Archives for the month of: April, 2016

Relationships. The discovery of gravitational waves was the inspiration for some recent etchings. Trying the same image in softground on steel and hardground on zinc.

As I understand it gravity is the result of a relationship between the bending of space time and mass. The recording of these waves pulsing for the briefest flash of time when  two black holes collided and merged into one has excited scientists. This merging of two black holes was such a massive event that it caused ripples in the fabric of space time to spread out across the universe. 1604 two black holes

I was first introduced to the idea of beauty in mathematics and the extraordinary collaboration  of Cambridge professor G.H. Hardy with Srinivasa Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematician from India by the Complicite production A Disappearing Number.

1603 a disappearing number

Raymond Flood’s Gresham College lecture on the value of collaboration between these mathematicians along with J.E. Littlewood and Mary Cartwright gave further insight to their relationship and the advances they made in mathematical analysis and number theory. What interested me was Littlewood’s summation of four distinguishable phases  in creative work: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification or working out. Preparation is the conscious research and the problem should be kept in mind at all times. Incubation is the work of the subconscious and the waiting time can be several years. Illumination can happen in a fraction of a second; it is the emergence of the creative idea into the conscious mind and implies a mysterious rapport between the subconscious and the conscious. The verification is then just a matter of realising the idea, the hard work has been done. I feel this.

My etching ‘Forest of Eden’ was selected for ‘Blind Plural’ at Hundred Years Gallery. The exhibition ‘comments on or plays with issues related to the nature of hostility, its forms and representation…’

1409 Forest of Eden

Susan Eyre Forest of Eden

In history the wild man’s characteristics reflect topical fears and aspirations, violating the taboos of civilization and symbolizing the repressed desires of society; they oscillate between horror and fantasy. I wondered who a contemporary wild man might be. Someone on the edges of society, both fascinating and repulsive. I had come across images on the internet of this person who posts photos of himself posing almost naked with guns strapped to his body. An internet meme shared with equal disgust and fascination – I placed him back in the forest of all our origins.

Jane Boyer raised some interesting questions about self awareness with her solo show A project space called I at ARTHOUSE1. An exhibition of the I-artist curated by the I-curator.

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Jane Boyer enigma wall

My own mind struggles. How can I separate myself as artist and myself as curator with regards to my own work. 1604 Jane Boyer Minerva

Surely I want the same things in both those roles. I start by thinking I can see how this works if I separate myself as chef and artist. Looking at different roles I play and how I react to people from these different perspectives. A bit like cross curriculum activities, but within myself. I think I’m going to need a chat with Jane about this sometime.

 

 

Alongside this I have been reading Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli whose final lesson Ourselves tells me that I am a process which adheres to the laws of nature. There is not an ‘I’ and ‘the neurons in my brain’. They are the same thing. My unique sense of self is the rich culmination of billions of interactions and processes within my brain that reflect my personal history of experience. So with this in mind the works in the solo show are the markers, the process made manifest and as Jane presents; an autobiographical curation of a self.

Denise Gough playing Emma in the play People, Places and Things makes a plaintive cry to the world at large – why is it that she can’t cope with reality, why is it that she is overwhelmed by the unjust nature of the world and must resort to mind altering chemicals as a means of escape when everyone else seems just fine with it. The audience joins her in a spiral of despair.  Denise Gough’s performance is extraordinary and totally captivating, how she can put herself through such emotion every night is another question this play raises about how we separate ourselves from reality. The clinical rehab set protrudes into the audience arena like a neuron connection within our collective brain.1601 People Places and ThingsThe play is a visceral interrogation of self and relationships. The cause and effect of actions between mind and body. Self destruction and self renewal.

1601 Denise Gough

People, Places and Things

When Emma finally emerges from months of tortuous self analysis to face the world alone she is advised that to maintain her freedom from addiction she must avoid anything that might trigger associations with her past life causing her to relapse – she must avoid people, places and things.

1604 Govt collection

As part of London Open House weekend I visited the Government Art collection on a guided tour and behind-the-scenes look at how this major collection of British art operates. There was a lot of security and in most areas no photography. Our Government (us then) owns a collection of around 13,000 works of art mainly by British artists from the sixteenth century to the present day.  About 75 per cent of the collection is on display in British Government buildings in the UK and in Embassies and Residences around the world. The idea is to help promote British art. There is a meagre budget to purchase new work with most of the funding going to conservation, transportation and installation. A nice perk of being a civil servant is to have the choice of some great works for your office, for the rest of us they do offer a lunchtime tour of a small viewing gallery and the racks to see what’s been left in storage.

The raw space of the Bargehouse on the South Bank was a great setting for the meditative pieces of Kate Fahey. The degraded building echoing the degraded web images she appropriates into her work.

1601 Kate Fahey

Kate Fahey

Pulling the digital from the screen into the world of matter, she reverses the process of the viewers visual overload of images.

1604 Kate Fahey Possible-Object

Kate Fahey Possible Object

A hundred explosion images become one, one grainy image is cast solid in aluminium and a slow beat metronome stills us.

