with Jackie Valle and Kathryn Barulich

Saniya Talhouk, For Lack of a Better Word, (in)finite series, 2016. Ink and silkscreen on paper.

For Lack of a Better Word ruminates on what it means to use a surface that was already used because one feels so strongly the compulsion to put something down, lest one forgets it. How does one face the possibility of erasure and leave a memento of one’s impermanence behind – pulled from the (im)material remains of what was once already there?

While these considerations are at work, they also hold the knowledge that the inscription on the surface will never be one text, read so many ways and in so many iterations. It does not matter whether the surface is read or not because the work is in the compulsion to write. This, in turn, directs one toward the reader’s want to read and the fact of impending (il)legibility.

The act of pulling back and extracting ink creates the work. This is not simply about the things one gives, but rather, what is left behind on the paper, ‘taking form’ by pulling ink through the cuts or negations of a silk surface.  

For Lack of a Better Word does not seek to understand the limitlessness of meaning, nor define the limits and possibilities of its contentious histories. Instead, each of these works exist as textual and visual extractions. The act is a writing process that takes from and gives to that which is there. The medium is a provocation that rests between appearance – ink, silk screen, paper, forms over forms ad infinitum – and the (un)disclosed.  

This body of work, for lack of a better word, writes what it is not – not calligraphy, not figures, not palimpsests, not paintings, not poems, not prints.   

This piece on the work of Saniya Talhouk was written by Jackie Valle, in thinking with Kathryn Barulich.

Saniya Talhouk is a Bay Area-based artist and graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute MFA program. Much of Talhouk’s work invokes the cultural power of the palimpsest by tracing and redefining the visual legacies of abstraction through form and script. The work is threaded by a particular interest in the geometric and nonfigurative qualities of Islamic textiles and calligraphy, scientific fascinations, and urban landscapes.

Jackie Valle is a graduate of the History and Theory of Contemporary Art MA program at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work examines how art at the intersections of smell and vision can point toward an understanding of subtle, yet powerful politics in contemporary visual culture. Before moving to the Bay Area to pursue graduate studies, Valle worked in arts and education institutions, focusing on first generation initiatives, on the U.S. East Coast.