"Judith Kentish - the recovery of a line unravelled" from "Working Spaces" by Daniel Mafe, Eyeline Publishing Limited, 2002.
the recovery of a line unraveled
In the work of Judith Kentish we confront a practice all about making, about looking at, thinking about, and surrendering to making. In this sense it is also a practice of tending. The eye is utilized to maintain contact, to hold focus with the present to allow thought to wander, to roam. Here crafting becomes as philosophy, a philosophy of touch. Crafting in the hands of Kentish slips into a self-reflexive reverie, an imagining of memory.
The practice of Judith Kentish is predicated on crafting’s contemplation of writing’s trace - the mark. It is a practice of drawing writing. To draw writing is to somehow fix attention on the speaking, representing self, in whatever language or system of representation, and to begin to make marks from this place. Thus to mark is to trace around, to outline, an “expressing” origin. This origin is in itself unrepresentable. It is the unrepresentable, the unsayable, desiring representation or expression. To write abstractly, to draw from this origin, is to map, to model, to translate this non-thought into some form of corporeality. This is smearing ink on the ghost’s face.
For Kentish, practice is an attempt to re-member, or to re-cognize this process of veiling and then to render the nature, the artifice of the veil, somehow accessible or tangible. It is to gain understanding, to garner insight. This process of veiling is constant. The desiring origin can only be expressed, can only gain form or tangibility in or through this veiling. The veiling is language, is representation, and in an evolving visual language is constantly regenerating itself and its urgency, its need for utterance, for expression. The veil doesn’t simply obscure it also reveals, highlights - it marks a space of allure, of invitation.
From this strange self-contemplative space, Kentish’s practice functions as an endless, self-involving contemplation of the repetition of starting anew, of revealing the endless processes of re-veiling. It is an evolving system, a self-generating tissue of lies, of deceptions within which is coded the truth of our non-existence, of our perpetual strangeness, our otherness to ourselves. We do not exist as we imagine, only as we do not imagine. In this respect there is no self-familiarity. This practice of Kentish is beyond imagination, while growing from it. It is beyond because while committed to its very own processes, surrendering to its ever-changing, morphing limitations, arts practice is never believed to be anything other than construct. It is understood as that which hides, masks, that which is beyond language, any language and any system of difference and is yet darkly revealed by the play of that language.
In this practice all is memory, all is as though self-contained. Everything is accessible from within this introspection. Everything is as veil to, and mark of, this 'expressing' origin. In Kentish’s contemplation, expansive and smooth in its self-reflexivity, limit becomes. Limit is a becoming-limit. This becoming is a movement, a move to the actualisation of limit as a horizon. In this sense, all is limit. Self-contained, all is as boundary. The practice maps all as surface - the work is as expanses of negotiated territory. Border is now a ceaseless unfolding, a ceaseless self-creating. In this world all is frontal. The tangible is abstract and the abstract tangible. Veil, limit, horizon, surface are as one.
Dialogue has become monologue has become self-observation. This becomes a discourse of the alone to the 'Alone'. All relationship is as absorbed to the remembering self.
There is a strong materiality in the work, an invitation to engagement with seductive and beautiful textures, but one is continually pulled from these, opening to a sense of an ever-expanding, redefining whole. Closure is hard to establish. This is open work. The gaze is always to the surface, the broadening, expanding surface. Intervals flicker and vibrate. The surface - shimmers. This dematerialization of the surface into pure opticality functions as an abstraction. It is a bridge from the material to the contemplative, to introspection as represented by thought. Thought is perceived or understood as an insight, a memory but also as a process. Thought and seeing become as one and both are posited as tangible as a woven, an infinite, carpet.
Kentish’s work grows quite literally from the blending of subsequent contemplations both of and within a particular working environment. A pattern is set to a creative process predicated on a symbiosis of exchange between introspection and the physical translation of these introspections from one medium to another. It is a game of Chinese whispers. The work is a contemplation of the mind-screen and its contents, and translation is its description.
In the early days of Kentish’s practice the work relied on a more intellectual model of contemplation. Environment seemed as though filtered through text, such as the poetry of the philosophical abstractions of Jacques Derrida. In this rarefied space all becomes as language - but in Kentish's work language was always at a distance, to be observed, contemplated. It is true also that this contemplation moved to both establish itself and then unfold within a silence, both profound and solitary.
This quietude, still very much in evidence, is such that it assumes a particularity: it becomes as though solid, sculptural in its tangibility, in its excavation of internalised space. The contemplation becomes as a vessel. It is a thing so self-enclosed that it seems almost autistic in its folding back upon itself. Everything in this process is both observed as well as a platform for observation. On one level then the work can be seen as a study of the perception of perception. In this sense there is a kind of aestheticism at play. It is an aestheticism in which all perceptions are experienced as sensation. Thought, memory, touch - all is sensation and all is experienced as such.
These kinds of relationships have continued to grow and develop in Kentish's work with one impacting and developing or rather reflecting understandings of the other. Physical space is observed, but in the act of observation it becomes an immediately dissolved structure, a translated structure. It is dissolved into light, dissolved into an organising conceptual structure, a reflection on text, on word, on the space between all explications and definitions.
With the move into a more permanent studio space, aspect or view emerged as newly important in Kentish's work.
So, as the practice has developed, there has been an attendant move away from a work in which the process of translation, of thinking, was very much in evidence, to a work which, by contrast, has seemed to slow, to bulk into a materiality - to a kind of clotted massing. There has been an increasingly evident rendering of slowness - for the viewer an experience of the nearly still.
The work, once installed, creates a solemn almost spiritual air. Kentish sees her works as evoking a range of memories of touch for her. This body-sense is subtle and much refined by the translation through mind and intellect. The body feels as though it were somehow projected into the surrounding viewing space and then woven back into the making. Fine gestures weave a texture of refinement across the surfaces used, be they paper or fabric.
Kentish's works function as bridges, crossings that replicate this dynamic of weaving. They are the interweaving of thought with the sensual. Within and across the works there is a shift from one poetic space to another. Indeed they fan as peacock tail across a range of conceptual spaces. The works describe a practice of intensely private yet varying ruminations that intersect one another.