Archives for posts with tag: Susan Hiller

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.

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The myth of the wild man stretches back to the ancient tablets inscribed with the tale of Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality. As a barometer of the mores of society the wild man’s characteristics reflect topical fears and aspirations. If society is perceived to be corrupt the wild man symbolises natural wisdom, if society embraces convention the wild man represents anarchy. His character can also be assessed from the landscape he purportedly inhabits, a pastoral setting reveals an ideal to be strived for whereas the dark forest conceals the untamed savage.

Forest of Eden

Susan Eyre Forest of Eden

I wanted to discover a female counterpart to the contemporary wild man (an internet meme) I had placed back in the ancient forest.

Rather than a female on the edge of society I wanted a female at the centre of society.

Wondering who a contemporary goddess might be I was introduced to Bernadette by a mutual friend.

I spent some time with Bernadette, listening to her stories.  She is very proactive person in the local community and has had an impact as a campaigner for the Green Fair, uplifting some dark neglected spaces with vibrant mosaics, and more recently setting up the choir Shakti Sings recognisable in red with flowers in their hair who honour the earth through song and have become a mainstay at Glastonbury encouraging the crowds to keep the site clean. She has also established the Beacon Temple as a place of worship to honour the many goddesses in her own home. She kindly agreed to my taking some photos of her at home which I have used as basis for work focusing on connections between ancient spiritual beliefs and contemporary society. Her spiritual life requires that she gives up stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine as well as any contact with money. One of her missions is to uncover and document the ancient sites of goddess worship that have become hidden within the palimpsest of the city. The goddess Isis cropped up a lot in our conversations and so for one piece I used imagery from the ancient temple to Isis at Philae in Egypt, placing Bernadette within the sphere of the ancients yet maintaining her contemporary domesticity with her carpet and slippers. I was inspired by the exhibition Mirror City at the Hayward Gallery which refers to Jean Cocteau’s Film Orphée and the significance of a mirror as a portal to another world.

Considering Bernadette’s positioning as a portal between this world and the spirit world I screenprinted onto mirrored acrylic.

I am a portal

Susan Eyre I am a portal

In a second piece of work I took inspiration from the storytelling of Xanthe Gresham-Knight who weaves tales of ancient mythology into contemporary scenarios.  I used images conjured from her goddess tales such as the song of the white snake and the ear of corn she gives out at the end of her performances combined with wall paintings from Bernadette’s home to weave together the ancient with the everyday in a rich multi layered screenprint worthy of a goddess.

Her

Susan Eyre Her

At the RCA I was extremely lucky to be selected to have a masterclass with Susan Hiller who coincidently featured in the Mirror City exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. I have appreciated her work for a long time and share many of her interests.  It was an exciting and nerve wracking proposition to present my work to her. I had prepared a 10 minute power point as requested but after attending her lecture the week before felt this wasn’t perhaps the approach she would approve of. She seemed to find both the Powerpoint presentation and her in conversation partner for the lecture irritating. With her depth and breadth of experience she was going to be a difficult woman to impress.

She began by telling me that she finds printmaking to be an unsatisfactory medium to convey ideas. As I stuttered though my presentation I could feel her impatience growing.

I had used a favourite quote from artist Sergio Vega

“the concrete texture of perspiration” [ ] “that intimate battle with humidity – the monumentality of spaces, the exuberance of vegetation with that smell of ripe fruits, the exotic flowers in the never-ending heat, those sunburned colours, and the buzzing of mosquitoes, which, like fat angels of a tropical rococo, rue without mercy in the sky of Eden.”

She stopped me there and asked how the work I have produced so far addressed this problem of conveying such an experience.

I admitted I had not so far resolved this issue but have been thinking about this since. Sergio Vega also struggles with the problem of conveying an atmosphere, for example an experience of the forest rather than a depiction of the forest. The thing about the Tropicalia exported in the rococo style was its cleanness, its reduction to aesthetic – the mosquitoes  were not exported too. In his work Vega aims to show the sweat, the grotesque dictatorships, the poverty. It may not be possible to show all this in one piece of work but in a body of work over time maybe some of these issues can be addressed, even in printmaking. This is my challenge.

It was wonderful to spend a morning with Susan Hiller, she has an amazing mind – acute and resourceful. She did see a glimmer of hope in my etching Paradise HP2 and also in the spectrum print that was a chance discovery along the way.

Susan Eyre

Susan Eyre

Stephanie Rosenthal the curator of Mirror City describes the mirror as an unreal space, a virtual space like the world behind the screen where we spend more and more time. There was a lot of information to take in at this extensive show so the magical simplicity of Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq’s imaginings of objects from other worlds was memorable and his intense geometric black hole did pull you in.

Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq Black Hole III

Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq Black Hole III

Susan Hiller’s audio-visual installation Resounding (Infrared) relayed earthly accounts of possible extra terrestrial sightings mingled with recordings of static still audible from the big bang while the screen quivered and pulsed with coloured light waves.

