Sarah Nind

 

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Sarah Nind. From Paysages Fragiles Series, screenprint onPlexiglas, 2001, 34” x 50”

 

Paysages Fragiles Series,. Sarah Nind

By lan Carr-Harris

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It is a sunny Tuesday afternoon at Toronto's Open Studio, and I am listening to Sarah Nind as she takes me through three powerful photographic images that are to form part of the projectt she calls Paysages Fragiles Series. Grainy, uncompromising masses of black and white build towards some long-forgotten narrative of unfolding tragedy. The landscapes themselves—an obscure shoreline', water, vast billowing smoke rising into a darkened sky—are not even so much landscapes as they are a reportage of those disasters that reflect an alignment of implacable will and irresistible natural force. They bring to mind a childhood fascination with exotic newspaper wirephotos.

Childhood is, in fact, at the core of these images. For Sarah Nind, the project they represent has become a form of unpacking. Born English in a Borneo that no longer exists, growing up in a Canada where the exotic requires an appropriate face, holding a British passport out of mere convenience, Nind speaks of displacement as a lived ambiguity. Homo is reduced to those few relics that survive In exile, and the photographs on which Nind has built her project are just that—pictures in a box, mysterious, unexplained, useless really, but yet from a place where as a child she would play at alchemy, from a time when home seemed possible.

Implicit in this work, then, is a disclosure. As In all dis­closures, there is a simultaneous resistance, a latent reluctance and it is this reluctant disclosure that has characterized Nind's work for many years. Nind is a sto­ryteller. Listenlng to her tell of alchemy, it occurs to me that alchemy, with all its grand futility, offers an

important clue. Unlike science, its sober cousin, alche­my was a search for the soul, for a redemption that required its own improbability, a forged hybrid of the mystic and the material, of revelation and resistance. Nind is well-known for forging her own hybrid, that between painting and photography, and this has pro­duced a series of stunningly beautiful, subtly evocative investigations into the borderline between the form of things in the world and the colours of our perception. Nind has locked the two together—form and colour, real and perceived—at their material base, and in the process developed a viscerally different experience of what it is to apprehend an image. What intrigues me now, as I consider Paysages Fragiles, is how Nind has shifted the terms from forged to fused. Heroe there is no over-painting on photographic ground. Instead, these transparent images, mounted at a slight gap from the wall, employ ambient light to cast a reiteration of their image on the wall's surface. Painting and photography are fused into a single inextricable apprehension of fact and process.

If photography's value lies in its recording capacity, its witnessing of the reality we are sure exists beyond the limits of subjective perception, painting's value has rested on our certainty that there is a felt reality more powerful than literal description. In the fusion that com­prises Nind's intervention into this history, the value that each can assert has been assembled into a pow­erful vehicle by which to represent that reality we intuit externally and ' know" internally.

As I said, Sarah Nind tells stories, and storytelling is arguably the greatest, most precious attachment we can form with one another. Storytelling differs from hypothesizing, the tool of science, by virtue of its ability to "paint a picture," to fuse alchemically within us a credible image of desire. And this is why Nind's work carries the charge that we feel when we view these dark, mysterious works. These are not bright anec­dotes designed to dispell anxiety. They are stories, and stories have always been about our need to confront what it is we dread, to long for what eludes us, even as we reach forward in our minds to seizing the impossi­ble. If it is true. as it has been suggested, that we are living in a time of masquerade and nameless fear, Nind's powerful stories offer both an image and a catharsis for our times.

 

lan Carr-Harris is an Carr-Hams is an artist, teacher and writer based in Toront. He has written extensively, contributing reviews and articles to C Magazine, Parachute and Canadian Art.