E M E R G I N G   R E D S

Recent Works by Louis van Marissing in the TAO Gallery Mumbai. India.
By Sadanand Menon (2004)

It is in the fuzzy borders between forms that meanings reside. Meanings that are distilled out of the long history of the body and what lies beneath. Meanings that escape into formlessness the moment they are invested with form. Meanings that negotiate the void between physical fact and psychic effect. Louis van Marissing has been poised on this thin line between body and soul for some time now. As a practicing Art Therapist, he has lived long with shifting borders and slipping meanings. Looking at his surfaces of burnt-sienna, increasingly tending towards russet reds, it is like seeing someone trying to wash the skin clean of all that sticks. If the dermis and its external pigment can define a specific context, what can we read at the level of the epidermis, he seems to ask? His paper surfaces soaked in linseed oil transit to the stage of parchment and then to membrane. The density of surface dematerializes into a crepuscular vulnerability. Like peeling skin. Like autumn foliage, pressed, dried, varnished. The sense of the subcutaneous is distinct. The desire of a foreskin pulled back. There is also a sense of the precise and the clinical.  A surgical excursion into a maze of complex capillary codes that expose their lesions for close examination. Here the universe is raw, reticulated, rancid. Every peeling layer bears the trace of civilizational agony. On the one hand ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ and, on the other, the biological process of putrefaction that takes us from red to black. Underskin wraps around overskin. Every gland sucks in pigment, blues, greens, golds. When fresh blood congeals on the edges of scraped skin, by what name do we call that colour? Is it a colour that can speak to our soul. When flowing blood clots and congeals around the wrist, does it match the crimson in the corners of the eye? Will a surface red and wet, cringe in agony if brushed with gold mist? Can we part the layers of a wound and lay bare a history of infamy? What do we do when, even if we dress up the wound, the stain erupts on to the surface – sticky, slimy, encrusted – and becomes a scab that you peel only if you want to re-expose the wound? Will the pucker on the skin point to the purity of the soul? Louis van Marissing grapples with all this as he goes along pouring oil on grained surfaces and scrubbing it with pigment and beeswax, till the surface becomes like a sebaceous gland releasing tallow. Meaning opens itself up to osmosis. It is not pre-thought. Creating becomes his way of thinking. If art is a way of giving birth to our image of ourselves, this artist persists in his agonized quest for self-revelation and a deeper knowledge of body and soul. The reds emerge not in rage but in introspection. A meditative, self-reflexive patina coats the contours of his _expression. At more playful moments, the rectangles become diamond shapes. Or the leaves of a notebook every page of which registers the stretch-marks of time and toil and birth. An analyst who peeps into the shadows of the human mind can often reach the substance behind that blocks the light. For Louis van Marissing it becomes a mission to get behind the hide and penetrate below to the essence. And, down below, as he opens out the vast interior spaces and landscapes, he stops fascinated at the emerging reds.

Chennai. India. 2004

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