Romany Eveleigh’s works on paper are neither painting nor drawing, and in this exhibition, at first glance, they resemble writing. Marked by a visual expression of great delicacy and sophistication, the series on display at Galerie Roger Bellemare recalls ancient scrolls, columns of ‘text’ in complex compositions appearing as sparse visual notations. Using materials and techniques taken from the world of printing and writing, Pages is a series of works Eveleigh did in the 70s, way ahead of their time it seems. Reminiscent of columns of print with mysterious content, strikingly contemporary and elegant in their sepia tones, her paper on canvas assemblages, especially the small format pieces, verge on objets d’art; unframed, tactile, and seductively enigmatic. Tiny circular punctures compose the image, perforations made with the tip of a pencil, burrowing through the paper into the bluish wash of the canvas underneath. They run vertically in uneven columns, looking like pages of newsprint from afar.

Works of meditative labour, these tiny marks etched into the amalgamated background, ‘speak’ to us of ancient manuscripts, transmitting in their own secret language a creative thought, born of an impulse, an intuitive calling… There is an unexpected intensity in these rows of script as if some idea was striving to express itself, unable to find the right words, reduced to a form of sign language. With each punctured indentation, the artist is also organizing the space, which is an intrinsic component of the image, a canvas as it were for the ‘writing’, and a form of visual punctuation using negative space. In some of the works, the ‘script’ runs down in long vertical columns, in others, it is formed into blocks, creating an entirely different visual landscape. Organized but not ordered, these marks compel the viewer to seek an explanation, an understanding of their meaning, forcing a returning over and over in the hope of finding a clue. It lies in the mind of the artist, an inner sanctum inaccessible to most, leaving us to our own devices when confronted with her vision.

The initial reading of these works is in fact correct; they do resemble writing, and are meant to. Hidden within is the idea of communicating, and whether words are the best way of expression. There is indeed a visceral component to Eveleigh’s works, a sense of outpouring, an impulse to reach out. And there is certain vulnerability in these tiny markings, their staccato rhythm like a faint heartbeat…

The largest work in this exhibition is a wall-size collage, a kind of a book, opening up like a visual origami with clearly marked pages forming a grid. Manifesto recalls a giant blueprint, and upon closer inspection is composed of the same markings, Eveleigh’s enigmatic notations that speak volumes through an unbearable economy of means. The profound thinking process that is at the root of her oeuvre, here takes on the form that comes closest to actual writing, without the need of resorting to words. Intellectual, to the point of exclusion, her art demands a measure of sophistication and knowledge, but it is not by any means inaccessible. Just the contrary, there is an atavistic pull, a longing to decipher this strange offering, that seems to be transmitting some cosmic message, like the dot dot dot of a Morse code. 

Galerie Roger Bellemare, Montréal