Archives for posts with tag: Alex Simpson

Visit to UCL’s Astronomical Observatory in Mill Hill.

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Thanks to knowledgeable hosts Mark Fuller and Thomas Schlichter for a wonderful tour of the UCL observatory and to Lumen London for organising.

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Shame it was cloudy but I enjoyed seeing the telescopes and hearing the history of this beautiful site. Looking forward to future collaborations.

We didn’t see the stars outside but an archive image and a loop lens proved fascinating.

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In the studio back after a busy year I have been tidying up, building mezzanine storage shelves and planning new work looking at cosmic planes, thinking about star HD70642 – a possible home from home and what lies beyond the horizon that I can never reach.

 

New Doggerland at Thames-side Gallery presents a future imagining of physical and cultural re-connection between Britain and the European mainland.

Doggerland was an area of land that once connected Britain to continental Europe. At the end of the last ice age a warming climate exposed land for habitation but gradually the lowlands were flooded as temperatures rose further then about 8,200 years ago, a combined melting of a glacial lake and a tsunami submerged Doggerland beneath the southern North Sea. Great work including these from Jane Millar, Oona Grimes and Sarah Sparkes.

It was the place to be on 31/01/2020.

Nam June Paik at Tate Modern. Amazing pioneer of technology in art. Colliding nature, entanglement, connectedness, meditation, transmission.


Trevor Paglin From ‘Apple’ to ‘Anomaly’ (Pictures and Labels) at The Barbican Curve.

The long wall is filled with thousands of pinned photographs taken from ImageNet, a publicly available data set of images, which is also used to train artificial intelligence networks. ImageNet contains more than fourteen-million images grouped into labelled categories which include the unambiguous ‘apple’ along with such terms as ‘debtors’, ‘alcoholics’ and ‘bad persons’. These definitions applied to humans by AI algorithms present an uncomfortable future of machine induced judgement.

 ‘Machine-seeing-for-machines is a ubiquitous phenomenon, encompassing everything from facial-recognition systems conducting automated biometric surveillance at airports to department stores intercepting customers’ mobile phone pings to create intricate maps of movements through the aisles. But all this seeing, all of these images, are essentially invisible to human eyes. These images aren’t meant for us; they’re meant to do things in the world; human eyes aren’t in the loop.’ Trevor Paglen

Interestingly there was no photography allowed in the Trevor Paglen show. So I tried Image net for an image to post. I searched for ‘artist’ but ImageNet is under maintenance so I tried Google and this is the first image I got.

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Another great show from Kathleen Herbert, A Study of Shadows at Danielle Arnaud. Using the cyanotype to interrogate the history and science of Prussian Blue and discover what emerges from the shadows through process and research. We learn – ‘Prussian Blue has a unique chemical structure and was originally created through the cyanotype process. It was the colour used to measure the blueness of the sky and was also used in the UK during the Chernobyl disaster as an antidote to radiation poisoning, preventing Caesium 137 from entering the food chain. Prussian Blue also has the ability to heal itself; if the intensity of its colour is lost through light-induced fading, it can be recovered by being placed in the dark.’

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The sound and video work Everything is Fleeing to its Presence relates a narrative of impressions and scientific facts while the visuals of varying tones of blue appear and disappear in hypnotic succession. Together the effect is of immersion, like the chemically coated paper, in a pool of blue.

Mary Yacoob Schema at Five Years Gallery. Also using cyanotypes, but here exploring the architectural roots of this process through precise silhouettes, detailed drawing, structure and form which is then exposed to the unpredictable chemistry to produce beautiful outcomes.

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Anselm Keifer at White Cube Bermondsey.  Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot all tied together in characteristically monumental paintings thick with stuff in an attempt to connect complex scientific theory with ancient mythology.

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William Blake at Tate Britain. What visions, such torment. So much mortal flesh.

