Fiona Pole: “À la recherche du temps perdu”

Fiona Pole’s latest exhibition at GALLERY AOP, “À la recherche du temps perdu” constitutes an overview of her printmaking the past fifteen years. The title references Marcel Proust’s famous seven part novel, often translated as Remembrance of Things Past, but a more literal translation used commonly today, is In Search of Lost Time. The first version suggests a mnemonic recall of events; the second, an involuntary reminiscence of the elusive. Either way, memory has always been encoded through a trace, a detail, a suggestive synecdoche. Pole’s work abounds with these traces, and plenty of minute detail.

The involuntary flood of emotive associations is characteristic of what the narrator in Proust’s novel experiences, who, in the famous ‘’episode of the madeleine’’ early on in the plot, found himself engulfed with memories. Dipping the insignificant little biscuit, the madeleine, in a cup of tea, inadvertently evoked his whole childhood in a small provincial French town. Involuntary memory, triggered by sensory experiences such as sights, sounds and smells, Proust seems to say, conjure important memories for the narrator.

Fiona Pole’s hallmark as an artist is proposing a seemingly endless array of arbitrary signs, ranging from suitcases, aeroplanes, keys, chairs, boxes, and boats in an attempt to trigger a host of involuntary memories. These signs are often offered singly or in combination with one other. The ‘’traces’’ she leaves behind in her art for the viewer to contemplate, range from the inanimate to the silhouettes of animated human figures. Viewers often respond to these silhouettes by saying they are reminded of a family member or of a happy family gathering or celebration.

Fiona Pole offers five parts of her ‘’memories’’ in this exhibition to the viewer: The Long Goodbye; Stand Alone; Mes Familiers; Memory; and Stories. Each one constitutes a different facet of encoded, stored and retrieved information that make up her memory, represented in a treasure trove of images. These memories are shared visually in order to trigger yet another flurry of memories on the part of the viewer. They are neither sentimental nor nostalgic. Her images are too austere, too essentialist for such notions.

Proust ends his novel, In Search of Lost Time with Part 7, titled, Le Temps retrouvé, often translated as Finding Time Again, or also known as Time Regained, or even The Past Recaptured. After a lengthy exposition of the experiences of the narrator while he is growing up, learning about art, becoming a member of society, and falling in love, Proust seems to suggest a coming to terms with all that. A work of art, he suggests, can recapture that what is lost and thus save it from destruction, at least in our own minds.

Art triumphs over the destructive power of time. We are all capable of producing art, if by this we mean taking the experiences of life and transforming them in a way that shows understanding and maturity. Fiona Pole touches that nerve in our minds that enables us to come to terms with our own memories of good and bad times, and of all manner of places and people in our lives as well.

Venue: Gallery AOP, 44 Stanley
Date: 2 – 30 April 2016-03-31

• Opening: Saturday 2 April at 14:00
• Children’s Art Workshop, conducted by Fiona Pole: Saturday, 16 April at 10:00 Booking essential (011 726 2234 or
• Walkabout: Saturday, 23 April at 11:00.