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Jean Fisher

" I am forever unfolding between two folds, and if to perceive means to unfold, then I am forever perceiving within the folds."  Gilles Deleuze

Judith Cowan’s work possesses a special kind of touch. To say this, however, is not to imply that because the work consists in part of tangible ‘structures’ it simply invites touch, for it is not the ‘object’, understood in a conventional sculptural sense, that is privileged here. Rather, it is a question of a delicate sensitivity and attentiveness to the expansive relations between things and souls between part and whole, between work and its space, between the work, the space and the viewer’s experience. To enter into a relation with the work is to become ‘captured’ by a tactility that is more than physical: it is to be caught up in an ‘event’ in which consciousness and temporality, surface and spatiality are all implicated in a movement that transforms the tangible into the intangible. What involves us, perhaps, is akin to how Gilles Deleuze characterised a transhistorical Baroque sensibility: a relation to a world conceived as coextensive infinities ‘the pleats of matter and the folds in the soul’ 1 each folded in on the other. And the pleat, the fold, is, above all, tactile: as intimate as a caress...

...Form here does not contain mass or volume; penetrated by space and light, density and weight become transformed to weightlessness and a sense of the lightness of being. And it is in such moments of changed perception that we realise the degree to which our world is burdened by the concreteness of objects and rules. There is, then, in the artist’s work, a movement towards the dissolution of the weight or solidity of the world, leading, to borrow Calvino’s words, ‘to a perception of all that is infinitely minute, light and mobile’. 2 Science also now tells us that space is not nothing, not empty, but full; that the world coheres yet constantly transforms through the invisible and endless movement of particles and waves. And yet, didn’t we always know this?; that despite the physical and social constraints that project the world as finite, is it not within the unrestrainable space-time of human imagination itself that an infinite totality is apprehended, and the body freed from the gravity of the world?

Thus, the dialogue between constraint and release is one that articulates around the threshold of a change in perception, which in turn touches on the limits of what is knowable in the world. The work seeks that point of view from which it might be possible to unfold another set of as yet unthought relations...

1. Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, forward and translation by Tom Conley, The Athlone Press, London, 1993, p 3.
2. Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium, translation by Patrick Creagh, Jonathan Cape, London, 1992, p 8.

Extract published for solo exhibition catalogue, Passages & Incidents, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, 1996.

© Judith Cowan 2022
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