Camille Rose Garcia (yet another post on gothic ornament)

by on Apr.07, 2011

What I like about this clip is the way she focuses so much on the narrative of the painting, as if the paintings were actually indeed illustrations to the story (I have in fact a copy of her illustrated version of Alice in Wonderland). One show (“The Soft Machine”) is not only based on a literary reference, but is accompanied (at least in the retrospective book I have here) by a little fairytale called “Creepscake’s Bakery” complete with “once upon a time” narrative structure. But instead of the text generating the images (as would be the normal way of seeing illustrations), it’s the other way: the images generates text.

I’m thinking about the relationship between ornament and narrative. They should be the opposite – one temporal, one spatial – but they seem to have a more interesting relationship than that. As I wrote in my post and comment to Joyelle’s post about “lowbrow” art, there’s a strong element of the ornamental in a lot of these painters, and in fact both Baseman and Rose Garcia design wallpapers for their shows (according to the receptionist at the Jonathan Levine Gallery). And in the Worringer quote and the Yellow Wallpaper (see my post below), the extreme ornamentality generates a temporal quality – not so much a plot as a violence, it swallows one up, people lose their distance and become submerged in this violence.

And then this quote from Rose Garcia:
“The violence should be depicted as decorative, almost abstract, because violence we don’t see is really such an abstract concept, not a concrete one. Something leaking through the veneer of order and perfection – the souls of all the dead and dying.”

Both Joyelle and I’ve been talking about the leakiness of Rose Garcia’s paintings – how everything seems saturated from a constant leaking. And here she seems to suggest that that is “violence.”

Rose Garcia’s pictures are compulsively watchable. Once I start looking at them, I just want to keep looking until my eyes go bad.

In my grotesque seminar yesterday, we had some discussion of whether Chelsey Minnis’s “Primrose” was “narrative” or not. Some students argued that the poem was an accumulation of decorative elements (props, scenery) and some suggested that it was narrative the way a horror movie is narrative – it piled up images and bodies. So perhaps what we have here is not an issue between narrative and ornamentality, or even narrative or non-narrative, but of different forms of narrative as ornamental, as opposed to the ones that are about interiority and/or God.

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