Archives for posts with tag: Myth

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.

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“the lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time”

Sir Edward Grey, foreign secretary 1914

Ryoji Ikeda Spectra

Ryoji Ikeda Spectra

Seven days of light piercing the London sky to commemorate the anniversary of WWI

Ryoji Ikeda Spectra

Ryoji Ikeda Spectra

Artangel commission by Ryoji Ikeda acted as the beacon it represented

Ryoji Ikeda Spectra

Ryoji Ikeda Spectra

We are drawn to the light

I have been writing and reading about James Turrell for my dissertation. His use of light as medium for his work is poetic and magical.

James Turrell - Roden Crater

James Turrell – Roden Crater

Light is the materialization of energy. We are naturally eaters of light, our whole body is scattered with stray rods and cones outside of the retinal area which makes our relationship to light very primal.

Our bodies are made from matter fed by the fruits of photosynthesis.

Luckily we don’t suffer instant death like all the moths and flying insects

Ryoji Ikeda Spectra

Ryoji Ikeda Spectra

but it was a chance to think about the brutality of war and those that did suffer a terrible fate

With all that is happening now in Palestine, Iraq, Ukraine and elsewhere those words spoken a hundred years ago resonate, what progress have we made

when will the lamps be lit again

Social adhesion was a topic in our discussions during a workshop run by Sean Lynch at Flat Time House.

Flat Time House was the studio home of John Latham  who died in 2006. Before he died he declared the house a living sculpture, naming it FTHo after his theory of time, ‘Flat Time’.

Flat Time House aims to make a wider audience aware of Latham’s work and ideas, his spirit of discovery, and through his example to understand and appreciate the crucial role of art and the artist in society.

Starting from a series of photographs of Bellenden Road taken by John Latham in 1986 a weekend workshop led by the generous and entertaining artist Sean Lynch aimed to speculate about how urban space and environment is constructed, and what allegories and associations we can draw from it. It was purely about discussion of ideas and sharing stories. Sean’s own work is about urban environments and interventions, looking at the crafts people involved in construction as well as how art is received within a community. He has extensive knowledge of the O’Shea brothers who were stone carvers in Oxford revered at one moment and shunned the next. Details of his exhibition on the subject at Modern Art Oxford here

Sean is brimming with idiosyncratic stories gleaned from newspapers or local characters telling of encounters with faeries and magic bushes or pub crawls as performance art.

1409 vandals

Sean also talked about Robert Smithson who went to Mexico and was captivated by the delapidation of his hotel rather than the Mayan Ruins that most people would expect to be the focus of such an expedition.

Read the enigmatic essay ‘Yucatan is Elsewhere’ at this link – essay

Reminded me of visiting the ruins of a hotel on the Azores earlier this year

1409 Azores

For the workshop we were asked to bring along our own thoughts on public space.

I read a section from my in progress dissertation about my visit to Paradise Industrial Estate.

1409 paradise

We went for a couple of walks around Peckham looking at the local architecture and the council interventions.

1409 Bellenden Road

We were joined on one walk by vocal local campaigner Eileen Conn who has a dream for a new society based on community and gave us the low down on the Bellenden Road area make over.

John Latham’s wife Barbara turned up too with more stories.

1409 Peckham Mural (2)

We walked down to the green to look at where in the 1760’s William Blake had his vision of shining angels in the tree.

For a local community project Artist, The Guy – created a mural on the side of a house for the Dulwich Festival 1993 with the help of local volunteers.

 1409 Peckham Mural (1)

Great news –  Sean Lynch will be representing Ireland at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

Also interested in how the values of society are articulated in public spaces is 2014 RCA graduate James Seow.

His beautiful inked etching plates on show at Anise Gallery depict iconic public squares such as 9/11 Memorial Plaza, Tiananmen Square and Paternoster Square in extruded structural form giving them the aura of sacred space.

James Seow  Always Feel Safe

James Seow Always feel safe…

The gallery exhibits chosen artists that capture architecture through a variety of architectural forms.

1409 neoprintprize

Delighted to have work selected by Gordon Cheung, Paul Coldwell, David Cleaton-Roberts and Eileen Cooper for the neo:print prize in Bolton.

Paradise Road SW4

Paradise Road SW4

A great team of selectors so feel really proud.

An extra bonus was to win an award sponsored by Hawthorn Printmaker Supplies for my etching ‘Forest of Eden’

Forest of Eden

Forest of Eden

Rei Matsushima who has just graduated from the RCA also won a prize for her wonderful print ‘Mentaiko (cod roe)’

Rei Matsushima

Rei Matsushima

A series of events were held as a celebration of ‘Myth’ at the Royal Opera House.

The ‘breath of life’ and ‘the sacred fire within’ could be experienced through yoga in the great hall

1409 ROH

A screening of the stunning film interpretation of Leda and the Swan featuring Eric Underwood and Claire Calvert dancing in Richmond Park

Leda and The  Swan

The Indifferent Beak

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still

Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed

By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill, He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

 

How can those terrified vague fingers push

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?

And how can body, laid in that white rush,

But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

 

A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and tower

And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,

Did she put on his knowledge with his power

Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

 

Inspired by Yeats 1923 poem, choreographer Charlotte Edmonds wanted to convey the entwining bodies and passion of the encounter

Leda and the Swan

The Indifferent Beak

Matt Collishaw also sought to convey burning passions

Matt Collishaw

Matt Collishaw

The dangers of desire.

Bill Viola gave us suffering for transcendence.

Bill Viola - Fire Martyr

Bill Viola – Fire Martyr

Andrea Büttner is interested in ideas of spirituality on a quieter scale.

The ‘Little Works’  of the Carmelite nuns of Notting Hill, ‘The Little Way’ of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a carmelite saint which influenced the delicate drawings of Gwen John.

Noticing the small and lowly she makes connections between the humility of the nuns with the unobtrusive yet persistent spreading of moss.

Lives lived in the background.

She discussed her ideas with insightful curator Chus Martinez, Head of the Art Institute, Basel at Tate Britain. She was launching her book Hidden Marriages which draws inspiration from the National Museum of Wales collection of drawings by Gwen John (1876–1939) and the extensive collection of mosses preserved in its herbarium.

Much of her work makes connections between art history and social or ethical issues, with a particular interest in notions of poverty, shame, vulnerability and sexuality, and the belief systems that underpin them. Although working a hundred years apart, Gwen John and Andrea Büttner share an interest in the spiritual, social and aesthetic notions of ‘littleness.’

Mosses fall under the term cryptogam (meaning hidden sexuality). Moss is also described as a ‘lower plant’— implying a lesser, or more primitive, evolutionary development than flowering or ‘higher plants.’ Hidden Marriages: Gwen John and Moss draws these two seemingly unconnected collection areas together, making links between the reproductive processes of ‘lower plants’ and the contested sexuality of Gwen John; between littleness as an aesthetic, biological, and social discourse; between the scientific ordering of the Museum and the harmony and beauty that John sought in her work; and, ultimately, the way institutions ascribe relative importance to objects, ideas and people.

Büttner makes large woodcuts about lowly things like tents.

Andrea Buttner Tent

Andrea Büttner Tent

She said she views her woodcuts almost as brochures or advertisements to her videos.

Andrea Büttner Piano

Andrea Büttner Piano

She had some great duo scope images on slides and in her book of moss collectors intently surveying the ground, heads down, eyes lowered, kneeling as though in prayer

1306 Moss