Archives for posts with tag: William Blake

We have our second venue confirmed and the first of our funding applications submitted for Laboratory of Dark Matters.

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I have been to see the lovely people at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum who will be hosting our exhibition from July to September 2017.

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We are very pleased to be able to install Laboratory of Dark Matters so close to Boulby Mine, in the North East of England. This is a working mine that is also home to the underground laboratory we visited in spring to see for ourselves where scientists conduct research into dark matter and other projects that benefit from this extreme environment.

Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum has secured funding for major expansion over the next year with the whole site being redeveloped. This period of change gives us the opportunity to be inventive with the spaces that are available.

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Chatting with our dark matter consultant astro-physicist Dr. Cham Ghag about the different work the artists will be making for Laboratory of Dark Matters I was explaining my own interest in the symbolism Plato assigned to the dodecahedron as the shape that holds the constellations in the heavens and how I might use this as a metaphor for dark matter as the substance holding the universe together;

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Cham recommended I read some essays by Erwin Schrödinger that explore the thoughts of ancients and how they have gone on to impact our understanding of the universe. As Roger Penrose says in his forward to Nature and the Greeks and Science and Humanism ‘Schrödinger clearly believes that there is more to the study of ancient history than mere factual curiosity and a concern with the origins of present-day thinking.’  He is looking back to a time before science and the metaphysical parted company and set out on different paths to answer the same questions about matter and consciousness. Schrödinger explains the history of this rift and the consequences of separating reason from the senses; the paradox of an objective perspective and the limitations of science that excludes the imagination. I read What is Life? followed by Nature and the Greeks, while in Greece which seemed appropriate.

I also read Plato A Very Short Introduction by Julia Annas and have learnt more about his ideas and what was really meant by platonic relationships.

Plato was very concerned about what it meant to have knowledge and how people can be misled or manipulated by others.  From this standpoint he was not keen on the theatre or the popular epic poetry of the time that used seductive methods to persuade an audience of things that were not true. 1610-amphitheatre

He believed philosophy was a search for truth and his academy was a place to learn how to think for oneself through debate and come to your own conclusions. Not great as an artist to find Plato had no time to indulge the imagination but going back over what he was saying I think he had a valid concern over the sort of entertainment that is spoon fed to society and becomes part of a culture that then has influence on the way people live. It is the pap of the media that does not challenge but anaesthetises society. I am hoping he would approve of our endeavours to question the origins of faith and our relationship to matter.

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Visiting Athens I had the opportunity to experience the majesty of the Parthenon and Temple of Zeus while trying to imagine the people I was reading about spending their days here debating the most fundamental and difficult questions about existence.

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An interest in history and archaeology led the progressive and pioneering Gertrude Bell, born 1868 in County Durham in the North East, to visit and fall in love with the lands and people of the middle east. She led an extraordinary life at the centre of middle eastern politics at a time when women were rarely conceded any powers at all. Letters From Baghdad, premiering at the London Film Festival, was a moving portrayal of her life told in her own words and those of her contemporaries recorded in evocative letters and archive film footage. This wonderful tribute to a woman previously written out of history was researched and directed by Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbühl, founders of  Between the Rivers Productions, a name derived from the ancient word “Mesopotamia.”

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Another brilliant film documentary was Dawson City: Frozen Time; the bizarre true history of a collection of around 500 silver nitrate movie films from the 1910s – 1920s, which were lost for over 50 years until being discovered buried in a sub-arctic swimming pool deep in the Yukon Territory.

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Meticulously brought to us by Bill Morrison, clips from the reclaimed  films form the backdrop to the history of Dawson City, a once important hunting and fishing camp for a nomadic First Nation tribe known as Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in that became the centre of the Klondike gold rush displacing the native people as the area was swamped with 100,000 prospectors hoping to make their fortune.

The talk Going Round in Circles – from the roundabout to the quark delivered at Manchester University and the RCA as part of the final year of my MA programme was a reflection on the development of my practice and brought home the themes that repeat themselves within my work.

