Archives for posts with tag: ritual

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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I have been working hard on my new piece everydaymatters.

Within an ordinary space are hidden the building blocks of the structure of the universe – intangible and unseen. I am exploring the similarities in our search for a spiritual encounter and the urge to understand the origins of our universe.

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The RCA Second Year MA interim show at Café Gallery Projects in Southwark Park was a chance to test out ideas to take forward for the upcoming final show.

It was also a chance to be in the park in early morning sunshine with the first hints of spring in the air and the sounds of waterfowl and birdsong.

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This bird is a bronze ornament seen in the antique shop at the corner of Paradise Walk in Chelsea, a bit of imported tropicalia. I used images taken around the various paradise locations I visit that I felt had some connection to an idea of paradise; exotic birds, palm trees, sunshine, plants, spiritual reflections.

It had been a marathon of screen printing to get my work ready in time for Café Gallery; 6 mirrored circles to print with 11 layers on each one.

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With no straight edges to register to and often printing black on black it felt impossible at times to line it all up. The mirrored surfaces are very vulnerable so I  became rather precious about the whole thing.

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The fear that the structures I had ready to hold the circles may just lean to one side or even topple over once the mirror was attached added to the stress and my heart was thumping when I finally slotted the circles over the steel upright. It was an exhausting experience and a huge relief to find they stood straight. (like sentinels – thanks Zoe)

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Placing the bowls with the disperse images at the base of the stands was a last minute decision but it suddenly seemed that they belonged there to complete the work. One image of the everyday scattered into matter, dark and otherwise, and one paradisiacal image hovering illusively, both are about looking for something, an aura, an understanding of origins.

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In my crit there were comments about the small punctum of colour being an entry point to the work, a little view of the world or another world. Of being drawn into the image, looking through the surface and finding yourself absorbed into the work. The slightly runic quality of the placement looking religious or ritualistic but also having a cinematic quality. Exploded moments of arrested movement. The idea of trying to solidify a glimmer of a partial thought.

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The Sarah Sze exhibition at Victoria Miro fully repaid the effort required to traipse over there in a bitter wind. The first gallery downstairs was all grids and space, a bit like Tron, creating mazes of perspective as line and depth moved as you circumnavigated.

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Sarah Sze

So much detail, held together by dashes of  repeating colour. The long studio where Siobhan Davies dancers used to limber up was strewn with lichen crusted boulders in vibrant shades.

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Sarah Sze

Some real, some not. Finally the grand arena upstairs laid out a response to all matter and all questions.

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Sarah Sze

The Times newspaper, the everyday, a record of time passing with every image scalpeled out, leaving a high definition replacement showing the real news; the elements, the forces of nature. Ice, fire, earth all spotlit in the grand experiment of life.

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Sarah Sze

Stripped back to basics, revealing the true beauty and complexity of the universe. Everyone who saw the show was awed and everyone felt it spoke to them and their practice.

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Sarah Sze

Back at school there was a general consensus that Sarah Sze has cracked it, should we even bother to continue our pursuits.

The French writer Xavier de Maistre suggested back in 1790 in his essay ‘Journey Around My Bedroom’ that is was possible to enjoy the thrill of discovery without having to embark on a long voyage, travel to foreign parts or even leave the confines of your own room. To look with tourists eyes upon the familiar would reveal hitherto unnoticed phenomena offering an equally rich experience.

I have recently been playing the tourist on my visits to Paradise Row in Bethnal Green and Paradise Passage which runs alongside Paradise Park in Holloway.

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Delighted to discover an appropriate spiritual behest above a more direct pursuit of happiness in one frame

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and a personal reminder of old bosses from chefing days – Balls Brothers legacy

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Paradise Passage is worth a visit at dusk

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for the ethereal light of the sports pitches

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turning Holloway into holiday destination

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Any exhibition involving Esther Teichmann is going to be a sensual experience. We Come From the Water at Jonathan Miles new project space/gallery Lychee 1 submerses you in its dialogues like the water it speaks of in terms of a weight, an origin.

Esther Teichmann

Esther Teichmann

It was wonderful to encounter Chantal Faust’s work for the first time, her Plantlife series is stunning.

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Chantal Faust

Carol Mavor weaves language and image to create weighted slippery moments.

