Christian mystic Jacob Böhme (1575-1624) saw beams of sunlight reflecting upon a burnished pewter bowl. In that moment of inward ecstasy the structure of the universe was revealed to him. Hayward and Wood like the sound of mystics having visions and although they don’t know what that means the idea of Jacob having that vision became a starting point for their collaboration opening up a reactive space of making.
We are not gods but we make things within the universe. We push the structure around and hold it in our hands, impressing and illuminating. In the recent publication The Kiss or Poison Boyfriend or Jesus' Blood (with some notes on touch), 2018 Neil Annett quoted Clement Greenberg in the essay Why do artists make prints? suggesting that artists wanting to make art 'on its own terms' was akin to artists wanting to imitate God. To wrestle with making artworks might be a bit like wrestling with God.
Pierro De La Francesca’s painting Madonna del Parto 1460, resonated with Hayward and Wood’s endeavors to wrestle with substance and the becoming of things; with God. Francesca presents the Virgin with angels that hold curtains aside in order to reveal her obedient pregnant presence. Having submitted to her divine destiny she is full to bursting with (internal) making. Even the material of her dress is stretched to its limits as it attempts to circumnavigate her burgeoning bulges forming a slim vesica piscis – perhaps a precursor to birth and also Christ’s eventual tearing of the veil between God and humanity upon the stage of the crucifixion. Stages, curtains and performance.
Helen Hayward’s objects perform. They exist on the cusp of the rising and falling of their grandiose selves as they seek, find, fail and battle with spiritual connectedness. When the curtains are pulled back on their stage they will Punch and Judy for us. Punch and Judy - can you Adam and Eve it? Flurries of ruffles, a glancing flip of a bright ra-ra hem with a red-cheeked and powdered grin behind it. The hint of a too-tall wig, raucous and off balance. A stockinged foot with a pointed, buckled shoe. A fan to hide behind - just a little curtain - to reveal or conceal the face.
Pauline Wood submerges light bulbs into concrete for the structure’s own knowledge, not ours. A light denied. A turn away – a snub. An interiority between God and itself. Even she doesn’t know. Maybe her trouble with God is her inability to get the relationship right, but nobody knows that. There is no preaching here - except to the pigeons outside the gallery window and what do they know? There’s also a mocker, but it’s a dumb thing just like the idols.
Don't Nobody Know My Troubles With God – An exhibition title containing a substitution of 'but' for 'with' - a miss taken, miss-hearing of a lyrical phrase from Moby's Natural Blues which sampled the slave song, Don’t nobody know my troubles but God. The intimacy indicated by but and the struggle of with could be said to be the two positions from which Helen Hayward and Pauline Wood’s making was approached.
(Troubles are always with the one that isn’t God.)
Pierro De La Francesca Madonna del Parto 1460