Anne Hardy The Depth of Darkness, the Return of the Light winter commission for Tate Britain, a sort of after party dystopia with an impressive soundscape of rain, thunder, birds and insects inspired by pagan descriptions of the winter solstice – the darkest moment of the year.

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We sit together for a minute at Thames-side Gallery. Alex Simpson and Alice Hartley share a similar sensibility making dynamic and intuitive works. The gallery is alive with gestural forms, captured fragments and movement held momentarily in stasis, both fragile and immediate.

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The Computer Arts Society, The Lumen Prize and Art in Flux join London Group members at The Cello Factory for a second In The Dark curated mash up of light and technology artworks that overlap and collide in Even darker. Curated by clever duo interactive filmmakers Genetic Moo, artists include Carol Wyss and Sumi Perera.

 

Bridget Riley at Hayward Gallery. Messing with perception; undulations and vibrations.

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Mark Leckey O’ Magic Power Of Bleakness at Tate Britain. Sense of bleakness achieved in synthetic bridge recreation which gave gallery awkward angles. Voyeuristic social commentary, old rave footage. Magic found interspersed in otherworldly images contrast to dank underworld.

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Some beautiful artefacts in The Moon exhibition at Royal Maritime Museum Greenwich celebrating 50 years since the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Astronomicum Caesarean 1540 – rotating paper discs are used to track the moon’s position which the physician would then interpret to predict if the patient might improve or relapse.

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Orrery 1823-27 by John Addison includes a special geared section to show the rise and fall of the moon and mimicking the tilt of its orbit.

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Selenographia 1797 by John Russell. It models the slight wobble or libration of the moon meaning that over time a little more than half of the side of the moon is visible from Earth.1912 Moon Exhibition selenographia

Moon rocks, encased.

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A Distant View III by United Visual Artists. A 3D rendering in wood of original NASA data imaging of the moon’s surface from the Orbiter mission 1966/7

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Very lucky to be invited by Rachael Allain for a tour of The Queen’s House at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich led by curator Matilda Pye. We saw the Susan Derges commission Mortal Moon inspired by the Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1 and a celestial globe, dating from 1551.

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The fractal elegance of the Tulip staircase.

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Which is also where the Queen’s House ghosts were inadvertently photographed by retired Canadian Reverend R.W Hardy on his visit in 1966. Recreated in situ by Matty with mobile. Apparently photographic experts examined the original negative and found no signs of tampering.

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Ending the tour with Tacita Dean’s poignant photos of the desolate shell of the Teignmouth Electron, the yacht that bore Donald Crowhurst to his miserable and solitary death. It looks so small.

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Immersive installations inviting a change of consciousness at TRANSFORMER: A Rebirth Of Wonder presented by The Store X The Vinyl Factory. Including Doug Aitken NEW ERA dramatic video-scape looking at the first phone call and future communication highway.

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Mark Bradford’s paintings in Cerberus at Hauser & Wirth London recall the vibrant matter of creation, the splitting of the earth in molten rivulets to expose the dark underbelly.

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I am reading W. G. Sebald’s rambling Rings of Saturn. Revisiting my home county and local haunts through his eyes. He set off in 1992 but it feels like a journey back further in time as there are so many reminiscences and anecdotes from the past. Among the vaguely defined histories is the story of the demise of the estate of Henstead Hall under guardianship of the eccentric Major Wyndham Le Strange who shunned the outside world and took to a literally underground existence.

These images from 2014 when I visited the abandoned walled garden at Henstead became fragments for my work titled Pairi Daêza, an ancient Iranian word meaning ‘around’ and ‘wall’; the origin of ‘paradise’.

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A tenuous link but I discovered Henstead Hall subsequently become home to Douglas Farmiloe a self-described “Mayfair playboy” who had found himself in the scandal pages of the News of the World during the 1930s, after an indiscretion with a hostess from the West End ‘Paradise Club’.

Amazing News Update – Laboratory of Dark Matters has been awarded a month long residency at Guest Projects for April 2017. Exciting times ahead.

