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conTEXT @ errant artSpace Live Ekphrastic Poetry Event September 12, 3pm. with Gisela Ruebsaat and John Luna at Errant artSpace Virtual Show Tour and Poetry Reading, September 17, 7.30 pm to 8.30. Zoom event with Gisela Ruebsaat and John Luna. Please register at and she will send you a zoom meeting invitation. The Speaking Surface: Text and Embodiment in Painting. September 19, 7- 9.30 pm with John Luna. Zoom event with Vancouver Island School of Art. Ancient Asian calligraphy and western illustrated manuscripts made no distinction between visual and verbal language. From the early Cubists, modern and contemporary art has embraced words and letters for both meaning and aesthetic value—from critiques of commerce and advertising to the street level interventions of anonymous graffiti artists. The visual and language arts have always been close partners. The first pictograph was both an image and an emerging form of written communication. Errant artSpace is pleased to announce conTEXT, an art exhibition featuring the incorporation of text as printing, handwriting, calligraphy, sound, letters and words. This show (originally scheduled for April 2020) is being held in collaboration with the Victoria Arts Council, Stanzas, a city-wide art and poetry event. Jane Coombe and Ira Hoffecker, curators, approached a wide variety of established and emerging visual artists who work with text, in some form. Moving through painting, drawing and sculpture, conTEXT at errant artSpace features the incorporation of text as printing, handwriting, calligraphy, sound, letters and words. The conTEXT show includes the following artists - Farid Abdulbaki, Rachel Epp Buller, Jeanne Cannizzo, Jane Coombe, Lorraine Douglas, Kathy Guthrie, Ira Hoffecker, John Luna, Richard Pawley, Anne Petrie and Victoria poets, John Luna and Gisela Ruebsaat. Errant artSpace is also presenting an afternoon of Ekphrastic poetry—poems written in response to specific works of art. John Luna, one of conTEXT's contributing artists, is also a widely published poet. He and Gisela Ruebsaat, who has published and performed her poetry locally and internationally, will be presenting work that they have developed, in response to specific pieces from the conTEXT exhibition. There will also be an opportunity for guests to actively engage with the art by developing their own written responses. For more information contact: Kegan McFadden, VAC, Website:

"The Night Boils with Stars”: Poems About Art In her poem The Starry Night, Anne Sexton responds to Vincent van Gough’s painting of the same name. Both Sexton and van Gough battled with private demons. Sexton’s poem presents an ominous scene: the night is a rushing beast, a great dragon that boils with 11 stars. The town does not exist. To write about a painting or piece of visual art, is to start a conversation with the artist. This tradition began with the ancient Greeks. It is referred to as ekphrastic poetry (from ekmeaning out and phrasis meaning to speak). There are many ways to begin. You might: • Reflect deeply on specific details in the work • Explore your physical and emotional response to the image • Ask questions • Create a story. The idea is to begin a dialogue, to be receptive, playful. Pascale Petit’s book, What the Water Gave Me, consists of 52 ekphrastic poems in response to Frida Kahlo’s paintings. Petit described her process as looking closely at Kahlo’s paintings until she entered a trance-like state that felt true and fresh. The painting, the poem, and the dialogue becomes a conduit to another level of awareness. “

Ekphrastic writing is an act of translation between one artistic medium and another. Poet and novelist Aislinn Hunter writes: “Ekphrasis is an act, not a hung or typed thing, it is a gesture, a saying forth, a door swinging open between rooms.” GISELA RUEBSAAT

ALPHA AND OMEGA Who is and who was and who is to come I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen Revelation 1:8, 18-19 Crowded cursive letters squeeze together accordion style, the beginning and the end on a single page. Letters hunch, huddle, bump one against the other, pushing. Or perhaps for some, a collapse, to drop right over the edge to continue, perhaps, gliding on a different surface made from rags or straw. Once we had a white background …………..for this narrative. Now here and there blots of ink occupy space. Our hands no longer hold the pen. Letters that remain are askew, …………..akimbo seem drunk, demented, an alphabet turning itself to scribble, scrawl, the thread of the story dropped. The letter A, Alpha, when does it lose its place become this ghost shape drifting, …………..transformed. Can’t make a word, that former geography, the alphabet, gone.

