If my artist statement had to be condensed into human form it would be John Dee.  1602 John Dee 2

He studied astronomy but also astrology, mathematics and also alchemy, geometry and also the language of angels. Living at a time when science and religion clashed as the source of truth he was the most intriguing Elizabethan polymath, setting the mould for future  magicians his reputation waxed and waned like the celestial objects he observed. John Dee’s curiosity for how the world was put together fired his imagination and thirst for learning. In his lifetime he collected the largest library of books and manuscripts in Europe.

1602 John Dee surrey map

This great treasure was ransacked from his home in Mortlake while he was abroad and sections are now scattered across the world. The Royal College of Physicians were donated a substantial number of his books in 1680 and their exhibition Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee is a celebration of this collection, his life and contribution to so many spheres of knowledge. On display are his personal notebooks and other volumes and editions many with his annotations and diagrams in the margins.

These books are available for viewing at the college outside of the exhibition period so would be worth a trip back to see them in detail, unfortunately for me they are mostly in Latin but the illustrations would be amazing to look at more closely.

1602 John Dee monas hieroglyphica.jpg

John Dee Monas Hieroglyphica

The symbol Monas Hieroglyphica  combines the moon, the sun, the elements and fire. It is also the title of his repository of knowledge on all things numerological, astronomical, cosmological, alchemical, magical and mystically spiritual written in coded language to protect his secrets.

1602 John Dee Claude Glass

John Dee’s Claude Glass

John Dee used a medium or scryer to communicate with angels on his behalf and collected many magical objects to assist in divining the future and accessing the spirit world.

1602 John Dee crystal ball

John Dee’s Crystal Ball

I was surprised how small his crystal ball was but it does have a deep smoky quality.

1602 John Dee gold disc

John Dee – Gold Magical Disc

The gold disc is engraved with a vision of four castles seen by his medium Edward Kelly  and the notations and scripts of an Enochain Code devised by John Dee as a system of communication with angels.

1602 John Dee 1

Painting by Henry Gillard Glindoni

Even today John Dee surprises us  – an x-ray of a Victorian painting showing Dee in the court of Queen Elizabeth I reveals him to be performing within a circle of skulls which were painted over and hidden but are beginning to emerge as the chemical composition of the paint changes with time.

1602 john dee skulls 1

I leant about another medieval mystic and polymath from Professor Christopher Page at a lecture at St Sepulchre-Without -Newgate, Holborn – The Mystery of Women part of his series of discussions on Music, imagination and experience in the Medieval World. The remarkable abbess Hildegard of Bingen claimed to see visions and receive spiritual communications from an early age and that it was baptism in the Pentecostal tongues of fire which taught her the mysteries of the faith and enabled her to write her rapturous music and Latin verse. Education was denied to girls at this time as was much of civic and religious life so perhaps claiming divine intervention gave her authority to write, compose and involve herself in scientific research without condemnation.

1602 Hildegard_von_Bingen

Illumination from the Liber Scivias showing Hildegard receiving a vision

 

The Elmgreen and Dragset exhibition Self-Portraits at Victoria Miro was a sideways look at the proliferation of the selfie and the impossibility of capturing a persona. Looking for other ways to visualise a memory they looked for a trigger to an image in the mind.

1601 ElmGreen and Dragset

Choosing personally significant artworks they elevated the exhibition label to permanent tribute in marble – in memoriam, a gravestone.

Memories are left with other people. We just leave our bones. I visited Carol Wyss at The Montage where she had a show with fellow Slade graduate Tessa Holmes.

1601 Carol Wyss (2)

Carol Wyss

Carol’s deep and rich large etchings are flowers carefully constructed from human bones.

1601 Carol Wyss (1)

Carol Wyss

In the simple height differences of charred paper tubes in Past Future Qin Chong gives a blunt reminder that some of us burn out faster than others.

