Archives for the month of: May, 2016

First outing with the crystal ball into quasi countryside creating mini worlds.

Learnt an important lesson about the intensity of the sun + polished glass. Within seconds of putting the ball on a bench the wood was furiously smoking. I left a series of charred marks behind and have decided to keep the sphere in its box when not in use.

 

The mysteries of the sun was the focus of the exhibition The Green Ray at Wilkinson Gallery curated by Andrew Hunt.

1604 Le Rayon Vert

A momentary green flash visible at sunset when atmospheric conditions combine with light refraction is a rare and fêted phenomenon that inspired the novel by Jules Verne and Eric Rohmer’s film. Witnessing the green ray purportedly bestows powers of insight and perception. The poeticism of such a moment is captured in this text piece RIFT>GLYPH by Sophie Sleigh-Johnson

1604 Sophie Sleigh-Johnson

1604 Jeffrey Dennis

Jeffrey Dennis The Green Ray

1604 Anna Barriball

Anna Barriball Sunrise/Sunset XII

1604 Daniel OSullivan

Daniel O’Sullivan Palm Beach

1604 The Green Ray Phil Coy Yellowed Sun

Phil Coy Yellowed Sun

At MIT they have their own henge sunset celebration when the sun is in alignment and sweeps the length of a corridor. Yuri Pattison’s installation Sleepless Synonyms, Sleepless Antonyms uses this natural phenomenon occurring at a technological site to make connections between natural and screen light and the psychological  effects of sleep deprivation while wafting us with Sweet Dreams vaporised melatonin.

Terra Tremula at Lubomirov/Angus Hughes Gallery was a show about instability and tenuous balance. I was particularly drawn to the glossy striated surfaces of Paul Manners paintings. Caught somewhere between peering out and peering in. I must have some primordial fixation with the circle.

Juilette Losq’s muddle of undergrowth is slightly claustrophobic yet like all the best fairy tales also inviting. Strange abandoned structures are being entwined, obscured, pulled under. She sets up a tension in a quiet space and leaves you there.

1603 Terra Tremula Juliette Losq

Shelagh Wakely Spaces Between Things at Richard Saltoun Gallery could be described as barely there and likely to disappear at any moment. Fragile, ephemeral materials, translucent papers, jittery images, loose threads, sprung wires make a tenuous hold on materiality.

1604 Shelagh Wakely (1)

Shelagh Wakely’s work has a lightness that Richard Deacon expresses beautifully when he says that her work helped him come to ‘the realisation that an object could share space rather than occupy it.’

This is something that is also apparent in the work of Maud Cotter seen at Domo Baal in the her exhibition Matter of Fact.

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Maud Cotter Litter Bin

Everyday items and materials are opened up in space allowing us a glimpse into the complexity of structure in the world around us. What at first glance appears to be basketry turns out to be tightly packed lengths of spliced corrugated cardboard arranged in geometric patterns. The secrets of the universe are held in the simplest of building blocks.

1604 Maud Cotter 2

Maud Cotter Matter of Fact

The Subterranean Saturday event at Conway Hall presented 3 speakers on the subject of exploring underground. Scott Wood gave an idea of the sort of myths that circulate relating to the London Underground system and the origin of those stories which appear and reappear in modified forms throughout history. Antony Clayton the author of Secret Tunnels of England; Folklore and Fact shared his knowledge of where to go to find a tunnel system to explore and the myths that have built up around some of these spaces. It’s astonishing how much of the ground has been burrowed through.

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Gary Lachman’s talk was called The Occult Underground but it was much broader than that and I was interested in the analogies he made between matter and consciousness and how the tunnel plays a part in transcendental states of mind. Tunnel vision experienced when in a trance like state is said to have nested curve lines that give the impression of entering a tunnel in the mind and shamanic tunnelling is performed to enter the spirit world.

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Entoptic phenomena are forms that originate within the human visual system. There has been research into the similarity of these geometric patterns that appear on our inner eyes when they are closed and the sort of shapes and marks made in paintings by societies that practise altered states of consciousness through religious, shamanistic or drug induced means often in the dark depths of caves. Our physiognomy hasn’t changed in 40,000 years so we can still experience floating shapes within our eyes, how we respond to these optical hieroglyphs depends on our culture and transcendental interpretations.

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The research of Raymond Moody in the 70’s into the Near-Death Experience of people who had experienced clinical death discovered that many experienced shared features, such as the feeling of being out of one’s body, the sensation of traveling through a tunnel, encountering dead relatives, and encountering a bright light and often returning with a new found faith in an afterlife. This inspired Moody to build a psychomanteum replicating the practice of the ancient Greeks who would sit in a dimly lit room staring into a mirror to consult with the apparitions of the dead. Moody calls his psychomanteum The Dr. John Dee Theater of the Mind. He has written a more recent appraisal of his work ‘Paranormal’ looking back at his fascination with death and beyond in which he writes;

“I felt the question of the afterlife was the black hole of the personal universe: something for which substantial proof of existence had been offered but which had not yet been explored in the proper way by scientists and philosophers.”

