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Corpus : Animus

“And the house is breathing, almost without sound.” Yves Bonnefoy


All drawing is spirit-mongering. To draw a breath is to animate the body, give life by inviting the contingencies of place deep into the chest and to return the gift, altered, formed, heaved, and sometimes sung, back to the world from which it was drawn. What I receive is measured by my body, lungful by lungful, just as terrain is measured by the length of my stride, both a spatial and a temporal rationing of a seemingly limitless setting. To breathe is to put an outer edge on time, a horizon of finitude. As the ancients implied, when breath leaves the body for the last time, so does the spirit.


Not to be morbid, but rather to celebrate one’s allotment, whatever it ends up being, through the endeavor of ‘making’, ensconced within a house for drawing and print-making; marking up and pressing down, the horizontal gesture of striation across surface, and the vertical gesture of impression into surface, both paper and flesh in mutual reciprocity. Both of these acts are contingent in unique ways upon the strength and reach of the maker’s body. They form a partnership between corps and matter, a conversation through embrace, by mutual touching, leaving both transformed and disclosed anew in the resulting work.


Maurice Merleau-Ponty aptly refers to this event as a ‘conspiration’, a kind of reciprocal breathing of body and world. Elsewhere he characterises the creative act of the artist as a form of clairvoyance, a paradoxical capacity to show something previously invisible, a monstration, whereby the clear space implied by ‘not knowing’ copulates with the reservoir of ‘having always known’ to conceive an offspring, the work. Both drawing and print are born from a collaborative faith in what is possible when actual bodies (artist and material) engage, fluctuating between relinquishment to the other and wrestling free, inhabiting the tension of these reciprocal tendencies, stretched out together in the form of innovative gesture.


corpus : animus is a modest studio building that strives to accommodate the act of making, a temporary home for the animate body in acts of inscribing and printing, in coaxing horizons to unveil what they hide beyond, in drawing breaths to the last.

Designed by me and Louise Foster in Portland, Oregon, and rising vertically from the interior landscape of the contemporary city, an attic studio hovers atop a workshop, its profile a wedge uniting earth and sky. The western gable registers the passage of days into nights as its joints take on a mercurial glow illuminated by the setting sun, dissolving its singular, symmetrical body into fragments to be reunited each morning. Windows are calibrated in response to the upright human body and the terrestrial horizon, both echoed in the perpendicular relation of artist and work surface, the body crossed at the groin by tableaux.

The graphic studies accompanying this text are hand-burnished monotypes exploring the birth and life of this tiny place in which to bide one’s time.

“We who draw do so not only to make something visible to others, but also to accompany something invisible to its incalculable destination.” John Berger


All images courtesy of Clive Knights.