Had the pleasure of attending Mark Ferelli’s Magic Lantern Show : Devil Daddy

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A ritual flame is brought to light the oil burner of a nineteenth century magic lantern.  A twist of fume travels out the painted tin chimney as a slow disc of warm, broad light illuminates on screen.  Within its orbit develops the image of a ruined chapel, alone, deep in the hills of a cruel heath-land landscape stricken by winter.

Weaving original film stills, contemporary location shots, bird song and spoken word, Ferelli re-imagines both time and setting of the ‘lost’ british folk horror film classic ‘Blood on Satan’s Claw’ (g.b.1970) evoking, prompting, the ethereal return of the film’s central character, ‘Angel Blake’, seductress, priestess and idiot savant to the monstrous, blood-thirsty hunger of an old pagan god. The ritual operation of lantern image, sound and spoken text navigate uneasy layers of simultaneity, born of the past film location and ever present film story, a performance crossing this uncanny landscape.

This event was prefaced by a selection of Edison’s Black Maria films and an excerpt from Hans Jurgen Syberberg’s 1977 seven and a half hour epic, Hitler: A Film From Germany.

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Hans Jürgen Syberberg Hitler – A film from Germany

I may never get beyond the opening credits of this surreal film but was captivated by the romantic backdrop and the voiceover which sets the premise on which the film evolves as an investigation into evil and guilt stating that if man is offered any amount of material wealth or the paradise of the imagination he will always choose paradise even when he knows it is false.

Our relationship to nature is close to the heart of one of my classmates, Gloria Ceballos who has just had an impressive solo show – Nature: a cultural artefact open at the Instituto Cervantes. Her work explores our experiences of nature in an urban environment focusing on the idea of three natures. 

Gloria Ceballos The Three Natures

Gloria Ceballos The Three Natures

I was recently asked by a male visitor at an exhibition if spiritual concerns were predominantly a female pursuit.

For Ana Mendieta in the 1970’s when a lot of land art was being made by artists such as Robert Smithson she felt her works were more spiritual and in tune with nature as opposed to the brutality of the industrial spirit. She left little trace in the landscape unlike her male contemporaries who were interested in the earth as material. She was interested in the earth’s sensual qualities, exploring the primary relationship of humanity with the earth as mother.  Through tapping into the ancient spirits of a primordial age and using the same elements of earth, fire and blood in her art as her ancestors used in their rituals she hoped to infuse her work with power and magic. She was often aligned with feminist and goddess groups but held firm that her work should not be tethered to gender issues, it was more universal.

Exploring the complexity of the female perspective today Disturbance was an exhibition culminating on International Women’s Day featuring Hermione Allsop, Alexandra Drawbridge, AnnaMaria Kardos, Paula MacArthur, Kate Murdoch, Mitra Saboury, Wendy Saunders, Susan Sluglett and Geraldine Swayne at Atom Gallery in Finsbury Park.

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Kate Murdoch

Kate Murdoch’s silent gathering bears witness to those unheard voices from the past when a girl was not expected to speak out.

My time at the RCA will soon be over. It’s been an incredible experience that I never imagined I would participate in.

After spending last summer wholly immersed in writing my dissertation I have had the honour of receiving a distinction. It wasn’t an easy birth so it’s really rewarding to find my energies were worthwhile and I ended up with something I can be proud of that will be archived at the Royal College of Art.

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The visions of paradise that we conjure in our imaginations will be influenced by our culture, personal aspirations and spiritual beliefs but however paradise manifests itself in our consciousness it will symbolize the promise of bliss.

Formed from joining the ancient Iranian words pairi, ‘around’ and daêza, ‘wall’, paradise was first used to describe a walled enclosure. Over time its meaning expanded to include the landscaped parks local nobles created to hunt animals trapped within their walls. These royal parks were lavishly planted with beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers and so paradise came to refer to any delightful garden. Ultimately used as epithet for the Garden of Eden, imagined as the most exquisite garden of them all,  its meaning became ever more sacred, taking on the very idea of Heaven itself.

Also I have met some personal challenges so am feeling good about that too.

One of the reasons I initially hesitated over applying to the RCA was the knowledge that as part of the MA I would be sent on a teaching placement. This terrifying possibility is now in the past. I went to Manchester School of Art and was made very welcome.

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My fears were unfounded and I was able to give a talk and tutorials which although an intense and exhausting experience was not the horrific one I imagined it would be. So I feel ready now to set a new challenge.