Hermonie Only’s Saccade at Terrault Contemporary by Seola Lee
In the center of the gallery at Terrault Contemporary stands a checkered table, on which white and black blocks in varying shapes are neatly arranged. The piece titled “Saccade” evokes geometricized remnants of a post-catastrophic city, some litter on the sandy beach, or a half-proceeded chess game. Suddenly, a small thin cylinder block escapes and rolls toward a neighboring one. The artist Hermonie “only” Williams picks it up and puts it back into its supposedly original spot. Smiling, she says, “This is the game only I can play.”
“Saccade,” French for “jerk,” is also the title of this exhibit featuring Hermonie’s sculptures for the first time. The word means “a brief, rapid movement of the eye from one position of rest to another.” The phenomenon happens when there is a sudden shift or change in optic signals.
At first glance, most of Hermonie’s dichotomic works reach a certain equilibrium. “Stay” and “Black,” two square wooden pieces painted glossy black, are aligned together like twins. The only distinguishable mark between the two is the angle of the cross carved on each. Another slightly goth-sounding piece on the other side of the wall, “Stay Black,” accentuates this apparent parallelism more literally, by pairing two other black rectangles as one.
Along with these, “Brother & Sister” hung overhead, resembles a huge equally proportioned bar magnet.
Hermonie’s minimal usage of colors—white, black, red, and blue—unifies and heightens the ensemble. Accompanying the sculptures are five mini-drawings in graphite (“Under Control,” “Really Is,” “Get Out,” “It Is,” and “I Hope So” from left to right). They are also monochrome, with slight shades of gray. The tone generates a seemingly calm, orderly atmosphere that is present in all of her works.
However, as the word “saccade” implies, Hermonie stirs up a subtle yet startling turbulence in the viewers’ perception, which has been accustomed to equivalence. There comes a point when the symmetric composition begins to deteriorate. Both “Saccade” and “Now You Know How I Feel,” give an initial impression of symmetry and coherence, which turns out not to be completely true. After a closer look, some of the blocks in both works, black versus white and red versus blue, are not perfectly in parallel, as they point at slightly different angles.
And the whole layout itself is susceptible to any accidental touch, because none of the blocks is glued to the surface. This is an almost imperceptible and easily overlooked discord. Yet once noticed, this negligible variation begins to grow in perception. At this moment, “façade” switches to “saccade,” while our gaze, interrupted, unsteadily hovers back and forth. It is as if we are looking at disoriented iron dust fallen apart from a magnetic field.
The reduced yet somewhat sentimental titles enhance this breakdown. Hermonie limits the titles’ length to short phrases, making them feel almost incomplete. This strategy maximizes the poignant effects that move beyond the words. In a certain sense, they correspond with a lingering melancholy that rises from the overall asymmetry. No matter how her paired blocks mimic symmetry, sharing time and space, they exist separately, as if in parallel universes. And instead of perfecting a fixed reality by gluing all the blocks, the artist chooses to present this allegorical dystopia, layered upon itself.
As Hermonie creates the miniature universes longing for each other, Saccade may allude to her attempts for communication with others or other worlds. The longest and only sentential title, “Now You Know How I Feel,” adds a personal touch to overall minimalism. The pronouns “you” and “I,” universally applied to every relation, might be the final resolution she wishes to obtain.
Saccade at Terrault Contemporary through July 15, 2015
1515 Guilford Avenue,
Author Seola Lee is a Baltimore-based poet whose work has appeared in Baltimore City Paper and The Baltimore Ekphrasis Project. Check out her website here.