The Distance Between Us  

Akinci Gallery 

1 May - 5 June 2021

This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
What’s a plain level? It is that and other things,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be

A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.

It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren’t there
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you

- John Ashbery, Paradoxes and Oxymorons

Concerning Plants, 2021. Oil on silk. 195 x 285cm

The Distance Between Us

Text by Noah Swinney
Read the full text here

Distance: dis-stare “stand apart”; destance“discord, quarrel”

Like an image developing on photographic paper, Ruby Swinney’s paintings seem to emerge from the white silk of their canvases. The ghostly figures and landscapes, as intricate as they appear, are simply an encounter between light and shadow. Each painting is a monochromatic exploration of colour as much as it is a worlding: rusted purple, raspberry, green teal, blue. They are not constructions—they are barely paintings. In fact, Swinney has said, she doesn’t consider herself a painter: her technique is more influenced by printmaking. Over the paintbrush she prefers tiny cotton buds, with which she can remove paint as readily as apply it. Printmakers are painters who operate in the negative space, in the absence of things.

Each painting is then a dialectic between presence and absence, a value and a non-value. In a sense they represent an argument between paint and non-paint as much as they do the image made from them. According to Heidegger to ‘touch’ is impossible; even if the distance between us is equal to zero there is always already something held back, concealed. [...]The paintings rather inspire an emergence of feeling, an archaeology of intimacy.

[...]The title of this show is “The Distance Between Us”, and in this manner the pronoun ‘us’ invites me and you, the viewers, in, while at the same time it excludes us from a more personal and insular ‘us’––the pronoun shared by lovers and friends––in which something is concealed from outsiders, kept outside of the paintings. In Mangroves a man and a woman walk away in different frames, mirroring each other. Separated, but in what looks like the same location. With their backs to us, they are faceless, unidentifiable others. The viewpoint given to us is the first person, as though we were intruding on what appears to be a private moment. There is a context that remains mysterious, a secrecy that is essential to any intimacy.[...]

Fountain, 2021. Oil on silk, 175 x 130 cm

Installation view

Installation Images by Peterij Huis

Artwork Photography by Hayden Phipps