"These are the most tender and exciting moments of creation." (an interview with Linden Eller)
Our featured artist for Issue II understands the meaning of saudade more deeply than most. Her wistful, multilayered collages are archives of experience, yes, but even more than that, they are testaments to all that memory can hold and all that it has lost. We here at Half Mystic cannot wait for you to see her work in the pages of Issue II. Please give a warm welcome to our second featured artist, Linden Eller.
HM: Issue II centers around the theme of Saudade: "the drifting photograph – the ache so tender-willing – the shards of bitter-soft yearning just before the fall." What aches have taken up residence in your memory? How do they shape your art?
LE: Most of my own aches are subtle and quiet, and many originated from childhood. A feeling of unbelonging in my hometown of Phoenix combined with my parents' divorce and a mentally disabled brother often provided for a strangely isolated world growing up. I felt plain and unnoticed as a teen and my twenties were full of rather traditional heartache involving relationships, longing, and loneliness. I've been a melancholic person for as long as I can remember and all my experiences have largely shaped my interest in the randomness of loss, unresolved matters, and soft hauntings - all common themes in my work.
In what ways does memory shift in your work? In what ways is it constant?
Memory shifts in different forms of translation and recording - in how pieces are positioned and what shape everything becomes. There is always an abundance of ways to communicate non-linear concepts. Perhaps the only constant is that memory is never only one finite thing; it always consists of references, alterations and layers.
What songs have you found yourself returning to recently? How have they impacted your art?
In the last few years I have been listening to a lot of ambient music, as I find it inherently complements creating abstract visual work. The neutral drone sleepiness of sounds is a great atmosphere for examining memory from a collective and intuitive perspective. Some musicians I enjoy are: A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Rameses III, Rice Boy Sleeps, Nils Frahm, Cass., Kyle Bobby Dunn, and Julianna Barwick. That being said, I have always had a large affection for folk music and still retain a loyalty to the genre. Mark Kozelek is one of my all time favourites.
To expand on that: if your art had a 'soundtrack,' what five songs would definitely be on it? Why?
Sibylle Baier - Forget About. Goldmund - Ba. Sun Kil Moon - Carry Me Ohio. Sufjan Stevens - Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou). Grouper - Wind and Snow.
All these songs and artists carry a personal history for me, but I also think they’re a good representation of both folk and ambient sounds that suit my work well.
How do you approach color in your work?
I've always been attracted to pale palettes and subdued tones, including the occasional bright for appeal. If there's a section that's too dark, I tend to lighten it using a layer or two of tracing paper. Everything else is instinctive using the options I have in front of me. People who know me well can testify that the importance of colour extends to most areas of my life, often affecting the silliest of decisions.
You do extensive work in collage. What brought you to this medium? What keeps you there?
I began playing around with collage in my first art class at university, 2-D design. I started out using the process of collage purely as an emotional exercise, and would build up layers beneath an illustration in oils on top. It’s only been in the last 3 to 4 years that I’ve given collage the dominant role, allowing me to focus on things like abstraction, subtlety, and composition. Circumstance and my current ongoing transient lifestyle also keep me making collage as the materials are lightweight and constantly renewable. That being said, I think I've found an identity in the medium, a distinct style that I struggled to create in other genres.
With that in mind: typically, collage is thought of as a medium of juxtaposition, of synthesis. Does that influence the way you think about other forms of art—for example, music? If so, how?
Absolutely. I think juxtaposition and synthesis as aesthetic attributes can be applied to many other art forms - double exposures in photography being a good obvious example. My friend Peter, who makes music under the pseudonym Northern Loon, considers his songs as collages and they are a lovely expression of what I do visually. I'm also attempting to do similar things with memory in writing and video. You can read and see my attempts at lindowly.com.
How does sound—musical or otherwise—figure into your artistic process?
Music is very important in the beginning stages of my process - the actual decision making of which pieces to choose and where everything goes. As there are no sketches or planning done ahead of time, these are the most exciting and tender moments of creation. It is an expressive act and sound helps guide this process naturally.
Much of your work seems to revolve around the idea of home. What, to you, does 'home' truly mean? Can art ever fully encapsulate that meaning?
I don't think there is one true meaning for home; I think the concept shifts for each individual. It could be where you spent childhood, where you've built an adult life and community, or even someplace you've never visited but is in your ancestry and heritage. It doesn't have to necessarily be location based either, as home could be attached to a person, scent, or general landscape. Maybe it is simply what's familiar, or layers of all these things combined. For me, I think I will always associate some part of home with being raised in the desert. Pale colours and dry air. The saguaros, eucalyptus, dust storms. Since then, I've lived and traveled through so many places that I've emotionally needed to create tiny temporary homes as I go. It would be difficult for art to ever fully resemble the idea of home, being such a complex, varied, and personal subject matter. But I do think it's possible to hint at it, and surely artworks attempting the topic would resonate varyingly for different people.
Where are you taking your art? Where is your art taking you?
Mainly I'd like to continue exploring the abstract world, as possibilities and growth seem infinite and exciting. Illustration has always been something I enjoy doing, and will probably continue to do casually or when opportunities arise. At the moment, I'm trying to be intentional about integrating my long-term travels with what I'm making. It's challenging and still remains a struggle, but I'm persevering. In that spirit, I'm currently piecing together an experimental project combining travel, geocaching, benevolence, the postal service, and custom memory collages. To be unveiled soon!
Bio: Born in 1984, Linden spent her youth in the urban Sonoran desert of Phoenix, Arizona before moving to Southern California to obtain her BA in Studio Art. She’s since lived and worked out of New England, Europe, India, Australia, Samoa and currently New Zealand. This primary interest in place and self-archival attracted her to the collage medium. Using a combination of found fragments and personal elements, she composes floating abstract shapes sewn together with thread on paper. Her work centers around themes of memory, its process, and the layers of small alterations which happen each time something is recollected. She also aims to communicate the melancholy in unresolved matters, like her brother’s autism, or natural losses. Choosing a distinctly pale colour palette together with the use of tracing paper, her pieces attempt to replicate the quiet hazy environment from which a memory is recalled. Blending autobiographical narratives with larger collective subjects such as childhood, longing, and home, Linden thinks of her collages as field recordings from the mind. Linden's work has been mentioned in Frankie Magazine online, and been included in numerous publications, such as Thistle Magazine, Art Ascent, and Lynda Hallinan's book Jam Sessions. She recently completed a two month residency at the Tiapapata Art Centre in Samoa, where she produced a solo exhibition about island nostalgia entitled Sleep/Swim.