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Laboratory of Dark Matters is a response by artists to scientific investigations into the unknown nature of the Universe; opening a dialogue between scientists and artists who are each driven by curiosity and seek answers to fundamental questions about matter and consciousness.

“All visible matter in the entire Universe, including all the stars, cosmic objects, black holes and intergalactic gases, amounts to less than 5% of the mass we know to be present.”  

The search for dark matter is a scientific endeavour but also requires a large degree of faith in both the existence of these elusive particles and in the scientists’ ability to eventually detect and identify them. For artists, creating work is often about searching for some unknown and embracing an unexpected outcome.

The participating artists will be Amy Gear, Daniel Clark, Elizabeth Murton, Kate Fahey, Luci Eldridge, Melanie King, Peter Glasgow, Sarah Gillett, Susan Eyre.

Unexpectedly found myself trailing Game of Thrones fans location hunting.

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Visiting Northern Ireland’s dramatic coast and spiritual heartlands. Brooding ruins and primeval earthworks, geological anomalies and wide windswept bays. I was on the lookout for saints and sacred wells.

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breathing it in

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The walls of Dunluce Castle – struck through with the local geometric formations

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mossy glade – moss prohibition

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‘The Armagh Astropark – where Heaven comes down to Earth…’

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faith and ritual

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At Cranfield Holy Well there was no evidence of fine spring water and amber coloured crystals, it looked dank and more pestilent than healing. Still it is festooned with personal items tied to the overhanging branches, each one a little prayer. According to  custom, one must bathe the infected part of the body with a rag dipped in the well, pray and then tie the rag to a large overhanging tree, as the rag decays the affliction is supposed to disappear. Judging from the preservation of these items, for some, the cure is a long way off.

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County Antrim wears its heart on its sleeve.

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Settlements past and present – Downhill House a recent ruin and the grassy banks of Lissenden Earthworks

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The enigmatic nun, dark Julia’s grave stone at the ancient Bonamargy Friary

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The bronze age Tandragee Man brandishing  his legendary silver prosthetic limb

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The even more ancient belly of the earth at Marble Arch caves

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Containment slotted nicely into the Plastic Propaganda curated exhibition Sugar and Spice at St. Katherine’s Dock.

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Made in response to the trade of exotic objects by merchants who journeyed across the globe five hundred years ago when navigation was reliant on the stars.

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Shaped plates, etched using a sugar lift technique, are filled with inks made from ground spices and copperplate oils wafting traces of their origins in to the gallery space –  turmeric, coriander, cumin, paprika…

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These operate as markers plotting the spice route from India around Africa to Europe according to the latitude and longitude lines taken from C16th maps of Mercator and Ortelius. The patterns combine ideologies of origins with destinations reflecting the breadth and mix of cultures that came together. I like how viewing becomes a ritual.

Sugar and Spice explored ideas of trade, hybridization and inter-cultural exchange and the legacy of the rich mercantile history of the docks. Looking back informs, educates and gives us the platform for continuous debate…

 …all more poignant post referendum.

Sarah Gillet’s magical show Quarry at Brocket Gallery was in itself a process of quarrying – exhuming material from a forensic analysis of Paolo Uccello’s painting   ‘The Hunt in the Forest (1470). The pursuit of quarry. This inversion of meanings repeats itself in the work as do the shapes and shadows of a forest that extends beyond the boundaries of any canvas into the dark depths of dream spaces where strange creatures abound.

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In such a space where would you turn to escape.

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It’s how I imagine the labyrinths of Venice should be during the carnival. Full of intriguing theatrical creatures appearing out of the void; playful menace.

I have long enjoyed the work of Raqib Shaw and the dazzling paintings he creates with intricate enamelled surfaces glistening with gemstones and gold; the chaos of  battle played out to the personal beat of shamanic drums; the quest for unattainable perfection.  His obsession with self, pitted against the world, seems to have reached a melancholic peak with Self-Portraits at White Cube. This reimagining of old masters heavily laden with references to his own worlds of Peckham and Kashmir appear as premature reliquaries to a life saturated in self immolation.

