George A. Nama, American (1939 - )

George Nama makes books and he paints sketches in other people’s books. For instance, he found in a thrift shop Lizzie Brunner’s Landscape Album of the 1880’s, bound in red imitation leather and inscribed by her beau with Lines to Lizzie (“Can
memory forget the hours…”).

In his studio, Nama paints over the right hand pages with gesso, then uses the pages to draw and paint sketches of forms and shapes as they float through his mind. The process is symptomatic of the way Nama works. He has created over one-hundred sketchbooks, always found objects, sown together, others patched with old gold embossed book covers, or bound with
bits of fabric. Nama collected books and made books all his adult life, beginning in 1966, in Paris, when he made a book about the Métro, stitched together by himself. He enjoys the intimacy of working with his hands on something he can carry around. He does not transform a preconceived idea or emotion into an image, but he starts with something
that is already there. His given object can be a book with blank pages or, for instance, a collection of Voluntaries and Interludes for the Melodeon. It has to be an old book, though, and it should not be precious. Time and wear remove the book from its original usefulness, thus the artist can appropriate the pages for himself, turning them into something new. The flow of a handwriting, a fragment of a headline, a name can anchor a stream of images that have been sparked off by reading, re-reading and contemplating a poem. The drawings in turn trigger further creations of sculptures or etchings.

Nama claims that all his images, whether drawings, etchings or sculptures, are figurative. If they don’t show something that really exists, his configurations “might exist”. Of course not in the sense of replicated real objects, but parts of them - a torso, a wing - are united with disparate elements. Which brings us back to the associations between found words in Nama’s sketchbooks and new images, made real by the leap of the artisticimagination. To put it in Yves Bonnefoy’s words: “Poetry is less the seizing of immediacy beyond
words than an experience of solidarity with these words, which conceptual thought deprives of the fullness of things. Poetry is between language and presence… George Nama’s art is emblematic of the essential contradiction, of the ambiguity, of the pain, inherent in poetry.”

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