1601 Venice Qin Chong (1)

Qin Chong Past Future

I unexpectedly found myself with a ticket to Here We Go a short play about death by Caryl Churchill at the National Theatre. Divided into three scenes it opens with a funeral wake and the staccato abbreviated and truncated conversations that pass amongst family and strangers  on such occasions. There were sharp one liners and at intervals each person turned to the audience to state their future time and means of death. We then move to a darkened stage and the recently deceased bare chested old man who is in a state of confusion as to his whereabouts, backtracking through his past beliefs to find a footing to explain his predicament.

1601 here we go 2

The play was insightful, funny and touching. It was also a brave production especially the last scene which proceeds in silence as a care worker methodically undresses and dresses our protagonist from pyjamas to day wear and back again as he painfully shuffles on his walker from bed to chair and chair to bed in the interminable routine that had become his life before death.

1601 here we go

He gazes helplessly out at the audience as the stage lights grow almost imperceptibly dimmer until blackness ensues.

1601 Susan Hiller 3

From our material remains to our spiritual engagement Susan Hiller’s exhibition at Lisson embraced the portrayal of the paranormal, the unconscious and subliminal desire for a world beyond logic. Entering a ritualised arena we witness successive examples of the psychic powers of children taken from popular films.

1601 Susan Hiller 4

Alchemical flasks hold the cremated ashes of paintings.

A stitched canvas makes me think of the construction of space, how we image it and how we collage it together from fragments of knowledge.

1601 Susan Hiller 5

Susan Hiller

My lightbox Entrance was showing at the exhibition Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say at Lights of Soho selected by Robert Montgomery.

1602 entrance 2

It was a great setting for this work in the underground cavern bar. Contemplating the other side. A traffic warden considering the possibility of angels.

1601 Entrance

Susan Eyre Entrance

entrance n. 1. an opening allowing access. 2. an act of entering. 3. the right, means, or opportunity to enter.

entrance v. fill with wonder and delight. >cast a spell on.

1601 Yellow Sky 1

Susan Eyre Yellow Sky

I also had Yellow Sky showing here which is more about looking for refuge and reliance on a controlled environment, the other side of the apocalypse. Both pieces sold which is always a mixture of delight that someone has responded so positively to your work and mild grieving at losing something you had brought into the world.

Arriving rather late for International Lawns Field Trip No.7 at Domo Baal Gallery I felt I had missed the party. Great poster image by Craig Burnett.

1601 international-lawns-field-trip-no7-2015-domobaalBut I did hear the fantastical tale delivered by a dead pan  Jonathan Meades which as best as I can recall was of a French political activist, drug addict, convict turned business and policy advisor who died crashing his high spec car on route to give an after dinner speech while over the limit on the very best of French wine.

Daniel Rubenstein’s paper Graven Images: Photography after Heidegger, Lyotard and Deleuze aimed to have us consider the latent image, the image held in some kind of stasis as yet to be brought to life. To be made visible. To explain the idea of a latent image he told us the story of the Swedish expedition to the North Pole in 1897.

1602 Swedish Balloon Explorers

Pioneering balloonist S. A. Andrée envisaged a plan to restore the national pride of Sweden in the race to the North Pole and artic discovery. Setting off in a hydrogen balloon the three explorers hoped to avoid weeks of hard slog over the treacherous landscape and at the same time make cartographic observations of the terrain from the sky. Unfortunately they soon were lost and their fate remained a mystery for over 30 years until their frozen corpses were discovered by walrus hunters on the island of Kvitøya, the most remote island of the Svalbard archipelago.

1602 Swedish Balloon Crash 1897Found with the bodies were a number of exposed frames of film. Despite the terrible plight they found themselves in crashing on an uninhabited ice cap with no means of communication they continued to document their journey with images that then lay dormant for the intervening years.

1602 Swedish expedition Strindberg

Daniel Rubenstein is interested in this state when an image is held as index, as possibility before its transformation in becoming visible to us. To make the photograph the index must be washed away – from negative to positive – something had to die. He sees the latent image as the third space, the space of the void, the nothingness that Heidegger questions. A metaphysical state. He reminds us that what makes us think is not objects but encounters.

Advertisements