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There are many theories past and present sparked by the concept of the tunnel and Lachman mentioned quite a few in passing.  The birth canal being our first encounter with a tunnel which according to Otto Rank was also our most painful trauma which we spend the rest of our lives trying to recover from. Stanislav Grof is also captivated by the idea of passage through stages of perinatal matrices before we are born.

1412 Her

Her

The tunnel takes us underground to the underworld, in ancient Egyptian mythology to Duat, the realm of the dead where the sun god Ra goes every night. In Greek mythology to the domain of Hades and Persephone and the journey of poet and musician Orpheus to rescue his wife Eurydice.

1605 persephone

The theme of a sunken, subterranean, and secret chamber is found in many secret societies. The early Roman cult of worship that centred around the god Mithras made its temples underground. The powers of Mithras are celebrated in his dragging a bull down into a cavern and slaughtering it with a sword then feasting with the sun god in this underground sacrificial place.

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Mithras requires seven steps to initiation which relate to the seven planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Luna, Sol, Saturn.

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The planets also figure in legends surrounding the tomb of Christian Rosenkreutz founder of the Rosicrucian Order whose interred body is said to have been preserved for 120 years in a heptagonal vault lit by a miniature sun with the Alchemical motto: V.I.T.R.I.O.L.  – Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem – “Visit the interior of the Earth; by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone.”

The mysteries of what may be discovered underground, caverns of light, treasure, the philosopher’s stone inspire the imagination and feed into mystical tales such as The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, a collection of interconnecting fantastical tales involving an underground society by Polish Count Jan Potocki who tragically committed suicide as he feared he was turning into a werewolf.

On a visit to southern Italy in 1638, the ever-curious Athanasius Kircher was lowered into the crater of Vesuvius then on the brink of eruption, in order to examine its interior.  His geological and geographical investigations culminated in his Mundus Subterraneus of 1664, in which he suggested that the earth’s tides were caused by water moving to and from a subterranean ocean.

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Trained in law rather than science John Cleves Symmes  was a proponent of The Hollow Earth Theory  publishing a circular in 1818  – I declare the earth is hollow, and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentrick spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles 12 or 16 degrees; I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking.

The hollow earth theory was popular with novelists and science fiction writers such as  John Uri Lloyd who wrote the Etidorpha ( Aphrodite spelt backwards) series of books relating a journey to the earth’s core.  Jules Verne ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ being the most well known of the genre and although inspired by recent geological discoveries was also perhaps written in the vein of a journey of self discovery.

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ANATHEMA – distortion/displacement/the other. The programme of artists films screened at Danielle Arnaud’s gallery was curated by Anne Duffau as the first in a series of events by A—Z, a platform to explore various unstable potentials that lead from the idea of entropy.

Zina Saro-Wiwa Phyllis

Laure Prouvost We Know We Are Just Pixels

1604 Laure Prouvost

Jordan Wolfson Animation,masks

Tai Shani The Vampyre

Even if the post human was addressed via the digital all were films that get under your skin.

In other rooms of the gallery a skin was forming over pools of tinted cough syrup slowly evaporating from smooth concrete surfaces leaving chemical residues in Robery Cervera’s Drawn reservoirs.

Larger than life images of limbs and torsos are draped over scaffolding as though hung out to dry by Alix Marie in Hanged, hung, numb. The sharp resolution gives fascinating detail to every hair and pore, crease and blister of skin, naked and exposed thrown together in a haphazard mingling of flesh.

The works showing in ICHOR share a sense of the unheimlich.  As ‘ichor’ could be the discharge from a weeping wound or the golden fluid running through the veins of the gods so the films screened in ANATHEMA and the works in ICHOR carry both possibilities of visceral mortality and mythical powers.

 

 

 

 

 

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I have been looking at A History Of The World in Twelve Maps by Jerry Brotton again, this time in connection with the work I am making as part of The Matter of Objects collaboration between artists and historians. The little fall front cabinet that I am responding to took the journey from India to Portugal around 500 years ago, possibly following the same route as the spice trade.

1605 Mercator World Map 1569

I have been looking at maps created around that time and reading about Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius both renowned cosmographers. I particularly like Ortelius view of his atlas as the Theatre of the World – ‘a place for viewing a spectacle’. Maps present a creative version of a reality we think we know but transform it into something different. Both men expressed a cosmographical philosophy of peace and harmony and hoped their world maps would give mankind pause for thought much as the 1968 earthrise image embodies.

