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Subscripture: musings on process and meaning

Filtering by Tag: letterpress


Tim Svenonius


Suppose a drawing begins as a single line.

As that line stretches, doubles back, multiplies, a territory starts to take shape. as though the line is all that's known, and the emptiness around it is terra incognita.

I don't romanticize exploration, or any of the explorers that "discovered" lands already long inhabited. The non-heroic kind of exploring, however, is another matter: to walk without a path, through foreign terrain, guided by curiosity. In artmaking it's akin to working with an unfamiliar method or material: I press forth into the unknown, treading softly so as to measure. Each step freshly informed.

To explore is to venture, alert and astute, into something one doesn't yet comprehend; to step outside the boundary of the known. An artist must do this continually—forever inquiring, interrogating, reaching.

• • • • •

A 19th century photograph led me here. I knew I would draw it, before knowing why— without knowing its story.

An expedition, I soon learned, to measure the depth of Crater Lake, Oregon, in 1886. There they measured the greatest depths recorded in any lake in North America. More than nineteen hundred feet. The apparatus was primitive: a plumb line, dropped until it foundered. Sounding, as it is called, would later be achieved with sonar—actual sound. Echolocating like bats in darkness.

I later sketched the scene from memory, several times before the line felt loose enough. Everything ought to be weightless, I thought–the boat is borne effortlessly on the still surface; the figures' reflections now stark silhouettes, hanging like bats, above fathomless depths.

Equi Vocat, or the Dark Horse

Tim Svenonius


A rocking horse of immense size first appeared in a sketchbook in 2010, amid a host of dreamlike pictures for which I had no rational explanation. 

I revisited the motif again in a notebook years later, now with a long shadow extending off the page. Something about that shadow and the crossed boundary felt essential, a key to some meaning I had not yet divined. In the print I aimed to emulate that effect by creating a bounding box—a containment made to be violated.

Countless horses appear in my notebooks, more often emblematically than as living animals: a monument, a chess piece, an insignia, a wheeled effigy. Among these, I feel the rocking horse possesses a particular magic. One of mammoth stature seems especially formidable--as if harboring some secret, like a sphinx.

The title Equi Vocat is a kind of bilingual wordplay: the Latin may mean he calls the horse, or the horse calls; in English it suggests equivocate—evading understanding. Ideally, I want a title to provide something unexpected, and not simply to reinforce what’s already apparent (like calling the print Rocking Horse, for instance). Here I wanted a title that would actively play with an unseen part of the story.