ESSAYS, INTERVIEWS & REVIEWS
Anne Daems - 2006 - Handzame cinema [NL, essay],
A perfect moment in splendid isolation
All about the small transportable movie theatres in Anne Daems’ drawings
The drawings made by Anne Daems often occupy a small surface on the paper. They consist of thin, seemingly uncertain lines of pencil and of small coloured patches, executed in coloured pencil. The images seem to emerge from an overexposed photograph. They survive in a dominantly white, bleached environment.
In 1999 Anne Daems told me she made drawings of things she had seen, but hadn’t been able to photograph. I asked her if this was still the case. “Not really,” she says. “Making drawings and taking photographs have developed in two completely different activities. They result from the same kind of observation, but the photographs are taken in the streets, while the drawings are made at home. They are reconstructions of things I have seen, sometimes with slightly altered compositions. Another difference consists of the captions of the drawings. They merely reproduce my thoughts at the moment I saw something, but they link the drawings to a rather defined universe.”
One of the things that strike me today in these drawings is the appearance of hairs, e.g. in the drawings Just cut hairs and Some long black hairs on her shirt. The first drawing evokes an image we rarely see, but all know: a face that is slightly disfigured or animalized by freshly cut hairs that rest on it. The second drawing illustrates the critical way we observe each other.
Actually these hairs are just lines of pencil. It is as if the captions might say: “Just cut pencil lines” and “Some long black pencil lines on her shirt”. In fact they remind us of drawings with captions such as: “To prevent scratches on the wooden floor, the couch was put on four different towels to drag it to the other end of the room.” I wonder whether Anne Daems is the person who puts the feet of couches on towels to prevent scratches on the wooden floor. Her drawings show no depth. She doesn’t use perspective. In the drawing with the bathtub and the seaweed this leads to the comical contrast between the grid of the bathroom tiles and the organic forms of the floating weeds.
Scratches might damage the surface of reality. Hairs and thin pencil lines tease the surface. They pretend to be little wounds, but they want to be tightly closed scars. Nobody wants to know what is hidden behind the glowing surface that surrounds us.
Recently Anne Daems showed a slide projection called 72 Girls and Some Boys Who Could be Models. The photographs were taken in New York. “Perhaps the series is also typical for New York,” says Anne Daems, “for it’s probably the city with the highest percentage of people who want to become a model or at least look like they want to. All those girls and boys could really have been models, but sometimes they showed some minor imperfections. Like a nose or an ear that was slightly too big. In this vulnerability, I find a new beauty.”
“Hairs and other imperfections pop up where they don’t seem to belong,” I say.
“No,” she says, “it’s not a matter of displacement. When you look at the video I made in Australia of people carrying their groceries in transparent plastic bags, what interests me is not the displacement of the eggplant or the tomato, but the light captured by the bag, accentuating the presence of these beautiful still lives that are carried around by people who seem to be unaware of this beauty.”
“Like in a small transportable movie theatre?” I ask.
“Yes,” she says, smiling.
I listen to her soft, tender voice and I try to measure her nose and ears. She has black hairs that are doomed to fall one day and maybe will disrupt the whiteness of a pillow.
Things small glow up for an instant and then disappear again.
The different designs of the four towels under the couch’s feet obtain something festive. Little mirrors of colour on a neutral background. Little dreams in a white intestine.
One drawing shows a lady who used to carry some parsley between her breasts. Anne Daems confesses that it’s something she didn’t see herself, but was told about. What strikes me, is the absence of breasts (depth) on the drawing and the appearance of the two triangular shirt collars. The same triangles appear on these peculiar drawings (e.g. Lunchtime) where men are solely represented by their ties and shirt collars. In the Parsley-drawing the collars persist, but the tie is replaced by a curly weed. The woman of the original anecdote has changed into a man with a displaced organ.
In one of the most recent drawings Anne Daems has made, something new has happened. The caption reads: “One was sweet, one was sour”. Immediately we think of picking berries, whereby specimens that look alike can have a different taste. We feel the deceptive cinema of the berries, but we are also struck by the new symmetry in the drawing, that evokes images of wallpaper or textile design. Suddenly Anne Daems’ drawings have returned to what they seem to stem from: a view of the world as a clumsily decorated setting or, paradoxically, a place where beauty can appear at any time and any place. The drawing has turned into sham decoration. It wants to show rare moments, but it has turned into a pattern. A beautiful moment becomes a fragment of a repetitious and predictable composition. Sound turns into music. Beauty, scars, pain, joy, light and night have joined in a funny moment of dance. At the same time, however, we know that some of the berries are sweet and some are sour. One has to watch closely to discern them. To rediscover the one that would make a perfect drawing.
A perfect moment in splendid isolation.
Montagne de Miel, November 15th 2006