1604 earthrise

Ortelius added the quote from Seneca to his maps –

‘Is this that pinpoint which is divided by sword and fire among so many nations?  How ridiculous are the boundaries of mortals.’

And from Cicero –

‘what can seem of moment in human occurrences to a man who keeps all eternity before his eyes and knows the vastness of the universe?’

1605 Ortelius World Map1570

Another point of reference for me is the astrolabe, a complex and beautiful instrument used by early astronomers and cosmographers to determine time and the movement of celestial objects.

1605 astrolabe

I have been making ‘markers’ from aluminium. The shapes and patterns relate to those on the cabinet and the materiality of the etched metal which will be filled with ink and spices relates to the objects kept in the drawers of the cabinet and the trade that circulated the wealth of the merchants who owned these exotic objects.

I screen printed sugar lift solution onto the aluminium shapes before coating with stop out.

These are etched and then inked up with spices and will be laid out in a sequence that follows the route from India to the Iberian Peninsula and ultimately London where this little cabinet now sits in the V&A.

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2006AN0914_2500

I am in love with this Boyd and Evans lithograph. I was very jealous of the lady who bought a copy from our RCA stand at Christies Multiplied print fair.

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Boyd and Evans Insignificance

I went to hear them talk about their practice at Flowers Gallery where they had an exhibition of panoramic photographs in Overland. These vast moody skies, rocky barren vistas and abandoned structures are a record to their travels across the American South-West.

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Boyd and Evans Benton Springs, California

Inspired by the book Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu the latest production from Simon McBurney’s Complicite  is an extraordinary journey in consciousness, questioning reality and its constructs.

1604 The Encounter

The Encounter tells the story of a National Geographic photographer, Loren McIntyre who in 1969 found himself adrift among the Mayoruna people of the remote Javari Valley in Brazil. Following his desire to discover and record he enters uncharted jungle putting himself at the mercy of the people he was trying to capture on film. He develops a close relationship with the head tribesman and shaman he calls Barnacle and begins to feel they are communicating through thought as they share no common language. The old language is not something you learn it is something you remember.

The tribe are on the move. Distraught at the impact of the sacking of resources of the forest and diseases introduced by outsiders they are heading back to the beginning.

In order to return to a time before the bad things happened they must destroy all their possessions that are holding them in the present. Everything is thrown onto massive bonfires. The journalist is  distraught as he fears the ritual will involve death but the chief is calm, he doesn’t worry what time is, he is just concerned with what he can do with it.

The beginning lies at the inception of time but is also everywhere at once. Going back to the beginning is not really a return, but rather a form of exiting from history proper, into the mythical time of renewal.

There is a powerful message here about matter and its hold on us and our experience of history. The concepts that these shaman were expressing are the same as the problems physicists struggle over today – what is the present?  ‘Time sits at the centre of the tangle of problems raised by the intersection of gravity, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics.’ – Carlo Rovelli

1604 The Encounter 2

In the audience we are wearing headphones, the sound of the forest is all around, voices appear in our head, just as they did for Loren, beautifully demonstrated by the use of binaural speakers. Reality is an illusion, all our constructs are fictions and exist only in our imagination.

Creating the sort of places where the Mayoruna people might live…Dean Melbourne paints the places where myth still lives deep in the forests. Shadowy figures, totems and ritual mingle in thick glutinous surfaces.

His exhibition This Myth at Coates and Scarrry’s gallery invites you to step into a sensual and primordial world.

Hilma af Klint was also making connections with the spiritual world. Her public face during her lifetime was of a figurative painter but in the late 1880’s she began painting in secret and created a huge body of work that explored her private interests in the nature of the universe and the relationship between matter and the spiritual. Believing that perfect unity was lost at the point of creation she sought to reconnect the dualities that had arisen from the primordial chaos. Entering Painting the Unseen at The Serpentine Gallery I was immediately awed by the three large works The Paintings For The Temple.

1604 Hilma af Klint

Inspired by the experiments with séances and automatic drawing that she engaged with as part of a small group of women artists she called The Five (De Fem) she felt herself led by a spirit counsel. Motifs and symbols appear in her paintings that she then interrogates for meaning.

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Her use of colour allows for contemplation in works that have a calm sensuality.

1604 Hilma af Klint (1)

Her notebooks reflect her dedication to her continuing search for meaning within matter and the extent of the work she produced which  is all the more remarkable for her desire to keep her spiritual work hidden until 20 years after her death. Did she believe the world wasn’t ready for her questions, let’s hope she is pleased with the attention it is getting a hundred years on.

1604 Hilma af Klimt

Good to see RCA printmaking alumni Wieland Payer’s work showing at The House of St. Barnabas with Man and Eve Gallery and to discover the beautiful work of Nadege Meriau. These artists both take you to another world that is just a step from reality and intriguing for that mix of the familiar with the strange.

