Jessica Rowland’s Distilled

March 2002

What we know, we know through words, which are but shadows of the concepts they are meant to express. The material sound is fused with abstract concept, which is similar to the idea of a soul fused with a material body. A relationship between abstraction and material is present in Jessica Rowland's Distilled. The title references the exercise of abstraction, the removal of the superfluous to attain the essence of something. In this case, Rowland has abstracted form the material conditions of life in order to explore the potential ghosts that surround us - the forgotten trees and blades of grass which once flourished under the sun, as we do, only to become inert material in the end.

The disconnect between words and the ideas they express, the weird marriage between sound and ghost, is evident in the story of Thomas Aquinas’ mystical experience. Near the end of his life, after receiving a vision, Aquinas ceased to do the scholarly work for which he is so well known. He said, “all I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and with what what has been revealed to me.“ For me, this story expresses the failure of words as sources of experience, since words are but shadows of things that we ultimately must experience directly, and when we do words fail us. Rowland, however, speaks to us directly through the very essence of her forms and materials.

Document History
  1. Introductory essay for Jessica Rowland’s Distilled exhibition at the Art Gallery of Peterborough, Ontario, March 28 –May 5 2002, curated by Illi-Maria Tamplin, Gallery Director
  2. 2002-2008: Archived on my website
  3. 2008-2015: Archived on my blog 2008-2015
  4. Aug 2015: This version produced