Nadia Myre: Meditations on Black Lake
Shades of Black
Text by Rhonda Meier
Nadia Myre’s Meditations on Black Lake are large, textured tondos in sombre blues, blacks, and greys resembling gongs, planets, mandalas, or darkened pools with ripples extending radially from their centres. Closer inspection reveals a digitized universe of intertwined glass seed beads of varying shapes, sizes, and colours.
In contrast to Myre’s Scarscapes or other works, these pieces are not woven on the loom with a pre-established pattern. They are held simply and intimately in the hand and worked upon in a more organic, instinctual manner. Selecting and picking up two to three beads at a time to form a brick stitch, the act of choosing the colours is a process Myre views as akin to painting.
Scanning the beaded works removes them from the realm of objecthood, introducing the paradox of a visually smooth, flat distillation of their highly-textured surface. The accompanying change in scale monumentalizes these modest, craft-based pieces, and further places them in relation to a history of painting.1 In fact, Myre sees the Meditations as abstract paintings, signalled by the disjunction between her actual palette and series title, which reduces the chromatic subtleties in the works to “Black.” A non-colour, a tone, black is the absence of light.2 While it is associated in Western societies with death, mourning, emptiness, the abyss, and absence of meaning, for Myre it also represents insight gained through reflection: staring into a dark pool, one sees oneself.
Black then, also carries the potential for healing. When Myre began this series, she was in part ruminating upon her massive collaborative artwork, The Scar Project.3 Beginning in 2005, she invited volunteers to recreate a physical and/or psychological scar on an un-primed ten-inch square canvas, and record its story in writing. To date, over 800 participants have depicted wounds from the banal to the profoundly traumatic, with Myre’s constant presence as facilitator, mediator, and caretaker. The beaded meditations are in part a response to the weight of this commitment. As silent contemplations of the collected burden of the loss, sorrow, and pain recounted by the participants and entrusted to Myre, they have functioned like containers into which she has poured that grief.
This beading in moving meditation creates a regenerative space. Myre describes it as a “connection with the self through gazing at something deeply, in order to bring yourself to a global consciousness, a deep knowledge that you are intimately connected to everything.”4 Examining the Meditations on Black Lake, I am struck by the astounding variety and diversity within them. Each bead can be seen to represent an individual: expediently-labeled one thing from a distance (blue, black or grey), and infinitely more complex and partly unknowable up close. The intertwined thread pulls them together into a kind of whole – solitary, yet interconnected, in a metaphor for humanity’s existential condition.
1. Kazmir Malevich’s Black Circle (1915), the target paintings of Jasper Johns and Kenneth Noland, some work by Jennifer Bartlett, and the Chromatic Accelerators and Gongs of Claude Tousignant are just a few of the antecedents.
2. Or when working with pigment, black is the combination of all hues.
3. The Scar Project will be shown at the 18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations, from June 27 to September 16, 2012.
4. Conversation with the author, January 22, 2012.