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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Building on darkness

My working method for the Dark Hours work began to synchronise with my lockdown routines.

Each piece of 9cm by 16cm paper was discrete and manageable. I was able to set up a little workstation in front of my computer and work away at layers while participating in online meetings. Since no individual mark or layer had particular significance, the work process didn't require great focus.

For the early layers I used acrylic paint with drying retarder on the gelli plate. Sometimes I used damp paper and other times I allowed the greater unpredictability of rapidly drying paint to add to the randomness of the result. After my disappointment with muddy browns I started adding texture with impasto medium. Once this was dry I painted over it with black acrylic paint or gesso. Some of papers developed significant depth of texture.

I made decisions in the moment rather spontaneously. I decided that no individual part of the work needed to resolve.

In addition to each piece of paper being a finite entity, my work proceeded in batches limited by the horizontal surfaces I had available for drying the works. This helped prevent me from being overwhelmed by the task. And although the work is (by definition) dark, it served simultaneously as an externalisation and acknowledgement of my sense of darkness, whereas so often the darkness of trauma is internalised and denied.

I was introduced to the work of Helen Mueller and the idea of an unbound book or stack. This further liberated my process in that I was able to let go of the idea of "enough". Once I decided not to bind this "book", I was also freed from having to decide on a sequence. All of this leads back to and rests on my intention of working primarily with affect rather than narrative. I was therefore able to continue building my collection of dark moments/hours until the end of semester.

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