lisa chandler  artist

in transit

Ross Whitlock, MFA, September 2012

Perhaps Voltaire said it best: “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” When we enter the non-place with Chandler we are brought face to face with the nature of contemporary uncertainty. The idea of moving through a transitory and anonymous space is in itself unsettling, but the nature of travelling is to experience challenge and change.

In our day to day lives, living in our homes, we establish our own personal routines. We surround ourselves with the personal and the familiar. In the same way that the fish does not see the stream, we accept the oddities of our lives in a globalised world, without noticing how strange they in fact are.

The modern world is only now entering its third century. Voltaire was writing at its beginning. His was a time when the existing world of nation state and empire, of castle, church, and landed estate, of town and village, was about to be torn apart. The industrial, social and scientific revolutions of the Western world would uproot lives, move millions around the globe, and establish mercantile networks that would link people above and beyond the certainty of any ancient established order.

We live daily within the comfortable illusion that change is slow and all is settled. Chandler’s work unsettles us. She reminds us that our lives are transitory. She uses the non-place of the airport as a metaphor for the underlying chaos and anonymity of our existence.

It is true that the Parisian flaneur of the 19th century experienced something of this in the changing streets of that city. Watching out of the corner of the eye, but remaining uninvolved, the flaneur enjoyed being there. Present, but solitary, he was not part of the unknown masses passing by unheeding of his cool detached gaze. The essential difference today is that unlike the flaneur, we are involved. Whether we like it or not, the pace of our life continually accelerates. We experience so much more than our forebears. We live in many more places. We move from country to country. People pass. Our allegiance is to our facebook page. Our community is accessed by twitter. Our security is ensured by our personal skills and qualifications. Chandler’s paintings are unsettling precisely because she is uncompromising in her detached gaze.

Her canvasses are large, her palette is cool and restrained. Her compositional structures establishing the non- space are logical and unambiguous, but not clearly delineated. We see them as something definite but out of focus. A space we are moving through, but not one we can own. There are people, many people, but they too are moving through this space. A Brownian motion of detached particles: chaotic, but determined in their progress towards something, but what? We can never know. All is tentative. The paint is thin, insubstantial. The floor of the concourse may be solid and determined, yet the walls are translucent. The figures come and go. Some stand in groups. Others walk. They are painted so thinly we could imagine them as ghosts. They are not. Each holds its own space. There may be overlap but there is no transparency. The figures are real, but most are irrelevant. Our focus is directed towards some individuals. We notice a figure turn. Someone puts down a bag. Two people talk. Yet nothing is of particular significance.

We are alone as we contemplate her space. We are aware that all these individuals inhabit their singular worlds. Any we notice are brought to our attention by perhaps warmer colour, or stronger tone, however they are only of casual significance. We notice them, not because of some meta narrative, but simply because we notice them. Our attention is directed at random. There is no meaning beyond the fact of momentary engagement.

Chandler’s world, her non-space, is cruel. We are confronted with the uncompromising fact of our solitary existence. The temporary and the ephemeral are the only realities. Certainly, any certainty is absurd.