Voyages en Zigzag

Chris McAuliffe

"I'll make a TOUR - and then I'll WRITE it."

William Combe; Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque, 1812.

The journeys of travellers of previous centuries were documented in the same meticulous detail with which they were planned. Empirical observations made along the well mapped route were offered to the public as a descriptive narrative, with the occasional florid reflection on the more sublime sites encountered.1 A voyage into unexplored territory was made in order to fix it into the domain of the known and the finite.

Micky Allan's recent "Travels..." were made without a guide or itinerary, there is no empirical master narrative connecting discrete incidents and explaining them into a fixed self or reality There are destinations of a sort in her journey since the images grew out of specific places, but they are not assigned 'proper' places in a diaristic chronicle and so do not remain static. Just as she has opened up a multiplicity of possible tales by releasing fragments of narrative paintings from their frames, so her images have a certain elasticity, lying not end to end as points on a route but shifting over a network of the observed, the felt, the concrete and the mystic as charted by the artist. Order was neither present at the outset nor imposed in retrospect but is focussed contingently, and sometimes unwittingly, within and between the images and the viewer.

Literal and narrative references to travel (the boat, the path, the metropolis), charts of empirical knowledge (views, electron paths), representations of the afterlife (Anubis, funerary rites, the mummy), of ineffable unity (the Sufi symbols) and of cosmic disarray (the loss of the flaming pearl) drift through the works, meshing momentarily as a perceived connection focuses them, retreating again as the viewer's gaze wanders.

The images are not codes to be cracked or clues to be totalised into a finite meaning, they are not souvenirs or aides memoires. The works were accumulated during the course of Micky's travels; some were consciously noted, some were stumbled upon, some offered themselves, some found their place belatedly, others immediately. The original meanings and sources are not denied, rather they are amplified and reorientated as their context is altered by chance, intuition and location. The blurred, drifting openness of the images alludes to many worlds; spiritual and material; present and past; personal and universal. They speak of the contingency of meaning, the relativity of perception, the shifting reality of memory and of the immaterial threads (often evidenced by 'coincidence') which write and rewrite the signficance of the journey.

Chris McAuliffe, 1985


1. B.M. Stafford; Voyage into Substance, M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1984. See also C.I. Batten; Pleasurable Instruction - Form and Convention in Eighteenth Century Travel Literature, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1978.