The idea that one can suspend the trauma of their waking lives and seek refuge in their sleep does not always hold true. These works explore the landscape where the waking life interacts with the unconscious.
Highly personal, these pieces deal with the layered and idiosyncratic nature of storytelling and memory—and their roles within family relationships. Beginning from a core idea found within a memory or dream, as each is formalized, the visual narrative takes on multiple threads. Similar to how the mind works while asleep, the stories unfold in a layered and intermingled fashion—connected by images and words—rather than the traditional, linear manner through which the mind processes information while awake. Chronological storytelling is often associated with a horizontal (left to right) format, whereas the storytelling that occurs while dreaming is a more mysterious and stratified process—which is represented by the vertical, scroll-like format of the works.
This ongoing series of visual poems is created using ink, collage, and an antique manual typewriter on paper. The typewritten texts are taken from the artist’s personal diaries and poems, while the collaged texts are from a variety of sources. The width of each work is determined by the typewriter’s maximum paper-width, then cut vertically at varying lengths—some works are comprised of multiple panels to represent how memory often behaves as fragmented vignettes. Each piece is suspended from the ceiling with unwound tape from audio music cassettes—resembling an oversized mobile—referencing the artist’s childhood reliance on listening to music in order to fall asleep.
The works hang vertically from the ceiling—purposefully set at varying lengths, and are spaced apart so that the viewer can move through the space and in between the moving sheets of paper so as to experience the work as if walking through a large-scale mobile.
While our minds work as the inner room of our being, translating words and images, these suspended pieces—set within blank walls to direct the focus around the physicality of the room itself—allow the viewer to engage with the space viscerally, as if walking through a vivid recollection of a memory or dream.
Robert Saywitz is a Bay Area-based multi-disciplinary artist, designer, illustrator, and visual storyteller. He creates graphic narratives in his original works on canvas, paper, found objects, and artist books with the intention of building images infused with emotion as a magnification and intensification of our daily life experiences. These images represent glimpses of how he perceives the places, people, and sounds within himself and the world around him.
Finding inspiration from collective and personal histories—and often the world of music—Saywitz approaches each project as an investigative journalist might begin to research, analyze, and unpack certain stories or moments in time that were either overlooked, misunderstood, or simply forgotten. He seeks out ideas from the world of history, books, and news stories, but his personal studio—full of seemingly random artifacts including old instruction manuals, maps, magazine clippings, keys, matchbooks, old typewriters, and ticket stubs—functions as an essential library of inspiration and tools for each project. The artist seeks out materials that will work as a blank canvas for a drawing or painting, but also those which relate to the subject matter. Many of these non-traditional and found materials—including antique books, wooden crates, or music-related items like vinyl and cassettes—are part of Saywitz’s process to breathe new life into discarded or antiquated objects that often find themselves on the street or in second-hand shops. Often the deterioration of the materials will add to his storytelling. The manual typewriter also plays a large role in his recent works—a nod to his skillset as a graphic designer, and his passion for typography and the physical book.
Saywitz believes that the creative process of the visual artist closely mirrors that of the musician. Both adhere to laws of rhythm, harmony, tone and composition—while utilizing elements within a specific medium to create original and evocative stories. Just as the musician forms a composition through the arrangement of notes, melodies, and silence, the visual artist composes a story using form, color, and negative space. His work has been exhibited at various art spaces and galleries in New York and California.