by Gabriella Solti

Work #34-400dpi
Work #34: my elbow and left thumb hurt 3 micron silicon carbide sandpaper, 8.5″ x 11″, 2013

Labour, physical effort and manual work are very important in my art practice that stems from my cultural and family background. I learned in childhood the value and dignity of manual labour and of making things ourselves by hand either for utility or pleasure or for artistic creation. I am interested in labour as an autonomous, vigorous physical activity and its intrinsic value. Thus I am not looking at labour in its economic context (to create economic or use value) but rather I am considering labour for its own sake as intrinsically virtuous.

In my current work I use sandpaper as a drawing tool applied to sandpaper as a surface for markmaking (marks are created by sanding one of the sandpapers with the other by hand) that speak of both the material qualities of the medium as well as my labour. The sandpaper / microabrasives I use are made of extremely hard and small particles that make them very difficult to erase. My criterion to determine the end of a particular period in the process is the point at which I experience the utmost fatigue, which often presents itself in actual physical pain in my hand, palm or arm. The works produced with this process are records of my labouring body (often literally made visible through the imprints of my fingers and palm on the eroded surface of the material). The human physicality invested and contained in the process of labour, is being directly transported into the created objects as the aesthetics of the objects come from not picture making decisions but from decisions I make by recognizing the limitations of my body. The pain I feel makes me change my movements/gestures or the methods of working on the surface (e.g. using sanding cords instead of sheets of sandpaper) in order to use other less tired muscles in my attempt to try to erase the surface of the sandpaper. I consider struggle, pain and fatigue as intrinsic values of  labour from which creative action is born. As Albert Camus writes in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus in 1942: “The struggle itself…is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”