If there is meaning in the world, I find it only through the act, through the materiality of drawing. The process of my enquiry and observation is explored and understood through this visual language, enmeshed with the word both spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten.
It is the journey from beginning to end, it is everything in-between. I strive to let the world in through my failure, force them into the gap between representation and truth, uncaring as to whether they are able to wriggle their way out. My work is a keyhole, a private encounter with ‘an other life’. This is not a comfortable space. It is not meant to be. This is a space of dirty morals, a world on the verge of breaking down. Whatever the image, the faceless face, the woman dying alone – they share a common oblivion, an abyss at once modern and wicked, testimony to a world so out-of-joint that we no longer seem to know the meaning of being.
My work lies in the interval where art and life rub together. It is found on the streets; in the banal everyday lived experience of the marginal individual and their relationship with the world they inhabit; in the isolation of those banished behind the walls we build to keep out any who threaten our ‘pristine cultural imagination’ that we guard so anxiously. I see the lives of ‘the Other’, not one which any would aspire to lead or even acknowledge, but those lives that live forever behind closed doors, closed worlds.
We need to be challenged, sickened even; anything at all to make us feel something, to prick us out from the sheer numbness of daytime television and corporate loyalty. I draw to jolt myself from sleep, to wake up the concealed realities of existence, a world where the sick and dying are stuffed behind white walls and hospice screens, where the homeless are left to live and to die in the open, where refugee children are trafficked for sex and slavery.
My work is an attempt at renovating modernity’s great abyss, to replace its billboards of seduction, of cola ads, of push-up bras and payday loans, perfume ads full of people so devastatingly beautiful you have no choice but to feel utterly disgusting. To replace this with mirrors, two-way mirrors that set up a conversation between the viewer and the viewed, a dialectic between public and private.
The point of my drawings, if there even is a point, is not to drop jaws or entice gasps, but to push you – the (un)invited viewer – through the keyhole, out from the cosy womb of our conceitful and taken-for-granted assumptions, kicking and screaming into a world that you would otherwise turn away from. A world that maybe you have at some point heard and felt, beyond sight and beyond distinction, a world you would see if only you were not so desperate to avoid it that you close your eyes wide shut. If you would spend a little time in the distance the drawings allow, a time of reflection and push aside the mask of oblivion you hold on to so tightly, you may see something of yourself, of your own small history and maybe then can you being to understand, begin to accept.
Without art there is no public. Without art there is no politics. It should speak to us, make us think, make us ask questions of it and of ourselves. If it fails to do so then it has failed. I seek the soapbox no more than the politician seeks charcoal, and yet there is politics somewhere on the canvas, smeared into the blackness, visible only as a stain. The Other looms large, but never large enough, reduced only to a fragment. If I can find a way to see her, so can you.
It seems I am always looking for a grey zone, for the messy intersection between toing and froing, for dead ends as much as clean lines.
All images copyright and courtesy of Caroline Burraway
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