By Monica Kaufman
The Haggerty Gallery is currently hosting an exhibit entitled “The Shape of Line,” featuring the work of two artists, Du Chau and Randy Twaddle. Each body of work, as the title of the exhibition suggests, is filled with lines upon lines. Chau’s work is sculptural, consisting mostly of pieces created with hundreds of wires coming out of the wall and ending in small, colorful ceramic forms. Twaddle has created a series of works on paper with ink and coffee, a combination that initially seems strange but is wonderfully visually cohesive.
Twaddle’s work at first seems abstract, consisting of dark, varied, tangled lines drawn in black ink, with fading brown forms behind them, created using coffee. The drawings are visually fascinating as abstract forms, but after seeing the fourth or fifth piece I finally realized that the ink lines are actually representing power lines strung across the sky and entangled with one another. The coffee shapes create echoing shadows. Suddenly Twaddle’s drawings became industrial yet organic; though they indeed represent power lines, the shapes of the lines themselves are beautiful and seem as if they naturally grew in such a formation. The drawings invite the questioning of the actual shapes of such objects that have become part of our contemporary world. By reducing power lines to just their silhouettes, one can see them both for what they are and for what they can be, obstructive yet beautiful. The “unintentional beauty and lyricism” of such industrial materials that have become an unnoticed part of the world is what fascinates the artist, according to a summary of Twaddle’s work for the Holly Johnson Gallery.
While Twaddle represents a very tangible part of the world in an abstract way, Chau’s ceramic sculptures bring his intangible memories into the physical world. Chau spoke about the pieces in the exhibition on Wednesday, Oct. 22, a lecture in which he explained the origins and significance of his work. Many of his pieces begin their titles with “Memory No.” and are then numbered, revealing a series of Chau’s remembrances.
Chau was born in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and moved to the United States in 1981. He explained that much of his work draws its origins from his childhood. He described his family as “running from one generation to the next,” for his grandparents had to leave China due to the rise of communism and he then had to leave Vietnam due to the war. Much of his work deals with the memories of the chaotic years of his childhood in Vietnam. But each memory represented, he explained, is a memoir of a particular person he holds dear. Each piece derives its meaning from Chau’s desire to honor the person to whom it is dedicated.
He creates these visual memories by installing hanging wires in the walls of the gallery, with each wire attached to some ceramic form at its end. For example, “Inch by Inch (To Laura Potter),” a line of almost 300 wires projecting from the wall, leading to ceramic white rose stems at the end of each wire, commemorates Laura Potter’s love for roses. The line, Chau said, “is a passage, from life to death,” and through the use of the repeated lines within his sculptures, he recreates these individuals’ passage through life and honors them. Chau manages to encapsulate his memories into flowing, visual, tangible sculptures, allowing the observer to enter into his mind.
While the mix of industrial and memorial subject matter at first seems disconnected, the visual language of both artists’ work ties the exhibition together in a beautiful way.
The exhibition runs through Nov. 2, and in this reporter’s opinion, it is more than worthwhile to venture into the Art Village to see the work of these two artists.