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Hidden undercurrents of surface beauty are exposed in Victoria Ahrens thoughtful presentation of her PhD research ABSORB. A meditation on the history of the Paranà River in Argentina. From a mystical place of leisure for her Grandfather to the brutal grave of those who ‘disappeared’ during the military junta, thrown to their deaths to be slowly and anonymously absorbed into the landscape.

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By allowing the waters of the river to wash over the plates and images that she creates the alchemical processes continue and those lost into the waters imbue the work with a gentle pathos.

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From shards of shattered time an image is built that hovers between past and present.

Alex Simpson’s exploration of material in Through Viscera at Barbican Arts Group Trust was fresh and almost vibrating with energy.

Like a virus spreading across all surfaces, into the core of matter that lay extruded across the floor, eaten into and vein like, globular and thick with fungal felt, drying and dropping, leaving prints as scars.

 

In Lichtlose Luft, at PARCspace the LCC’s photographic archive resource centre,  Johanna Love’s lithographic prints and drawings on digital prints of tiny specks of matter magnified to reveal the sublime contours reminiscent of a mountain landscape were a very successful exploration of finding the human relationship in a scientifically generated image.

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The technical image is a starting point for the work, either obtained through the electron microscope or the digital scanner. Through the process of drawing and digital manipulation, there is an attempt to bring the image back into the physical, material world of the living and imagination, for as Merleau Ponty (1964) states, ‘science manipulates things and gives up living in them.’

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Isolated like meteorites falling through a grey space that vibrates with the blurred colours we see on the back surface of the eyelid; these drawings capture the imagination.

Super/collider once again brought us a mind blowing yet entertaining talk at Second Home.  Dr. Andrew O’Bannon has been studying Holography for 15 years. He proposes a bold idea that all the information in our 3D universe may be contained in a mysterious 2D image, like a hologram. Promising not only to unite Einstein’s relativity with quantum physics, holography also has the potential to provide us with cleaner energy, faster computers, and novel electronics. Using ideas from string theory he studies holography and strongly interacting systems.

In everyday life, a hologram is a two-dimensional image containing enough information to reconstruct a three-dimensional object. In theoretical physics, holography proposes that some strongly-interacting systems are equivalent to Einstein’s theory of gravity in one higher dimension.

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“Many experiments to detect proposed dark matter particles through non-gravitational means are under way. On 25 August 2016, astronomers reported that Dragonfly 44, an ultra diffuse galaxy (UDG) with the mass of the Milky Way galaxy, but with nearly no discernible stars or galactic structure, may be made almost entirely of dark matter.” From BBC science

There were two talks at New Scientist Live that I found particularly interesting. The first was from Dr Andrew Pontzen a theoretical cosmologist explaining the evidence that dark matter exists and why it is proving so hard to detect. He spends his time working through theories that are then passed on to someone like Cham Ghag, an astrophysicist who will devise strategies to test theories in direct detection projects such as ZEPLIN and LUX.

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It’s not only the calculations from gravitational lensing that suggests way more mass is present than can be seen but also large computer modelling samples of how galaxies form and rotate. Removing a few stars from the model galaxy ends in a chaotic breakdown, but making a few stars ‘dark’ so that the mass remains but we cannot see them does not change the rotation of the remaining stars we can still see. The distribution of dark matter across the universe appears like a fibrous net, imaged from the cosmic microwave background, an echo still reverberating from the first few seconds at the birth of the universe. The second talk ‘Beyond the Higgs’ was from particle physicist Professor Tara Shears who inspects the data produced from the experiments colliding proton beams to create fundamental particles at CERN, for anomalies that might turn out to be evidence of an interaction with a new particle. The search goes on.

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