Hands are sacred things ::
Touch is personal. Tongues for those who cannot speak. Ausadavut Sarum creates images that appear as cyphers from another realm, coded but resonant gestures from an alternate topography; hands that speak, a language written on the body, an image world that feels mute and silent, a place in which lone and lonely figures wander through sombre, ambiguous landscapes.
This anxious unnamed place, wherever it may be, is a world with few visible features, where only the most stubborn of life persists, a place of muted skies and overcast light. If exile were a country, it would appear that we have arrived.
Sarum’s images feel like objects discovered after some inexplicable apocalypse; artifacts pulled from the charred ruble. With their obscured facts, their damaged and defaced surfaces, they can only hint at and point to a forgotten history before distant thunder signaled the arrival of annihilating weather. Some of these images appear to have notes written on their surface, perhaps innocent comments and doodles from an anonymous and now extinct happier time.
The best artists are obsessed and there is frequently a cyclic, repetitive quality to their work – they are circling some singular idea, like a moth to the flame, that is a fragment of their own autobiography. Sarum’s work, with its repeating motifs and tropes, has this quality. There is always a solitary element – it might be a body, or it might be a tree – set within an uneasy context; sometimes a natural landscape, sometimes an anonymous urban setting.
But these are all self-portraits, really. The figures are props, stand-ins, actors; they are all surrogate personas of Sarum himself. The landscapes, too – they do not chart a place that can be found on any map, save an internal and mythic psychological landscape that exists under the artist’s skin.
This work raises interesting and important questions about the exact nature of beauty and the true function of art. These images do not conform to the cliche notions of art as pleasing distraction or polite decoration. This is a dark beauty, it is disruptive and demanding; more than a little unnerving and largely unknown. But there is, nevertheless, poetry here.
Prior to the emergence of galleries and museums, before the evolution of art as commodity and investment instrument, preceding the current fashion of ironic spectacles, cults of celebrity, and elitist postmodernism (mostly white, privileged, western, and over-educated), artists had a seat at the center of community social life. Rather than the market economy, we might think of this as the tribal economy. Art did not have monetary value, but it did have social import, a significance that existed beyond the material world and touched upon spirit and belief. Artists created the artifacts and gestures that expressed the stories and speculations, the fears and anxieties, the dreams and aspirations of the tribe. Art didn’t make money, it made meaning.
Ausadavut Sarum’s work is important because it attaches itself to this older and more timeless lineage. It is psychologically dense and leads us to a place deep inside our humanity. It begins to provide a vocabulary that can speak about, or at least point to, the inexplicable solitude and aloneness that is often the shadow side of being a thinking and feeling animal. This is not always comforting or easy, but there is something sublime in its utter truth.
So if this is a place of difficulty, it is also one of resiliance. While acknowledging the inevitability of loss and separation as universal to the human experience, and portraying the peril of what it means to have a beating heart, Asudavut Serum’s visions also reassert the utter mystery, beauty, and preciousness of having ever been here at all.
Read my interview with Ausadavut Sarum here.
All images copyright © Ausadavut Sarum, 2016. No re-production or re-distribution without explicit written permission. Contact Ausadavut Sarum via Fotoblur.