In his well-known lyric poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn, Romantic poet John Keats contemplates the paradox of time’s passage. Although the urn that Keats addresses in his literary work exists within the real world, a world that is mutable and subject to change, it also represents an unchanging world of slow time, outside of temporal constraints. The phrase Child of Slow Time, is taken from Keats’ poem, and names this installation, which is based on the drawing Baby with Bib from the collection of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. The drawing depicts the image of a baby’s face, and was created by an unknown artist in the late 19th century.
Baby with Bib, evokes a similarly ambiguous relationship to time. There is no chance that this portrait, drawn more than a hundred years ago, represents someone still living. In fact, the portrait is described within the gallery records as a memorial portrait, meaning it was drawn to represent a child who was no longer living at the time the drawing was made.
The graphite and ink wash drawings affixed to the walls within this installation both recover, obscure and obliterate the face of this unknown child. They animate an image that remains outside of time and fixed narratives, within the slow time of Keats’ poem. This face becomes a template for the recollection of other faces. The drawings use materials and techniques that are tentative and ephemeral, foreshadowing their own demise. They will eventually be taken down or painted over. These drawings function, as the original may have done, as a memorial; a representation of inconstancy and loss.