A palimpsest is a reinvention. The scarcity of parchment, a writing surface made from animal skin, led to its reuse during the Middle Ages through the careful scrapping away of layers of ink to make way for new text. The reused document was a palimpsest – a text with the ghost of its previous use lurking behind the new script. Vincent Ward’s Palimpsest/Landscapes takes this notion of reinvention and applies it to the body, environment, language and art.
These elemental films position the body and earth as connected. A necessary if sometimes difficult coexistence, the understanding of the body and landscape as linked, is ancient. Many creation myths, including that of Papatūānuku and Ranginui, explain the creation of the earth through the separation of parental bodies. Ward reimagines the human body as deserts, mountains, caverns and river beds with breath and water giving them both life. Through Ward’s filmic isolation these primordial bodies create an environment within the gallery in which the forces that shape humans and the land are understood as universal. This atmosphere is reinforced by the immersive soundscape that throbs and pulses.
Accompanying the three Palimpsest/Landscapes films are Haiku and New Words Under The Old. Language is central to these mesmerising works as text become three dimensional. Ink consumes water and marks the body, just as we scar and layer the land with human history and memory.
Palimpsest/Landscapes grew from Ward’s interest in painting, film, landscapes and history: “With ink, paint and pigments, bathe the human form directly, then breath on it with the elements, of wind, dust, rain and fog. It continued a range of experiments that I had been making where paint meets film, but rather than motion painting on film, it could be painting / filming on a new landscape, our bodies, male and female, ephemeral as the elemental world we live in, and as harsh and varied as the hill country I experienced as a child”.
Internationally recognised for his ability to convey charged emotional experiences through his experimental approach to film making, the pre-eminent New Zealand award-winning filmmaker and artist Vincent Ward engages in a visceral visual language to explore ideas of psychic states and our relationship with the physical world. In 2007 Ward received the New Zealand Order of Merit (NZOM) for his services to film; he is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Canterbury (Film and Fine Arts) where he was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, the same university where he first studied art and completed a Dip FA (Hons) in 1978. A guest Professorship at the China Academy of Art, School of Fine Arts, Hanzhou, has been conferred on Ward, and he also runs workshops on new media at Shanghai University, School of Fine Arts.