Unfolding Infinity: the Dancing Line of Michèle Van de Roer
by Elizabeth Manchester (London, January 2015)
Infinity is a vast concept.
Limitless in scope, it is redolent, above all, with potential.
Rather than weighing down with its fullness though (of everything, conceived all at once), this potential is lightness itself, pure abstraction, the unimaginable enormity of space and time extending in parallel universes that traverse the unfolding impossibility of the endless beyond.
Infinity is the defining quality of the notion of Baroque conceived by the philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Rather than merely defining an artistic period and style, for Deleuze the Baroque refers to an operative function, one of endlessly producing folds. This Fold, ‘in all its extensiveness … is not only in clothing, but includes the body, rocks, waters, earth and line,’ as well as the ultimate abstraction: the animate soul. And he writes, ‘the problem is not how to finish a fold, but how to continue it, to have it go through the ceiling, how to bring it to infinity. It is not only because the fold affects all materials that it thus becomes expressive matter … but especially because it determines and materializes Form.’[i]
Light is another one of those things (like space and time) that seems both abstract and infinite, although we know of course, through modern science, that it is not.
The paired colours chosen for the plates that Michèle van de Roer pulls vibrate with the texture of her elegant lines that follow each other in parallel dancing movements across the paper as they echo the rise and fall of drapery through a folding and unfolding of contours. These lines, cut into the copper by the pressure of the artist’s body – leaning into it, concentrating her physical and mental force into the needle’s tip – trace the potential to travel well beyond the edges of the plate, into a world of atomic shimmering and shivering where matter and non-matter collide.
Colours that recall elemental forces of nature in their brilliance, the paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse in their shades and tones. Colours that live through light, simultaneously creating and receiving it, traversed by lines that evoke, define, map landscapes and chambers – spaces both open and closed.
Van de Roer’s art unfolds in the space between the predetermined and the effects of chance, in the tension and relations between the paper, the etching plate, the colour and the artist’s hand. The artist channels; the image unfurls.
‘In the end,’ she writes, ‘there is only the integrity of trying’.
1 Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibnitz and the Baroque, translated from the French by Tom Conley, Athlone Press, London 1993, pp.33-4.