the driving force, inspirator behind the Eyrie poems.

Velazquez and Bacon show us the raw truth. Looking at Ferreira’s work I have that same feeling, no filter between the viewer and her work. There is that immediate confrontation, and no matter how long you stare at it you never really get used to it. That feeling of discomfort doesn’t leave you. It’s the same disturbing feeling one gets when looking at a Dumas painting. A work like Ferreira’s ‘Fly’ is a good example. The feeling doesn’t go away. The confusion, the horror and the torture does not subside. This is not always work you’d like to have on your wall. But because of the immense emotion and the skill of this artist you do want it on your wall, it goes deeper than the picture, than the surface and that makes her work so fascinating. In a way you don’t buy/own a Ferreira. You live with her drawing or painting on your wall.

It is raw and pure. Something we all have to deal with in our lifetime, the beauty and the reality of Life, the beauty and the horror. It is the work of a great artist. The combination of poems followed bye the exhibition works best. You then recognize the layers of emotion when you go from work to work, the atmosphere spot on. This exhibition is an event.

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drowning woman
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bodies
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the power of fortress
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reclyning nude
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breathing under a blanket
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woman with pearls (yesterday’s crystal)
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assassins hidden
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bare branches
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dream of your waters
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disfigurement assumed

 

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dog days
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unwinding
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her body rose
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soot
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she are bed
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new borns
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smoking lady
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portrait
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woman
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stone woman
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barbed wire woman
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spider
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mirror her youth
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greek statue
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deeds of anger
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standing on eve
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circumference
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unveiling
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how it circled
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here I must remain
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betraying dress
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stone woman
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marrows combination
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when will it fly
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temperature and time in check
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between the ghosts of stench
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the goodness of their destruction
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ghost woman
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portrait
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her sense of flower (when will it fly?)