1604 Kate Fahey Counting-Uncounting

Kate Fahey counting/uncounting

We are in a war zone, in slow motion.

Bedwr Williams animated line drawings that made up the film Writ Stink at Limoncello showed the deconstruction of a man obsessed with hiding his secrets – turning on fellow creatures, suspicious of everyone he meets – maybe with good reason – life becomes a battle to preserve, to hide away and disengage.

1601 Bedr Williams

Surreal, comedic and tragic we are left wondering about the power of knowledge.

 

 

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As part of The Matter of Objects; Medieval and Renaissance Materiality in Contemporary Conversation project initiated by Queen Mary’s University  I have been paired with a research historian who has provided me with an image of an object that I will then respond to by making a piece of work.

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The object I have been given is a 16th century fall-front cabinet probably made in India for a Portuguese merchant. I wanted to participate in this project because  I am interested in the physical matter of our surroundings and objects and also more intangible things such as aura of place and agency of object. I thought the period would also be interesting as a time when science and religion clashed as being the source of truth.

The project aims to bring together humanities researchers, artists and creative practitioners in discussions around these objects, their historical narratives, and their relevance to our world today. There is going to be an exhibition and launch event where artists and researchers will come together to discuss their processes of deconstruction, interpretation and creation.

It feels a bit like trying to discover an identity beginning just via the purely visual information from a digital image. I had no idea what a fall fronted cabinet would be so before I opened the image I had in my mind something much larger with perhaps some kind of carving that would reflect waterfalls or falling folds of fabric. Recent visits to Sutton House influencing me here with the linenfold wood panels perhaps.

1604 Linen fold panel.jpg

It was a lovely surprise to open the image and see something so intricate, ornate and compact. I am also influenced in my response by recent exposure to the Elizabethan polymath John Dee and his alchemical interests so all the little secret drawers made me think of what someone like him might have kept locked away.

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The patterns are complex with lots of triangles and geometric shapes mixed with other more organic patterns from nature. The stars and almost elliptical shapes seem to relate the heavens with the flower like patterns of earth.

1604 object drawer

It is an intriguing object  with its secret drawers hidden behind a front panel – it would involve a small ritual to lock away and then open up and lay out the front ‘carpet’ to retrieve the precious items from within.

I came across what may be considered another fall front cabinet in the form of a shrine containing samples of metal placed in beeswax, its provenance even more mysterious.

1604 Stine Nielsen Ljungdalh Shrine

1604 The-Hunters-of-the-Invisble-installation

Charlotte Bergson: The Hunters of the Invisible

 

 

Losing sense of what or who is real Charlotte Bergson: The Hunters of the Invisible curated by Stine Nielsen Ljungdahl at Stanley Picker Gallery presents a carefully crafted mythology that has such a coherence of intent it is hard to determine fact from fiction.

1604 Stine Nielsen Ljungdalh -Charlotte Bergson

Charlotte Bergson: The Hunters of the Invisible

 

The hexagon is a recurrent motif as is the duality of twins.

Photographs and artefacts are presented as documentation accompanied by an in depth publication The Zone – A Journey Towards the Centre which further bolsters the world of  Charlotte Bergson’s research into The Hunting Society. We are drawn into an illusory world where borders  blur and it is not clear whose identity is real, be it artist, archivist, or a society that once held secrets to an alternative origin of the universe, where alchemy and ritual were practised as heady truths.

This is about origins.

1604 ink in water

Trying to work out what is real. Sam Burford’s paper Searching for Traces of the Indexical within Synthetically Rendered Imagery presented at the Shadow Without Object symposium considers ways to understand the relationship in a simulated image between its genesis and its being made visible. The rendering equation introduced into computer graphics in 1986 created a breakthrough by enabling illumination in an image to be made by using the Monte Carlo method of geometric probability borrowed from particle physics theory.

Monte Carlo simulation is a statistical approach which is concerned with experiments employing random numbers. The light playing around generated objects in the image could be made to behave more like real light in its random scattering. These images still did not look real enough but everything changed in 2004 with the release of the Maxwell Render product which claims to render the perfect image. This new product could apply randomness in rendering to an image through an algorithm to add some noise and create what looks like in effect a low res image – this actually appeared more real.

1604 joep swagemakers

Photo realistic rendered images are almost impossible to identify as simulated and so to claim credit the author will often attach a proof rendering image. A bit like a birth certificate.

Stan Douglas in The Secret Agent at Victoria Miro uses digital rendering to create a series of large scale urban landscapes.

1603 Stan Douglas The Second Hotel Vancouver

Stan Douglas The Second Hotel Vancouver

Unsettling in their clarity of detail and targeted lighting they create a confusion, a bit like having a word on the tip of your tongue, they are almost something. Almost a photograph of something almost like a film set; too sharp to be a memory. Borrowing from film noir tropes we are segued into a similarly stereotypical digital underworld. The six screen feature length installation The Secret Agent operates in the same world of noir subterfuge but instead of digital fakery it is the over dramatic acting, simplistic plot line and raw characterisation where we must suspend our disbelief.