All the ghost letters left lean in hoping for a sentence, a line. The first and the last in this story we still try to create to make order from chaos after the fact, after what we have …………..seen: the sun black as sackcloth the stars of the sky, fallen to ………… We ghosts leaning in one against the other. Pushing or perhaps our own figures finally falling hoping for a comma, a place of pause for these letters first drawn with the stroke of a brush in this book bound with a black cover. Searching, finding that final …………..breath at the end. The Omega. GISELA RUEBSAAT

Notes: Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the classical Greek alphabet. These letters were often incorporated into early Christian art and are rooted in the book of Revelation which presents a detailed vision of the apocalypse.



Poesis, the Dressmaker’s Ham After Pablo Neruda’s poem: In Praise of Ironing, and Jane Coombe’s suspended sculpture: Poetry is Pure White My hands hold the hot ironing stone, the surfaces smoothed as water transforms to steam, to mist, that floats far above fabric, breathes like linen. A warmth rises with the words I write, pen glides on paper cursive, a collar turned up for comfort, the body’s curve remembered the edge of a shirt, a page. A poem shapes its shoulders around the dressmaker’s ham to better fit the body’s frame. As the hot stone in my hands glides over fabric the text weaves: warp and weft worn close against skin the poem’s swerve, the shirt’s cuff, hold skirmishes of the soul within.


Notes: A dressmaker’s ham is a tightly stuffed pillow used as a curved mold when ironing parts of clothing such as cuffs, collars, or waistlines. Pressing on the curved form allows a garment to better fit body contours. Poesis derives from the Greek verb poieo meaning to make. Poesis refers to the process of making, production, creation, creativity, culture. In philosophy, poesis is the activity involved in bringing something into being which did not exist before.

LAMENT SUNG TO THOSE WHO COME AFTER IRA HOFFECKER BERLIN VOICES In response to Ira Hoffecker’s audio poem: Berlin Voices and including lines and phrases by Emilie Nelligan, Bertold Brecht, Anonymous, and Nizar Qabbani;

Weep, birds of winter For the deadly chill What times are these, in which A conversation about trees is almost a crime For in doing so we maintain oursilence about so much wrongdoing The spur of life seems all but lost A smooth forehead Points to insensitivity. He who laughs Has not yet received The terrible news Wail, February birds of winter Tears must fall I came among men in a time of turmoil In my time streets led into a swamp If my luck does not hold, I am lost Every lake is gripped by ice Where am I?

You who shall resurface following the flood In which I have perished, Contemplate-Also the dark time That you have escaped. It’s not the red of the Kremlin star Nor the morning sheet’s uncomfortable stain It’s not the pyrite of nostalgia It is the black of the deepest submarine The black of the stillborn child My ships are in the harbour crying Your eyes are like two rivers of sorrow Two music rivers that were lost. I am a wound With the features of a human Wail, February birds. Tears must fall like roses fall Through the sharp juniper branches.


Work acknowledges that places are overlaid with multiple histories each of which signify a kind of found faith. As things to remember. Aesthetically, too, societies transform and change city spaces (dotted lines) over the course of... centuries. The fragment of a life cut out and taken away (we hear that in some missing lover?) Our family, five different voices...languages on top of each other‌ identities layered together. The next generation...will ask questions, the poem tries to explain... impossible; asks those who follow to contemplate the dark ...they have escaped?


by John Luna

RICHARD PAWLEY SYMPOSIUM AT THE CECIL HOTEL Histories are salient in my attempts to convey aspects of... the abject...dark comedy...animistic and... developing.

To stand and be a piece of gold leaf, fluttering in an interval of pleasure, second-hand...or found...manipulated and held together by wax, glue, friction, gravity, squeezing, bending and twisting a continuous sum of submission...echoing...atmosphere of the cave...child’s fort... abandoned building...dream...stories described in...psychological literature. A flat white gritty pigment that you hope will cling, the feel of a nosebleed more beautiful than tears, the experience of becoming fluid, in all those nerve endings a perfect moment.

by John Luna


Language is not concrete. The words we say, hear, write, read...ambiguous.

