SELA ADJEI: FROM VOID TO FIGURE
by Alan Avorgbedor
That quality of mind to develop figures. Reverberating condition that excavates and curates the elemental, organizational derivatives of spatially productive environments so dear to the sensate. Internal reductions of form. And the operation cascading into void returning. One is not skeptical about the project of hierarchy or the primacy of the figure presented. One derives the enigmatic yet pragmatic engine of identification from the privileged center — the being, foregrounded and framed, hyperfocal¹. A measure of that — the ineffable essence of figuration and its dance — flattened on canvas to inward play of more or less well defined smears, geometric and other. Definition concentrated in an economy of white and black, red and black, anything and black. Figure/Ground. Interlocutors. The element of call and response in the operation of rhythm, formally organized.
These are private abbreviations, and indeed demonstrations, of the individuating figure so prevalent in the aesthetic reduction that triangulates a dimension of concept to a dimension of agency to a dimension of action or perceived expression. That is to say, it is not my opinion that Sela Adjei is merely indebted to the recuperative legitimacy of the canon of actors that have mobilized the commodification of expression through geometricity, or abstracted emotional form, or the presentation of mere history and its anecdote. Here is an observer approaching the limits of a figural demonstration. The relative position or emergence of emotion as against a few background operations. As against one. Here is an echo, its bones.
The historical, and therefore anecdotal, can be read into Bondage from a trove of references that map the anonymous, planar, human figure — abstracted via geometry and axis and receding in the distance — to conditions of economy and polity and the Homo homini lupus² that has been a rather consistent datum thread through the ages. Interlocking hands, fingers, and chains may be allowed to register the hyperfocal depths of a violent, iterative, continuum that keeps giving. Or, orthographic projection of the individual figure, flat like its surface, negotiated by the void that identifies and indeed separates subject from scene, subject from object, subject from subject. Figures nevertheless tethered to a formal staging. Or blood.
Inward facing menace of thick contour line constituting a domain of self dominated by force of edge, separation. Or, at what resolution does the individuated article resolve into finer fragmented form, oscillating in broken lines, under threat, at and/or toward the hierarchical center of Mass Claustrophobia? Its execution is almost entirely diagrammatic³ and expressive of the interminable being bounded on all sides by the increasing weight and presence of organizing frames, organizing principles. All, perceptively greater. The imposition of structure transferring its referential weight to even greater domains of encapsulation and signification. All done with the clarity of line and boundary that only the intentionality embedded in meaning and fixity construct. Iterative claustrophobia expressed through the bounded figure, a sliver of infinite regression. And at what resolution might one pass from the volumes of affect distributed by the cascade of this enclosure, toward the telescoping operation that so effortlessly bridges the macro and the micro under a calculus of presentation wedded to the call and response of color across a line of symmetry.
Owuo Sei Fie and the deep despair of the Akan proverb's probative exploration of the manifestation of grief among a unit who have lost a part. The profound cascade of emotion touching upon the last member, inculcating dirge and procession. All égal and clearly itemized against and/or or within a background object complicit in the composition. Emotion oscillating between figure and its ground, ground and its figure.
An exploration of the permutations of grief distributed through a set of actors for which we have a glimpse. Suggestion of others organized by the consistency of negative space and what is abbreviated by the abrupt edge of frame. Sela Adjei's Owuo Sei Fie, and the product of all possible reflections, articulations in the void. Of void.
Return to the figure before it is fixed. The image in its alternating states remains a domain of dance, gesture, and possibility that organizes the subsequent and always contingent posture. Fixed for the time being. Figure fully dressed now forming a rhyme with meaning. Or its specter.
¹ Under the query of the hyperfocal, one might ask, for what dimension of comprehensibility is one a primary, distinct, separate entity? For what dimension is coherence the generative ground?
² "Lupus est homo homini... (Man is a wolf to man)" from Plautus (c. 254 -184 BCE). This sentiment is perhaps more aggressively felt in the order of human history and sociation than the "homo homini deus est, si suum officium sciat" recorded by Cæcilius Statius (c. 220 – 166 BCE).
³ As in the diagram, or, architectural device and expression that distills spatial features, volumes, processions, etc. through an internalized and sketched reduction of form.