Writing about work: 3. Three poems

Emma Davidson_Three poems_detail 2Emma Davidson_Three poems_detailEmma Davidson_Three poems

‘Three poems’ is a triptych of visual poems. Each poem consists of a couplet of found text that has been applied to the paper by solvent transfer (the technique of applying a solvent – xylene in this case – to the reverse side of a photocopy then burnishing it to transfer the toner onto another surface).

I limited myself to using as few materials as possible to complete this work. Each couplet of text is appropriated from an obsolete encyclopedia (or similarly out of date mid-20th century reference book).

The lines of text in the first poem (Stop and wonder/Into the distance) are linked by a graphic mark made by rotating a small, hand-carved, elbow-shaped rubber stamp back and forth across the page.

The second poem (tight-rope/walker) is bi-sected by a line created by tracing the nib of a fountain pen along a length of electronic typewriter ribbon, which was laid diagonally across the page.

The third couplet (Within/Worlds) is enclosed by a pattern created by stamping the paper with a small triangular piece of rubber. While making this work I imagined that the piece of rubber, pinched between my fingers, was a piece of lead type, and my arm was the typebar of a typewriter. 

“What still surprises and inspires me today: to turn blank paper into a printed page”.

– Wolfgang Weingart

Writing about work: 2. ‘Mass migrations, strange lodger’

Emma Davidson_Mass migrations, strange lodger

‘Mass migrations, strange lodger’ is a modular work, the basis of which is fifteen pieces of blank cardboard. I laid these out in a grid and glued on found images and found text. I then added graphic marks, using a variety of materials. These elements were all added to the composition quickly and randomly, in the manner of a visual ‘chance poem’. I then randomly reconfigured all of the pieces of cardboard so the edges no longer matched one other and the original composition was lost.

The images and texts were appropriated from children’s books about the ‘animal kingdom’, of the type which used to be ubiquitous in libraries but are now obsolete, or, you might say, extinct.

As an artist, my first motivation is simply to make. I am continually drawn back to my work by the sheer joy of being able to use my hands and my intelligence to manipulate objects and materials so that they say something new. This desire to make is not a trait artists have a monopoly on – MacKenzie Wark says it is a key part of our species being; just as it is, for example, a part of the species being of an Eastern Curlew to migrate from the Arctic circle to the east coast of Australia every year.

Every year the necessary migrations of animals, such as curlews and humans, are interrupted: interrupted by borders, by the arrangement of the surface of the earth into a composition that often doesn’t make much sense to anyone or anything.

The beauty of an abstract work or art is that it may ‘mean’ this; or something else; or nothing at all.

Four sections of this work, digitally altered, were published in issue 45 of The Lifted Brow. Here’s one of them:Illo draft page 4

Writing about work: 1. ‘Underground fairylands’

Emma Davidson_Underground Fairylands_2

‘Underground Fairylands’ is my homage to zines. To begin with it was a small, photocopied zine of found text and found images, which I made in 2013.

I discovered zines as a teenager growing up in suburban Sydney in the 1990s; I spent a lot of time daydreaming of other worlds, and was always on the lookout for some portal-like experience that would transport me out of everyday life. I escaped into the world of books, for example, as boldly (and as bodily) as the cartoon character Gumby did when he stepped into a page. When I discovered zines I realised I was not alone in this desire to escape: there was a secret world of people like me, connected by handmade, photocopied, ephemeral objects – zines.

I don’t think childish dreams – the desire to be grown up, to move out, to discover and explore – are lost in adulthood: they can fuel the desire for political projects that open up new possibilities for living. ‘Underground Fairylands’ juxtaposes images and texts which chart, like a rogue story-board*, the ad-hoc, sometimes tentative, processes by which people acquire knowledge – or consciousness – about the world, and their place in it.

This large-scale, wall-piece version of ‘Underground Fairylands’ was made in 2018. I wanted to capture the graphic quality of photocopying, but on a much larger scale than can be achieved with a photocopier, and, in keeping with the analogue nature of zines, without using any digital processes. Solvent transfer is a printing technique which transfers toner from a photocopy onto another surface (cartridge paper, in this case). This piece is composed of approximately fifty individual solvent transfers. It took me about two weeks, working five hours a day, to complete.


*Stole the line ‘rogue story-board’ from Bianca Martin, of Rut zine x