Archives for posts with tag: fall-front cabinet

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.

1605 trade route

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.

1603 Boyd Evans Insignificance.jpg

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.

1603 boyd and evans.jpg

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.

1604 Hilma af Klint (2)

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.

1602 space age

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.

1605 x

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.

Advertisements

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.

2006AN0914_2500.jpg

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.

1604 Last Tuesday Society.jpg

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.

1603 Mark Bruce comapny.png

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.

1603 the prisoner.jpg

Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner 1967