A matter of Time
Among the ancient elements, blue occurs everywhere: in ice and water, in the flame as purely as in the flower, overhead and inside caves, covering fruit and oozing out of clay. Although green enlivens the earth and mixes in the ocean, and we find it, copperish, in fire; green air, green skies, are rare. Grey and brown are widely distributed, but there are no joyful swatches of either, or any of exuberant black, sullen pink, or acquiescent orange. Blue is therefore most suitable as the colour of interior life. Whether slick light sharp high bright thin quick sour new and cool or low deep sweet dark soft slow smooth heavy old and warm: blue moves easily among them all, and all profoundly qualify our states of feeling. William Gass, On Being Blue
To propose time as matter offers those qualities we each–young and old–have communed with intimately as substance. We know, of course, this is not the case in a physical sense but feel intuitively and, none-the-less, the touch, weight and pressure of the aspect communicated here through a relation of time to matter. I have with certainty felt and experienced time as matter, or as Bárbara Alegre presents here, as a magnitude. I know this as time being experienced as either something that is perhaps painfully slipping away, or time as a heavy blanket from which an escape cannot be found but perhaps only imagined. Those experiences, in all their divergence and coming, as they do, in colour, begin to hint at time as an order of magnitude.
Time and experience are imbricated and to an extent, irrevocably entangled. Memory may in a sense be approached as a web spun from this fecund collision. In thinking about time, Ludwig Wittgenstein made a distinction between memory-time, given over to and structured by the concepts of earlier or later and then information-time, which has recourse to a past and future. Art and its experience are important here. We cannot step twice in the same river, this we know. As with time, those waters are continually flowing on. We carry with us a memory of that which is previous and this shapes and forms those projected experiences (for either better, or worse, but never indifferently). To colour something bears a family resemblance to these acts. Art, even if presented as information, aligns itself as an experience as an amalgam of memory, matter, time, and space and, of course importantly, place.
I immediately feel a sense of nostalgia here in relation to time and place alongside the art I have experienced. This has nothing to do with regrets, but with life remembered. The two–lived memory and time–cannot really be distinguished or pulled apart, such is their entanglement and in turns both consoling and painful.
Bárbara Alegre has produced a piece with the title A Matter of Time that is the signal work that lends a title to this exhibition. The sixty-one days during which this project and exhibition were produced–begun in the waning days of September and encompassing all of October and then some of November–are represented as the colour of the sky Alegre experienced and recorded on each day and then faithfully translated in paint. This daily record is re-presented and bound as a calendar spanning those sixty-one days of autumn, or perhaps more poetically rendered in ‘the fall’.
Alegre’s focus is on time and season, but this is shot through a bodily engagement with sky. Sixteen pieces comprise this presentation: large collage pieces, paintings on linen and then those in gouache on embossed paper. The recording of things, processes and activities has often found a place in Alegre’s working method. The works in A Matter of Time follow suit in a conceptual manner that is both rigorous and bodily; the impact of this making on the rhythms of artist’s sleep, activities and body has been profound and lasting. Alegre witnessed and recorded the colour of the early morning sky each day as it presented its own hue, tint and shade and then on through the passing day. A fidelity and exactitude to the recorded values of blue and grey were adhered to given the importance she places here on magnitude and colour as a model of measurement. The periods depicted are in this sense both the colour values and magnitude of the time expressed in the making. These works are importantly non-referential. Time is a subject but then so too is sky. The titles for these works are evident; they are descriptive and relate to memory rather than disclosing the exact information one would expect to be aligned with time and place. Whole Day, Feeling Blue, Day and Night, Dawn, Before Breakfast, At Lunch, After Dinner – these titles foreground the quotidian, the everyday, or diario. The Indo-European root of time–Dī or Dā–connotes part, or partition, to divide. This is a gesture that suggests a primordial connection with earth, sky and season developed long before the invention of clocks and the regimentation of time and our consciousness of its measure and movement marshalled by seconds, minutes and hours.
A fundamental part of our human condition is to have sky over our heads. This we take far too much for granted. A roof is indeed important to survival, but the sky offers more in the way of dreams and continuity, imagination and respite from the weight of the world. Bárbara Alegre’s A Matter of Time offers us a moment to lift our eyes and arms up to the sky and take time as matter measured in magnitudes of blue and being.
Text by John Slyce, London December 2018