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Sunday Times Books LIVE

Ingrid Andersen

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

“Eyrie” – a collaboration of image and word.

A chance connection online, a shared vision, a similar interest in an Irish painter and a generosity of spirit were the elements that made this dynamic creative initiative a possibility.

Cecilia Ferreira - Drowning Woman

Drowning Woman

In 2009, Netherlands poet Joop Bersee and South African fine artist and photographer Cecilia Ferreira connected through the internet. Their conversations resulted in Eyrie, a powerful collaboration – a dialogue of the poetic and the visual.

Bersee’s volume of poetry, Eyrie, was in the process of preparation for printing and was dedicated to artist Francis Bacon. He offered the manuscript to Ferreira to make of it what she wanted and dedicated some of the poems in the volume to her.

Interestingly, Ferreira’s striking, often brutal work has been compared to that of Francis Bacon. She, still raw, deep in the grief of a still-born daughter, found resonance with the description of the woman who inhabited Bersee’s poetry – a woman who lives in what Ferreira in her exhibition notes calls “the dark crevasses of the human mind… who sees all the way to the other side, all the way to death”. In her visual response to the poetry, she began the hard process of grieving.

Ferreira attempted not to illustrate the poetry, but to capture the images it evoked as well as its impact on her. She deliberately left the work open, “unfinished”, to leave space for interaction with the poetry.

In her biography, Ferreira says that for her, art involves the inevitable process of “brutally expressing and releasing my own emotional baggage”, using what she calls an “exaggeration of form and colour” that reveals through its honesty. She comments that “humans in general do not like being confronted by their own issues and emotional flaws”.

Cecilia Ferreira - Her sense of Flower

Her sense of Flower

Throughout Ferreira’s work in Eyrie is the sense of the mutability of life – the fluid nature of things. Loss happens. We die. Things are not as they seem – nothing can be depended upon. Thin, transparent images bleed downwards. There is dissolution – in every sense of the word. A line chosen from the poetry by Ferreira as a starting point for an image
reads:  “Face and death/listen and shatter what/has never been: foothold.” (Woman on a chair)

Ultimately, the dissolving images point to the inadequacy of both word and image to convey meaning. Bersee’s poem They read her, dedicated to Ferreira, seems to capture this elusive quality:

They read her on water,
they read her on paper,
words written,
it’s her.

a lie;
she’s no one,
as the light goes out,

as the words
with the dark.

Cecilia Ferreira -ghost woman

Ghost Woman

In the paintings that make up this collection, Ferreira plunges the dark, emotional depths of being human, but at the same time, maintaining a tension with an objectified portrayal of humanity. In the unmediated outpouring of feeling, her work is raw in the power and intensity of its images. It is defiant in its unsettling confrontation of the viewer.

Images of entrapment, of drowning, of violence, in particular, that of the ragdoll-like, constructed woman with the hollow circles for eyes, (Ghost Woman) demand a response.

And yet, there is hope: one crucified, drowning woman has (barely) kept her head above water. But the thing from which she hangs is an instrument of entrapment – a hook.

Here, salvation cannot be that simple.


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