The final etymology of “privilege”, rooted in Latin, literally means ‘private law’...I am working with a simple set of instructions: Sit Down, Sit Up; Sit Straight; and Sit Still... We may hear them explicitly... Or they may recur implicitly – projections of a sudden power, hierarchical order or code or agreement in which one is set apart and subject to a special legitimacy, the possibility of enlarging rather than diminishing our lives. Honoured, or pleasured, our desire fulfilled, we repeat these refrains over and over as fantasies, as movements, separate long scrolls of paper.

by John Luna

KATHY GUTHRIE NOTHING BETWEEN ME AND MY THOUGHTS The long and narrow format of the...scroll suggests a slice of forest time...Words swirl around in... trees above the sleeping...light as moths. To make a kind of bond and tenderness recognizable between... floor... reaffirming the connection to function in fragments as not so much an illustration about a story as about stories plural, and not just several, but an endless critique. Notes consider the line’s weight... Line between...and fine line? variety is true. Writing, too, is recognized, presents itself in code apart over the past destruction. Likeness (between images and piece, evocation and response, details, choices), its versatility your work

by John Luna


What enables comparison? A classical and contemporary cruelty Presence in experience...born in... the son...upon bronze and clay; a kind of higher aesthetic: escape – exist; held numerous, teaching that nothing should drown. Life...and... theory – in either, influences are derived: someone writes (one piece of vanity becomes confused with another); theory relates to the notion of that blue that remained invisible until we gave it a name, using it for sadness, aspiration or rarity, given its being always around/above/beyond ...walked daily... throughout...images. What we are and separation – one.

by John Luna

JEANNE CANNIZZO WHACK HER, MR. PUNCH! I didn't find the...ending...convincing. The burden of works you will make for yourself that will feel urgent, whose full meanings will be, by origin and design, removed from meaning and pleasure are aimed back rather that outward. The social reality conveyed by each scene relates to wish fulfillment – the desire to be understood, on any and all terms of play, ripening an ideal. But works related to family may be scarcely understood, least by ourselves, because, of all the myths we have embraced in place of authenticity, family is the most difficult to uncover and explain. Each table we eat at is different. The text on the side of the... panel rewrites the plot.

by John Luna


Creative practice...devoted to care and listening across time. Specifically, far from form, Shared bodies...draw deliberate shapes fine; I didn’t make this recording of a person asleep but own the essence and its uses as intimate practice of handwritten... listening; to linger there an almost negligent invitation. Letters I write and receive compass this essence, epistolary...narratives...embroidery... attention; that object on the floor, negligently dropped, a button shining in a sea of leather, stepped out of in relation to necessary remains, ways we care for each other with our words as scraps of use. by John Luna



Work – as others have said – is defined through...inquiry. Mythological qualities...residual powers, the way writing has some relation to calligraphy, as kin and kind, maybe an actual interlude between affinity & transformation as between materials...& surfaces or imitation and inspiration. A canvas only the field of illusion, responses to the pressure... of... unpublished... experience,









fragmented...medium...of...absences stood...between the living and the dead... These allegiances allude to writing as a culture, then go somewhere else. Where? Within memory’s domain...and... hiddenness

by John Luna

JANE COOMBE POETRY IS PURE WHITE Pablo Neruda’s poem, “In Praise of Ironing” speaks to everyday work, its power to transform things, the nature around us and how words can transform our thinking, in gut episodes, a daily practice, I am stoned with the stone-tone of the tone poem, flowing curves, swirls, and overlapping and continuous lines. The repeated twisting, bending, swirling, curling, movements daily work. Words about moving hands and how things are accomplished. My What is it this weight that my heirs will inherit? Rested in a heap...suspended above the ground...modest strips...folded around my hands. by John Luna

LORRAINE DOUGLAS FIRE AND ICE I had a frightening nightmare, the death bed emerged out of the life bed... the whole world...on fire. My dream ended there – but now the world truly is... fire; the...response I attack language, a serious intention. The spy must remember how to construct a sentence, My desire is...the character, the watchman, the space, the objects; honour, the... structure... sibilance... sliding, passing, motions of... irregular weight. loitering Entrances & exits. Changes might express a world... Opposing orientations with... moveable...mirrors: no information. Changing viewpoints writing to construct the burnt...and... cut... Meant to reflect... two views of the...end.

by John Luna


hese poems were developed using ‘found’ language, that is, words borrowed from a series of texts. At the core of each poem is an artist statement or biography written by one of the artists participating in the “ConTEXT” exhibition. The poems draw on other texts as well (essays on visual art by philosopher Roland Barthes, and the studio notes of artist Jasper Johns) as well as words taken from my own poems, lectures, and other fragments. The goal with each piece is to capture aspects of the artist, their work, and this moment.

by John Luna