Virtue: Chivalry as a Memory Tradition

Mark aficionado Oliver Perrin and artist Eric Stevens collaborated to create the exhibit Virtue: Chivalry as a Memory Tradition. The show opened at Art space 111 in Ft. Worth, Texas on April 21, 2011. Perrin and Stevens worked together to create an integrated set of painted memory images, insignia and accompanying texts with the ambitious goal of capturing some of the fun­damental mnemonic elements of all cultures that attach deep significance to the figure of horse and rider.

The exhibition as arranged at Artspace 111 in Ft. Worth, Texas.

A second view of the exhibition.

The project explores how images, non-linguistic graphical signs and text all come together as a means of anchoring cultural values in mnemonic constellations. The series includes thirteen works by Stevens, all oil on canvas. Each painting features a single object associated with horse culture. Each of these objects is in turn associated with a single schematized graphical sign and a short text intended to evoke long standing cultural themes related to the object.

Rope. Oil on Canvas, (91 x 91 cm). Note the associated text panel and the schematized graphic serving as a mnemonic ligature between the image and the longer passage of text.

A single, larger ‘key’ painting served as basis for memorizing all the exhibit content, taking its inspiration from the mediaeval mnemonic known as the Guidonian Hand, as well as rhythmic counting techniques on finger joints common in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

Key, Act & Agent. Oil on Canvas, 122 x 152 cm.

A three-letter key, evoking various implicit and explicit etymological constellations, served as a memorial ligature tying the image and sign to the longer passages of text.

Virtue was in large part inspired by Perrin’s long-standing interest in marks, combined with his research into artes memorativae traditions of antiquity. Stevens, in turn, had independently been painting stark, boldly presented objects with both cultural and psychological significance. In the previous year he had produced the exhibit From the Golden Age of Man: Practical Tools which featured simple objects such as horseshoes, bones, nails and arrowheads against a rich, featureless black background. The Virtue exhibit brings together Stevens’ paintings – which continue to reveal his preoccupation with representing careworn or ancient objects as a kind of eternal mnemonic still life – and Perrin’s obsessive concern with reducing cultural expressions to their most essential elements.

The complete exhibition is available for viewing here.