1603 Stan Dougls Secret Agent

Stan Douglas The Secret Agent (film still)

Graham Fagan explores the constructed nature of history through the stories myths and fictions that build a contemporary identity.

1601 Venice Graham Fagan

Graham Fagan

Pulling at threads of cultural difference but tying them together in a personal experience to engage emotion that doesn’t shy away from acknowledging conflict and injustice.

1601 Venice Scotland Graham Fagan (1)

Graham Fagan

Drawn through the faded splendour of Palazzo Fontana in Venice by the haunting mix of sea shanty and classical string arrangement of The Slaves Lament we are immersed in a melancholic beauty.  The words attributed to Robert Burns convey the debilitating heartache of being wrenched from home for cold cruelty.

Torn from that lovely shore, and must never see it more; And Alas! I am weary, weary O.

Colonialism is also referenced by C.T. Jasper and Joanna Malinowska in their video production ‘Halka/Haiti 18 48’05″N 72 23’01″w’ taking opera to the tropics.

1601 Venice Poland

C.T. Jasper and Joanna Malinowska Halka/Haiti 18 48’05″N 72 23’01″W

Inspired by Werner Herzog’s character Fitzcarraldo in the 1982 film of that name the artists expose the absurdities and examine the agenda of one culture imposing itself on another. In Herzog’s film, after many great struggles to achieve his goal, European Fitzcarraldo manages to drag a ship over the impeding mountains so he can export rubber, make his fortune and build an opera house in the Amazon basin. He only succeeds in this physical challenge with the help of the local natives. His undoing is in ignoring local culture. When his crew falls asleep, the native chief cuts the rope securing the ship and it floats away down the river. The chief’s actions are to appease the river gods who would be angry to see their waters circumnavigated and their power not respected.

Where do we begin to unravel our origins?  The location of the artists film found at the coordinates of the title ‘Halka/Haiti 18 48’05″N 72 23’01″w’ reflects the complexity and amorphous nature of national identity. It is a Haitian village inhabited by the descendants of Polish soldiers who fought for Haitian independence. Originally sent to put down the slave rebellion in 1802 these soldiers found themselves sympathetic to a local culture under oppression much as had happened in their own homeland and so joined forces with the locals in the Haitian revolution and subsequently made their home here.

Ivan Grubanov’s installation in the Serbian Pavilion United Dead Nations provokes questions about how national identity is created and the symbolism of the flag in that process. In scattered piles across the floor are the discarded flags of states that are no longer in existence since 1895 when the Venice Biennale began.

1601 Serbia

Ivan Grubanov United Dead Nations

The list is an obituary of creation, rule and disappearance. Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918),the Ottoman Empire (1299- 1922), Gran Columbia (1819-1930), Tibet (1913-1951), the United Arab Republic (1958- 1971), South Vietnam (1955-1975), the German Democratic Republic (1949-1990), the USSR (1922-1991), Czechoslovakia (1918-1992), and Yugoslavia (1918-2003).

Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie paints emotional images exploring notions of survival and the fictions that define nations by questioning the truth of a collective memory.

1601 Venice Romania

Adrian Ghenie

Far And Few [Between] curated by RCA printmaking alumni Lisa Chang Lee at No Format gallery explores identity from the perspective of Chinese expats now living in the UK.

1603 Few and Far BetweenObserving the projection of the self creates a self consciousness that, like observing the path of an electron, is surely impossible to do without interfering with its trajectory.

1603 Few and Far Between Lisa Chang Lee

Lisa Chang Lee Habitat-1

 

1603 Few and Far Between Halli Sun

Haili Sun Curled Fugue

To question consciousness the works have a strong material presence linking identity to the land and the body and the interactions with the environment that build us.

1603 Few and Far Between Le Guo

Le Guo Koan

How we forge our path and face our own nature is a universal theme. The Mark Bruce Company tackled this through dance in a reworked telling of The Odyssey.

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Mark Bruce Company The Odyssey

Like Pandora’s box it was an explosion of chaos as passions and demons were unleashed on stage leading and tormenting the wayward King on his epic journey, crossing lands beset with monsters and temptations to return home to face a Queen savage from years of despair.  In a vortex of kitsch high drama and inventive to the point of surrealism the story may have been obscured but the message that mortality is beset by challenges, and we must be cautious who we trust – least of all ourselves, remained.

Szilard Cseke’s installation Sustainable Identities is a sterile plastic environment.

1601 Venice Hungary (2)

Szilard Cseke Sustainable Identities

Large white balls move silently along plastic tunnels above our heads on predetermined pathways.

1601 Venice Hungary (3)

Szilard Cseke Sustainable Identities

Perhaps this is a warning of what our identity might become if we never leave the path to take that epic journey.  Or worse, we have our identity taken from us.

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Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner 1967