I have spent a lot of time looking at my work and thinking about my intentions, going back to old statements and looking at my dissertation from 2007 to try to home in on the most prevalent themes and ideas. Disconnection from nature is something that I explored very early on in my practise along with ideas about desire for an idealised nature. This led me to the myth of paradise and trying to understand where desire originates and how paradise might be visualised. I see the connection between nature and desire as being the myth of paradise. To take these ideas further I want to look at the relationships and analogies that can be made between nature and the mind. Both beautiful and unpredictable.

forest

I have gone back to reading Robert Pogue Harrison’s book ‘Forests: The shadow of civilization’, going through it in more detail, annotating and making notes of references I want to understand in more detail. The main purpose of his book to is to examine the history of the forest in the cultural imagination and the consequences of the loss of these great wildernesses. In his first chapter he looks to the theoretical studies of Giambattista Vico written in 1744. Vico proposes the birth of religion began when man first read manifestations in nature to be the language of God. The first messages appeared to come from the sky – thunder and lightning, the movement of the stars this led to the conclusion that God must therefore reside somewhere above. As the sky was mostly hidden at this time by the dark canopy of the forest then God could not be seen but must be imagined. Nature became uncanny, no longer merely a habitat but a meaningful world. Vico’s analysis of ancient fables led him to believe that the bonds between humanity and nature were broken long ago as man established laws to govern the developing settlements, clearing the forest to put down the roots of civilization. Fables such as The Aeneid which tells of an Arcadian-like forest where man was born from the earth were already stimulating nostalgia for a time of unison with nature, a time before civilization, before religion.

Gordon Cheung 4

In his recent show ‘The Solar Cry’ at Edel Assanti Gordon Cheung portrayed a world teetering on the brink of collapse. In his customary style of techno sublime, he uses heavy layering and sculptural use of acrylic paints and dayglo gels and the financial times newspaper literally forms the backdrop to his landscapes.

Gordon Cheung 1

Taking this metaphor of the all pervading and powerful stock market further he has, through papier-mache, returned the financial listings full circle back to wood, back to the forest; but as the dead branches of driftwood, like beautiful fossils of a wonderful beast.

Gordon Cheung 2

In the catalogue to the exhibition he talks about his own interest in mythologies and the connections he makes between the stock market’s use of animistic symbols and similar uses in myths such as the Minotaur and the Mithraic cult’s bull sacrifice to the sun. From the earliest times to the present day our fear of an apocalyptic end is something we share, the threat itself however alters over time.

In Shunt’s recent theatrical production ‘The Architects’ the myth of the Minotaur was referenced, albeit rather obscurely.

Shunt The Architects 1

Ideas of bestiality, child sacrifice, control vs mayhem were explored aboard a cruise liner set which you entered via a genuinely disorientating labyrinth.

The Architects by Shunt

There were probably lots of references made to the original myth that were lost on us and we were waiting in vain for the chance to become a hero but we all really enjoyed the event.

0117 Shunt (3)

Adding to my current theme of myths and legends was a trip to Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty. Fables and fairy tales over the years have always varied slightly in the telling,  poetic license here turned the good fairy into a vampire and updated the story to allow for some sexed up turn of the century costumes.

Matthew Bourne Sleeping Beauty 1

The gothic layered onto classic romanticism made for a wonderful indulgent confection. And the dancing was superb.

Matthew Bourne Sleeping Beauty 3

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