Sam Songailo

Sam Songailo

Work from Media Centre.

“‘Abstraction has been less a search for the ultimately meaningful… than a recurrent push for the temporarily meaningless.’*

Paintings that look like something are rubbish. Why not take a picture? Or just look at the real thing? Or if you really want to see something differently, just use your imagination. Or hang it upside down. Or take a pill. Or squint. Painting a painting that looks like something is a kind of arrogance. Rudeness, even. What do you suppose the aliens think about paintings that look like things? Rubbish, that’s what. The same goes for music. Songs are rubbish. Why would I want to hear you sing about your own shit? Sing about your own shit on your own time please. I’m having enough trouble dealing with my shit without having to listen you sing about yours. I’d much rather listen to some static, or some droning, or throbbing, or pulsing. How about a nice hum? Can all musicians just hum from now on please? For real, I’m trying to think.

Years ago Sam Songailo was asked to paint the inside of a tiny venue in town called Delacatessen. Among other things it played host to an event called the ‘Festival of Unpopular Music’. Minimalist noise-niks would once or twice a month subject seated crowds of turtlenecks to a variety of interesting humming sounds. I make it sound pretentious – and it probably was – but I liked it. It was very therapeutic. Your job was to sit there and pretend to listen to people extract sustained droning sounds out of an array of expensive effects pedals, hoping to God that you’d remembered to turn off your mobile phone. You think you were bored – which is what you’d afterwards tell your less pretentious friends at the pub – but as soon as the music stopped the ideas would tumble out in torrents, sure as birdsong after rain. We’re surrounded by meaning. Every object has to have a moral, a point, a purpose, an explanation – some figurative reflection of ourselves, or else a clever-clever whiff of humanity, as if to say ‘Oh, hello there fellow human, isn’t this nice? Isn’t it lovely that art – my art – can bring us together like this? Let’s all have a big phenomenology party, but only invite people who think they get Sinedoche.’ All this desperate yearning for significance. All this vanity. It makes me a bit sick sometimes. Sometimes I think the aliens are looking down – if they’re bothered enough to look down at all – saying ‘duh’. Rare is the work of art that doesn’t pretend to relate – that invites you to bring your own meaning to the object. Rarer still is art that invites nothing at all, only a frame of mind. When you look at Songailo’s work, you aren’t immediately struck by anything meaningful. Songailo is the first to admit that he wants to place a great deal of distance between his work and the banalities of everyday life. He wants his work to act as kind of circuit breaker – a means by which you can remove yourself from your life, from that which makes you human, in order to appreciate how strange the world really is. Like all truly abstract artists Songailo wants you to see the world the way the aliens see it – in all its weirdness, its beauty, its irreducible complexity. ‘Post-human’ is a misused phrase. In many ways, post-human is more human than human-human. That which truly makes us human has nothing to do with romance or humor or pathos, it has more to do with a cold appreciation of aesthetics, of geometry, of the overwhelming beauty of colours and shapes – unsullied by the petty trivialities of the so-called human condition.” – Stan Mahoney

*Varnedoe, K., Pictures of Nothing, Abstract Art since Pollock, Princeton University Press 2006

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