A Sharp Dart of Longing Love

You are to smite upon that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love, and do not give up for anything 1

Roxy Walsh makes paintings that are rich with enticing glimpses of the possible.  Her works are journeys in understanding in which the unknown remains unknown while being lovingly revealed.  Hers are abstract, landscape, portraits of still becoming life. Mixed in paint are bodies, domestic objects, animals, mythic creatures, the verdant world and vernacular words, all part of a becomingness. Might those circles be cells that might be eyes? Are those bronchioles and might they be trees?  Do I see vulvas, ferns, toys, tears, tights?  And why did that labium have a thorn in it?

One aspect of Walsh's painting is an interventionist imaginary of sex and sensuality within a sexual (and religious) symbolic long skewed by the phallus as dominant signifier. Such journeys arise because, despite the efforts of Nietzsche and Feminism, God and Knob continue to cast their long entwined shadows. The penis continues to rear its head in psychoanalytic discourses arising from Freud's:

She has seen it and knows that she is without it and wants to have it 2

 'It' being, of course, the penis represented as: [S]trikingly visible and of large proportions...the superior counterpart of [her]... own inconspicuous organ 3Lacanian psychoanalysis erects the phallus as: The privileged signifier of that mark in which the role of the logos is joined with the advent of desire4.  The Lacanian world of words creates the world of things5 yet the biological, priapic penis remains interfused with the phallus:  It can be said that this signifier is chosen because it is the most tangible element of the real of sexual copulation...by virtue of its turgidity, it is the image of the vital flow as it is transmitted in generation6

The repressed and denied body, a reminder of human decay and transience, of limitation, has been projected onto woman/the other; but the masculine disavowal of embodiment tends not to stretch to that most tangible… of the real, the penis. With the other tied to her/his body and put on display, visible embodiment has been used to privatise the self as 'interiority' and the wee penis set out on its journey to become the mighty phallus - everywhere - but not to be seen. 

However, despite the promise of Viagra, penises might be phalluses but only for very short periods of time. Mostly they are soft, nestling things. It is their very mutability that makes them providers of pleasure and embarrassment.

If the symbolic is both reflective of consciousness and formative of it, then we become subjects by entering the symbolic, where many of us struggle with it, and work to reformulate and subvert it. In her earlier works, Walsh graced and gilded her penises with a little clitoral humility. Yet, interiority and exteriority have always been deconstructed at more than genital level in Walsh's work. These paintings 7 tantalise with an almost mystical, cellular consciousness. Here are phallus-freed images packed with foetal potential; fetching, redeeming and becoming.  Bah, humbug to virgin births, lives after death and all other disembodied, dispassionate and violent mythmaking. Walsh provides a landscape in which to seek the divine 8 as cosmogonical, corporeal and immanent:

After this I saw that a splendour white as snow and translucent as crystal had shone around the image of that woman from the top of her head to her throat...And where the splendour shone, which was mixed with purple and blue, it encircled the woman's image with strong ardour. But another splendour, like a white cloud, decently enveloped the image from the navel down, to the point at which it had not yet grown further. And these...splendours around that image shone afar, showing that within her many steps and ladders were well and properly placed. 9


[1] Anonymous (14th C) The Cloud of Unknowing, ch. 6.  In Tarjei Park (1998) The English Mystics: An Anthology, SPCK: London, p 62.

[2] Freud, S. (1986) Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes. In The Essentials of Psychoanalysis: The Definitive Collection of Sigmund Freud's Writing (selected by Freud, A.), Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Limited, pp402-411.

[3] ibid: pp405-6.

[4] Lacan, J. (1977) The signification of the phallus. In Écrits: A Selection, London: Routledge, p287.

[5] Lacan, J. (1977) The mirror stage as formative of the function of the 'I'. Écrits: A Selection, London: Routledge, p65.

[6] Lacan, J. (1977) The signification of the phallus. In Écrits: A Selection, London: Routledge, p287.

[7] A Sharp Dart of Longing Love http://www.roxywalsh.com/page3.htm

[8] See Grace Jantzen (1998) Becoming divine: Towards a feminist philosophy of religion, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

[9] Hildegard of Bingen [12th C.] (1990) Scivias (Classics of Western Spirituality), (trans. Columba Heart and Jane Bishop). New York: Paulist Press, p201.