The very essence of sight includes much more than just having an ability to see. An object without a relative description is nothing more than pure matter, so we never really know an object as a thing in itself; we only know it or understand it by its comparative association to something else. Without making associations, nothing would be known, or, more specifically, nothing would be known to be known. Seeing, it seems, is achieved by knowing what you know. But what exactly does it mean to see and what are we all attempting to actually grasp? In order to adequately address these questions, we must begin by studying the relationship between seeing and knowing and examining, quite closely, the process of association and signification.
Many of us have undertaken research of this kind through various disciplines and discourses, but in my opinion very few have employed or developed their own system of interconnected relationships between text, image and the simulation of both like American visual artist and poet Auguste Garufi has. His objective, he proclaims, is not to produce a finished work of art per se, but rather to establish a system of connections by an intuitive process of doing and undoing through art making. In many ways, Garufi's practice is continuously evolving, folding and unfolding, and is perpetually in a state of becoming and never quite complete. He examines, and unconsciously reveals, the motions and the folds that connect and disconnect all things; the artist calls this interactivity "the ribbon or loop of life."
He does this, primarily, to re-learn the process of contextualization and return to an origin of sorts or rather to an origin with no beginning. With a background in physiology, Garufi approaches his practice like a scientist, waiting in anticipation of a discovery. His practice, which is still unknown to many in the art world, began in the mid 1980s, and since then Garufi has produced an unprecedented amount of work across all creative mediums, including sculpture, photography and painting, that directly examines how meaning is objectively formed and perceived. His process involves a multifaceted layering whereby each work directly references the other. In the artist's words he is simply "exploring the space between things.”
“There are different approaches to explore the relationships between things, whether they are atoms, planets or any objects," he remarks. "There is space throughout the universe, and it is moving; every moment is not the same moment as the moment before. The space between things changes all the time, but so does the space between every molecule, every sound, every atom, everything."
Garufi is continuously examining his own body of work, as a set of exchanges, in the aim of compiling assemblages that reference the work itself. He collects fragments from his own writings, from his photographs and from other materials, and combines each element, as historical remnants or artifacts, into a new composition, an impalpable source of spirit. The overall gathering of fragments, including bronze skulls, skeletal sculptures vessels and bells along with elements found from everyday life, forms a consecrated ceremonial space, and those who have walked into Garufi's Brooklyn studio are confronted by an impenetrable mysticism buried in the material itself. His emphasis is process-oriented rather than conceptual, so each new layer is employed as a material in itself to be reworked as a repetitive motif.
For example, his most recent series, the break between matter and eternity (2014) combines his early studies in geometry, elements from his petal series you will end where you end in silent space do not reject the gifts of the earth (2014), and abstracted poems composed in either Latin or English.
The works in Garufi's petal series are composed of Japanese Kozo paper that is hand-pressed in the shape of flower petals and stained with pigment. Each petal is systematically arranged and delicately hand-stitched onto paper. The artist's hand still remains the most operative tool in these works. "Any oscillation from my hand is essential to the outcome of the work, " Garufi explains. "It is essential that I compose each movement. It would not be the same piece in terms of being and spirit without my hand."
These petal works, which the artist proclaims are not representing petals but rather the experience of the petal, seem to indicate Garufi's main objective. "I am not making the petal look like a flower; rather, I am creating the perception and the experience of our relationship to flower petals. Our experience of the flower petal feels very different than our experience of the real flower." Garufi imitates the experience of perceiving a petal in order to disclose, if only slightly, the way we interact with something that resembles something else. This work re-examines the application of memory and questions what it means to perceive. Garufi illustrates the effects of pre-judgment and the impossibility of engaging with an object without making direct associations.
This process, orchestrated by Garufi, highlights the inescapable relationship between resemblance, recognition and the activity of perception. Rather than incorporating other historical references, Garufi reflects on his own body of work as a provisional system of classification. Ultimately, Garufi displaces context in order to re-frame it, and, when the process of association is disrupted, all that remains is the object itself in the process of becoming something else.
Garufi's commitment to re-defining and re-examining the relationship between things is consistent. In particular, he invents a system whereby both language and objecthood take on new meanings. He does this by employing text as a typographical arrangement and by employing the rose petal both as a form and as independent to its referred meaning. Garufi visually arranges the petals in a similar pictorial composition to his text works, words and material taking on a direct exchange in visual perception, re-defining and displacing meaning from language as form and form as language interchangeably, as a direct correlation and also as a separation to the other.
In Garufi's poetry works, circumference is a measure of balance 1 (2013) and circumference is a measure of balance 2 (2013) language is translated and applied as though it were a material, like paint or clay, and as a mode of visual perception rather than comprehension. For example, Garufi incorporates Latin, not necessarily for its imbedded meaning, but rather as a structure. "It is the structure of the Latin language with its familiarity and distance that is important to me, with the words often having multiple, expansive and divergent meanings," he says.
Garufi's body of work is constantly in search of an origin and, hence, in search of itself, as though it exists independent to the artist and as a living cellular fragment. His practice is a process of evolving interchangeable references, de-constructed or re-constructed; everything is borrowed, copied, simulated and re-accessed in its new configuration, almost always dismissing its original form, though constantly in search for it. "Although it may appear as though I am returning back to the origin of things, to me there is no point of origin," Garufi affirms.
Garufi's landscape is in constant transition- it’s the meeting point between illusion and perception. He investigates temporality and memory in such a way that his reuse of each work triggers new founded orientations.
Garufi's philosophy is one of practice. Rather than impose a set of limitations or a projected outcome to each work, he works intuitively by listening to the material itself. He believes that the material transmits its own internal logic and essence, independent to what is imposed upon it. "For me, everything, any variable you could consider, is a separate being and is given its context at that time, at that moment, and in a sense it then becomes a weighted value," Garufi explains. "Its a cyclical process of doing and undoing."
Garufi reveals the material as possessing something greater than ourselves and as a sacred living spiritual entity. Hence, for Garufi, the medium contains its own internal structure, and this belief is perhaps what allows the material to reveal itself, independent to content or meaning.
Garufi’s primal understanding and relationship to matter no doubt comes from his background in physiology, a discipline that originated from ancient Greece as physis, meaning, "nature, origin, the scientific study of function in living systems." His preoccupation with organic forms and materiality makes him a great observer of the natural order of things. Garufi employs a system to reveal the material itself and to illustrate the basic principle that everything contained in the world is represented by something else and that nothing is understood autonomously. These are perhaps the two main operative relations the artist is aiming to challenge and determine.
Garufi writes, "It is impossible to form an objectively valid representation of the universe of learned ignorance." Perhaps, it is the curiosity or the mystery of this "learned ignorance" that keeps us searching beyond what we think we know. "The visible world," says Plato, "of which an account is to be given, is a changing image or likeness (eikon) of an eternal mode. It is a realm not of being, but of becoming." The world is in constant cyclical motion; it is a "world without end" – not infinite, but rather a cycle in constant motion, folding and producing multiples from and of itself. The search for true form, detached from a prescribed perception, starts by observing observation, and this observation is something Garufi is constantly searching for.