Susan Hiller Resounding (infrared)

Susan Hiller Resounding (infrared)

The theatrical setting for Tai Shani’s performance pieces was set behind glass creating a sort of time capsule effect.

Tai Shani Dark Continent

Tai Shani Dark Continent

A world we cannot enter only dream of. In Dark Continent she fantasizes a utopian city of women, different characters in history represented by the Neanderthal Hermaphrodite, The Medieval Mystic and The Woman on the Edge of Time, all bearing the same face.

Tai Shani Dark Continent

Tai Shani Dark Continent

A pink fantasy of a genderless society.

Inspired to learn more about medieval mystics I signed up for an RCA reading group with Tai Shani. The text we were looking at was a section from Amy Hollywood, ‘Mysticism, Trauma, and catastrophe in Angela of Foligno’s Book and Bataille’s Atheological Summa’. Bataille identifies with Angela and seeks to experience the ecstasy she purports  to achieve  from a concentrated identification with the suffering of Christ on the cross.

Excerpt from the text …

It is impossible for me to read – at least most books. I don’t have the desire. Too much work tires me. My nerves are shattered. I get drunk a lot. I feel faithful to life if I eat and drink what I want. Life is an enchantment, a feast, a festival: an oppressing, unintelligible dream, adorned nevertheless with a charm that I enjoy. The sentiment of chance demands that I look a difficult fate in the face. It would not be about chance if there were not an incontestable madness. I began to read, standing on a crowded train, Angela of Foligno’ s Book of Visions. I’m copying it out, not knowing how to say how fiercely I burn  – the veil is torn in two, I emerge from the fog in which my impotence flails. (OC V 245; G 11)

Bataille opens his exploration of ecstatic anguish at the moment when World War II begins and claims that the war itself necessitates his text. Bataille finds his own tormented desire the very anguish that compels him to write reflected in Angela’s pages. Angela, the most important of the Christian mystics for Bataille, surpasses him in the pursuit of abjection and ecstasy.  He wants to be like her in her desire for and proximity to death: “I suffer from not myself burning to the point of coming close to death, so close that I inhale it like the breath of a loved being” (Oe V 246; G 12).

The discussion revolves around the idea of the rapture and how this ultimate dissolution of self over to ecstasy might be achieved.

Anselm Keifer had a major exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. I find his work very inspiring, the scale and exuberance of his paintings carved from the substance of the earth with all the pain and trauma of geological and social evolution. The gallery guide tells us he seeks to understand our purpose here on earth, our relationship with the celestial, the spiritual, and the weight of human history. He also has a fascination with the civilization of Mesopotamia and the story of Osiris and Isis.

1412 keifer Osiris and Isis

Anselm Kiefer, Osiris and Isis, 1985-87

At the summit of the pyramid is an extruded old television circuit board emanating golden wires and shards of pottery over the ancient steps to heaven.

I was intrigued by his use of geometry and references to ancient beliefs and mythologies.

Anselm Kiefer, The Rhine (Melancholia) (Der Rhein (Melancholia)), 1982-2013. Collage of woodcut on canvas with acrylic and shellac

Anselm Kiefer, The Rhine (Melancholia) (Der Rhein (Melancholia)), 1982-2013.
Collage of woodcut on canvas with acrylic and shellac

The Rhine (Melancholia) references Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia, an engraving dated from 1514 which appears to lay before us clues to the puzzles of the universe.

1412 Durur Melencolia

Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia

It was encouraging to hear Christiane Baumgartner talk about her work at Alan Cristea Gallery in such a down to earth manner, giving credence to intuition in her feel for colour and composition. She takes photographs of her TV screen and through diligence of process captures the flickering screen in a frozen moment. In her series Totentanz she witnesses the smoky death dance of a plane shot from the sky. Her work holds melancholia within it.

Christiane Baumgartner Totentanz 2013 series of 15 woodcuts on paper

Christiane Baumgartner Totentanz 2013 series of 15 woodcuts on paper

She seemed surprised herself to discover so much of her work references the war. Often her images may appear innocuous without their title which is what ultimately adds the layer of pathos removing it from sentimentality.

Chrisitane Baumgartner Wood near Colditz

Chrisitane Baumgartner Wood near Colditz

It is interesting how subtle shifts in the colour of paper and ink can change the atmosphere of an image. For the softground etching of the Chapel of Rest in Paradise Industrial Estate, Hemel Hempstead  I found a soft grey paper worked well with chine collé added over the windows. The grainy etching aged the building and using a lustre powder on the chine collé  reflecting opalescent when viewed at different angles gave the interior an other worldly aura that felt appropriate.

1412 Paradise HP2

Susan Eyre Paradise HP2

 

I aimed to take a piece of soulless architecture and give it some gravitas worthy of a resting place for souls.

