“(Untitled) Bridge,” the banner image for my collection of (Un)lived/experience Commentaries, is from a series of works by visual artist Wura-Natasha Ogunji, and I am grateful that she allowed me to share her paintings here. “(Untitled) Bridge” and the details from “A Question on the Way to the Continent,” below, are not only emblematic of what I want to explore over the next few months, but they also inspire my thinking about processes of mediating experience, both lived and imagined. Perhaps Ogunji's work is a way to talk about instinct, or to understand the sinews of relation as psychic and material. Perhaps Ogunji's work allows us to understand cellular memory or genetic inheritance as an influence on how we dream. The grounds where we work ourselves out. Her choice of medium is deliberate: architectural tissue paper, usually discarded with preliminary sketches. With it, Ogunji insists on a delicate endurance: painted upon, drawn through, built up, kept.
How can one know without knowing, say, a homeland or a parent, and how do we use our power to create to reach that unknown place, that longed-for person, and make it known, make them present? Can one's artmaking practice manifest that presence as it is embedded within us? When musing on Ogunji's paintings, her stitched works, her multimedia performances, it seems so. At the time of her making these works, Ogunji had not been to Nigeria, but Nigeria had been to her. So is that lived? Some brief touch from the beyond of father's spirit, of the home where one's face was born? And behind that face, our faces, any face, what is known? What can be uttered? There has long been an exchange, across time and space. And yet, a close view of “(Untitled) Bridge” belies the completeness of the exchange; yet again, from an eye's gift rivers of sense flow, reach for return. “A Question on the Way to the Continent,” the gift and mystery is speech act, speech artifact, speech object. These paintings are the dreamscape of lived experience and its inverse. Parenthetical unnaming, intent on crossing the question.