THE ART OF PRACTICE
by Genista Lewis
The symbolic significance of mark making and the importance of the physical process are fundemental features of Michie’s work. It is interesting that as a western woman without any formal study of ancient cultures, she appears to be using similar thought processes to that of women all over the world, from many different cultures and civilisations and many different periods in history. Whereas ancient cultures often derived their ideas of design from the mark of an animal’s footprint or the structure of a plant, Michie’s use of the dot and line are taken from handwriting, from the earliest Cuneiform writing system to the modern day. The ineffable content of many of her drawings might be compared to a poem before it is written or a piece of music that cannot be described in words. The bolder ink and water colour drawings would seem to act as a counterbalance to the delicacy of the fine drawings – both exist, one creating the need for the other. As in music, where there is more than one movement in the symphony, there has to be contrast or a need to express more than one mood. Measurement is an important aspect of the work, the composition held together by the rectangle and within that rectangle, a fragile geometry. Although there is nothing random about the structure, it is in the body of the work that randomness occurs. Due to the scale of Michie’s work her arm moves accros the page and her body follows and there are moments in the work where the line waivers, the mark of the falters, the patterning is interrupted momentarily through some mishap, a pause for re-appraisal, a period of rest before returning to the task. The fallibility that is inevitable in the artist’s physical process is very much part of Michie’s philosophy – it can provide a human quality to the work; the viewer can relate to the imperfections, be comforted by the knowledge that perfection is unattainable. The sequential nature of Michie’s drawings defines her underlying belief in the vitality and validity of repetition in our lives.
Aesthetically, Michie’s sequence of drawings with their repetitious marks might seem to owe something to the Minimalist movement of 1960’s America with their grid-like structures and emphasis on paring away the visible world to achieve a pure form of abstraction devoid of human content. However, this can be misleading, as Michie’s primary purpose in her work is not to eliminate the individual hand in any sense, but to bring the individual into focus with all its vulnerability and fragility. There is a strong rhythmic pulse and in some cases a mesmeric optical effect in Michie’s work.
From the repetitious tasks performed day to day, Michie draws comparisons in her practice with the manner in which we learn from an accretion of small steps to comprehend the whole picture. this repetition is most noticeable for instance in the work of musicians with their routine scales and excercises, the dancer at the barre, the devout Muslim who bows down in prayer five times a day. Michie’s painstaking accumulation of marks across the paper has an element of ritual and dedication close to the meditative state when the unconscious is freed from outside pressure, untrammelled by the judgemental intellect. This repetition can have a profound and lasting effect – indeed, the constant physical practise becomes automatic and to a large extent liberating: its natural outcome allowing the possibility of experimentation and discovery.