When working with collage, I use site-specific ephemera, artifacts and ancient imagery to explore the poetic and magical aspect of our consciousness: the alternate identities, secrets, structures, penumbrae, and gardens of the mind. Using fragmented and incomplete narratives as a connecting thread, I operate with the idea that the interior preserve of the mysterious self is a human right, one that is in danger of obliteration in a culture of social media and over-sharing.
I explore the contours of these interior lands in series that
present incomplete narratives as though they were fragments unearthed from ancient sites, the original meanings lost. To advocate for unsolvable mysteries, making no attempt to fill in the gaps, constitutes the core my recent work. With only pieces of an unfamiliar story available, visitors must engage the work as catalysts for the work's eventual meaning as it appears to them. This process casts the visitor as an active agent for completion rather than a passive spectator. Visually, I am inspired by Byzantine ecclesiastical art and the frescoes of Pompeii and other ancient cities.
My collages have a site-specific component in that they are made of paper from a certain place, about that place, made in that place. The element of location and population is a quality of its ephemera, and so my work is literally made of scraps of cities like Berlin, Venice, New York and Boston while I inhabit those places.
In my painting series executed since 2011, I allude to the ancient artists that worked in the caves of Spain and France, using darkened exhibition environments, a limited earth-based palette and direct application of pigment to paper (the nearest analogy to a wall), providing handheld lanterns for visitors to encounter the work as a process of active discovery. The subjects are humans in a primeval space that predates the flow of time. As with the collages, gradual discovery and individual discernment are often key components of the work, as is the process of treating the viewer as a collaborator in the work's completion: in the case of these paintings, by enlisting their action to bring it, literally, to light.
Influences that have illuminated my searches include Bruno Schulz, Remedios Varo, Joseph Cornell, Rogan Taylor, Milan Kundera, Joseph Campbell, Edouard Glissant and Emmanuel Levinas.
Paula Billups, May 2016