 

 

1309 Palazzo Zenobio

Space, a nebulous concept, we tend to like to measure and quantify it.

1309 goal

Marking out a space for a purpose.

The Icelandic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale investigated architectural drawings to contrast the function of a workplace  with the opulence of leisure pursuits.

One blueprint is placed over another.

Katrin Sigurdardottir 'Foundation'

Katrin Sigurdardottir ‘Foundation’

Using the site of an old laundry in the grounds of Palazzo Zenobia, Katrin Sigurdardottir imposes an ornate tiled floor with opposing dimensions into the structure of the former workplace.

Katrin Sigurdardottir 'Foundation'

Katrin Sigurdardottir ‘Foundation’

The swirling baroque inspired patterned floor spills out from the old foundations.

Katrin Sigurdardottir 'Foundation'

Katrin Sigurdardottir ‘Foundation’

The audience is directed through the space by the curiosity to explore the openings and exits that lead through the building and up onto the roof.

It is an Alice in Wonderland experience of displacement.

It also makes you think of the people that worked in the laundry and those that danced on such a floor, and how those disparate worlds may have intersected.

At the Montenegro Pavillion Irene Lagator Pejovic has not drawn a line around space but filled it up with the finest wires strung taught across the dark room and lit so as to appear ethereal.

Irena Lagator Pejovic

Irena Lagator Pejovic

It gives the impression of making light itself tangible.

Irena Lagator Pejovic

Irena Lagator Pejovic

She wants us to think about perceptual awareness, to be conscious of our body in space.

One of my favourite exhibitions which really defined space through line was ‘A remote whisper’ from Portuguese artist Pedro Cabrita Reis.

Pedro Cabrita Reis

Pedro Cabrita Reis

Drawings in space.

Pedro Cabrita Reis

Pedro Cabrita Reis

Aluminium tubes, fluorescent lights and cables flow through the corridors and rooms of Palazzo Falier adding a new vibrancy to the magnificent ancient building.

Another artist using the fluorescent tube as a drawn line is Bill Culbert for the New Zealand Pavilion.

A sculptural meditation on shelter, habitation and dwelling.

Bill Culbert

Bill Culbert

It was a building shot through with light, like a ricochetting laser beam had caused havoc, piercing and displacing objects in its path.

Bill Culbert

Bill Culbert

I was interested in his use of recycled plastics.

Bill Culbert

Bill Culbert

The catalogue accompanying this exhibition cites the historic image of Adam’s Hut in Paradise as a possible point of reference  for Bill Culbert’s Hut, made in Christchurch.

Bill Culbert Hut

Bill Culbert Hut, made in Christchurch

I had a quick look to see what references I could find about this mythic hut, there is a book called On Adam’s House in Paradise by Joseph Rykwert that looks like it could be interesting.

It has a look back through history to try and trace the first ideas about a place of dwelling.

Christchurch being the site where many buildings were recently destroyed by earthquakes for me it looks like a memorial to those buildings that fell.

The bare bones of a structure, no roof, no walls – the space that once held a dwelling marked out in light .

Susan Hiller was showing her series of photographs The Secrets of Sunset Beach at Timothy Taylor Gallery in an exhibition looking at interpretations of the American Landscape.

Susan Hiller Secrets of Sunset Beach

Susan Hiller Secrets of Sunset Beach

Through the use of projected light these spaces become magical, alive with weird hieroglyphs.

Susan Hiller

Susan Hiller

The inner space of the beach hut mirrors the dappling of sunlight outside.

Planes are distorted and the edges of space become blurred.

Had another chance to see the amazing work of Jane Ward.

These two images are a couple of favourites.

Jane Ward Inland

Jane Ward Inland

Space is not so much delineated as exploded.

Jane Ward In the Bay Shining

Jane Ward In the Bay Shining

What is wonderful about Jane’s work is that it works from a distance, a spectacle of dissolving worlds but it also works up close where the minute detail is crisp and intricate.

They look like landscapes from The Fifth Element where flying cars would come in handy.

I have been working on the more local urban landscape of the roundabout.

Following directions, a flow.

Collagraph Prints

Collagraph Prints

These was a meagre tree on the roundabout – an attempt at a green oasis in the grey. I did have the tree in the first collagraph I made but have removed it. It needed to be intaglio not relief – something to bear in mind for next time I want clear dark lines with no ink pooling around the edges.

Collagraph plate

Collagraph plate

I also ended up cutting the collagraph so the sky was printed separately. I have to decide which print to use for the tear across the surface. Opening a space to fantasy. I have had the ‘paradise’ image printed which will go behind the collagraph print once it is transferred to polyester – only a small fragment will show but because the tear will be random I have had it printed full size. Even though most of the image won’t be shown I think it is important it is there.

1309 paradise