1602 Wieland Payer Drift

Wieland Payer DRIFT   Photo: Herbert Boswank

 

1602 Nadege Meriau Grotto

Nadage Meriau Grotto

The cosmonaut exhibition at the science museum was a window to the world of space exploration. The risks and competition in the race to be the first. The wonderful graphics that heralded a new era of exploration.

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The romantic quest going beyond the rugged landscapes and sublime vista of previous generations. What was most striking I think was how low tech it all looked and so cramped. The bravery and optimism of these people to get into something so small and basic to hurtle across space is to be admired.

cosmonaut. astronaut. nautilus.

1602 paper nautilus

Alistair McDowall’s play X at the Royal Court is set in a future where four astronauts are stranded in their spaceship on Pluto.

1605 Pluto-NASA-New-Horizons

Unable to communicate with earth they await rescue that never arrives. It felt more reality TV show where four unredeemed characters are flung together for eternity than exploration of a new frontier for humankind as Pluto barely gets a mention and we suffer endless ranting as each character loses grip on reality before ending up in the freezer.

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Finally rescue did arrive, for the audience anyway in the form of Dr.Mike Goldsmith who gave a very informed post play talk about the possibilities and potential of Life on Pluto.

Astrophysicist Dr. Roberto Trotta was out campaigning for ‘Why Society Needs Astronomy and Cosmology’ with his Gresham Lecture at The Museum of London. He was making a case for public funding to support what is increasingly becoming big science big money projects that involve many hundreds of scientists across the world. Detectors and image capturing devices are scaling up and new sophisticated technology means the amount of data captured is beyond human undertaking to analyse and requires huge resources to process all the information. We can reach further and further out into the unknown searching for answers to the big questions of existence. This vastness is awe inspiring but also daunting and so he aims to bring the human scale back into space exploration and make accessible a world that is often described with unfamiliar and obtuse language. He has written a book ‘The Edge of the Sky’ using only the 1,000 most common English words. 1603 Trotta .jpgThis approach not only simplifies huge concepts for a younger audience but gives everyone a pause to think about language.  The tourist visiting new places may not have the word to describe an unfamiliar object and so must find a way to describe it using known language. This is an effective way of opening up new interpretations and perspectives and encouraging curiosity to discover and explore the unknown.

Moving in unknown territories borders are blurred. Julien Charriére has erased all borders in his installation We Are All Astronauts. Using an international sandpaper made from mineral samples taken from the member states of the United Nations he has carefully eroded any geopolitical demarcations mingling the dust of our homelands. We have the same origins and the same destiny.

1603 Julien Charriere We Are all Astronauts

His solo show at Parasol Unit For They That Sow the Wind was an eloquent exploration of our relationship to the world of matter, its exploitation and ultimately our insignificance in the wake of  our destruction.

Towers of salt bricks mined from the ‘lithium triangle’ in Bolivia sit in geometric patterns like the remnants of an ancient civilization.

1603 Julian Charriere Future Fossil Spaces

Julian Charriere Future Fossil Spaces

Structures break down.

1603 Julian Charriere

The haze of devastation burnt into the landscape; a legacy from 456 nuclear tests carried out by the Soviet Union between 1949 and 1989 in Kazakhstan.

1603 Julian Charriere Polygon

Julien Charriere Polygon

A solitary Charrière stands for all of us as he actively melts ice beneath his feet with a blowtorch.

1603 Julien Charriere The Blue Fossil Entropic Series

Julien Charriere The Blue Fossil Entropic Stories

It may be too late to protect the environment, now we must put our energy into creating protected environments.

1603 Julien Charriere Tropisme

Julien Charriere Tropisme

Plant species around since the Cretaceous period are shock-frozen in liquid nitrogen and preserved in refrigerated containers. The ice patterns appearing over the inside glass of the vitrines cast beautiful veils that threaten to obscure our view. Nature is blocking us out.

It hardly seems any time since I was setting up our RCA interim show at Café gallery Projects and yet here I am visiting the current second years exhibition DIS PLAY having stepped on out into the wider world. This year because they have taken on so many more students the show was mixed across the years to balance numbers.

Great texture and pallid colour from Emma-Jane Whitton where the tight aqueous skin of the succulent makes haptic connections with the tight skin of the salami, bursting oozing and barely contained this structure is like plastic surgery in meltdown.

This work sat well next to Randy Bretzin’s assemblage of works relating to the body and its skin at the point of rupture.

Further body references from Fei Fei Yu whose casts in aluminium of Randy Bretzin’s head lay empty and shattered. No bodily fluids here just a bed of salt left like the residue from some alchemical reduction experiment.

1603 Fei Fei Yu

The body and psyche exposed. Nothing like descending the spiral stairs to the museum at The Last Tuesday Society for a delve into the realm of mortality, sex and the fabulous.