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The circle appears in the  banality of a grey suburban roundabout that seemed a metaphor for a routine existence, becoming a catalyst in the search for paradise and its origins of Pairi Daêza and going on to question the matter that these dreams are made of.

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William Blake The Ancient of Days frontispiece to Europe a Prophecy depicting Urizen separating light and darkness

I was therefore interested to visit Seeing Round Corners at Turner Contemporary Margate. They had thrown the net wide in drawing together artists that have used the circle in their work or responded to its significance as  symbol.  I am often disappointed by this scale of exhibition that packs so much in. Too much information at once. Annoyingly there was no catalogue and no photography allowed. I have to rely on remembering what I saw.

More circles to be seen in the beautiful collection of works in  Romanticism and the Sublime curated by Jonty Levin at Lubmirov/Angus-Hughes.

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Mohammed Ashfaq Black Hole III

The most mysterious circle of them all, the black hole was the subject of Professor Joseph Silk’s Gresham College lecture. We learnt there are two types of black hole – stellar black holes formed when massive stars die and supermassive black holes which sit at the centre of galaxies and probably formed along with the galaxies. The existence of black holes was first proposed by clergyman and philosopher John Mitchell in 1783. Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 and in 2016 this phenomena was finally observed providing direct evidence for the existence of black holes.

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The spiritual vs physical human needs- Mike Kelley showing at Hauser and Wirth, recreates a piece of social architecture from the Chinese-America community of LA, reflecting a unique cultural collision in Framed and Frame.

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Also at Turner Contemproary Margate was Yinka Shonibare’s The British Library, a seductively beautiful celebration of all that we have gained from first and second generation immigrants who have enriched British society with brilliant literature.

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‘Is this that pinpoint which is divided by sword and fire among so many nations?  How ridiculous are the boundaries of mortals.’ Seneca AD 65

Haunting work by Lygia Pape at Hauser and Wirth exploring the relationship between reason and nature through geometric shapes.

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I was interested to read how she followed intuition when creating her woodcuts; to let relationships between shapes be guided by an underlying sense of ‘magnetisation’. The artworks created then embody and emanate energy which creates ‘magnetised space’ into which the viewer is drawn adding another dimension to the field.

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Forces are at play but gently held, as in the fragile balance of pigment particles, cascading and spreading in Ttéia n.7

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and the silver threads of Ttéia 1C that appear and disappear as ephemerally as a shaft of sunlight.

Between Materials and Mechanisms from Elizabeth Murton; an exhibition with associated events and symposium was hosted by UH Galleries at The University of Hertfordshire. This work looked at connectivity and the structures that physically bind us together, spanning our body, architecture and space to explore how interactions of ourselves with matter reflect in our consciousness and effect our emotions.

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Bringing together ideas and experts from fields including anatomy, philosophy, dance, visual arts and Zen Buddhism we enjoyed a day of theory and physical engagement which really brought home these relationships through dynamic experience.

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Prof. Diana Cooles’  keynote speech Dirt- A New Materialist Approach helped set the background to the history of materialism from the old materialism of the first thinkers like Plato where consciousness and matter are separate to Freud and Marx where theory and matter are integrated. New materialism rejects the duality of mind and matter and believes that agency is not just a human capacity. Bruno Latour is a prime exponent of flat ontology where everything is equal in its capacity to be an actant. Prof. Coole went on to give examples of the agency of matter, looking at dirt and our relationship to it. She drew on the writing of social anthropologist Mary Douglas who classified dirt as matter out of place. Dirt is associated with pollution and waste but also soil and nutrients.

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It changes agency depending on its location; inside/outside. She also looked at artists who use dirt in their work not as a material to comment on society or value but as a co-collaborator, allowing the dirt its transgressive qualities to create a visceral experience for the viewer.

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Interestingly I have found Mary Douglas has also written an essay that examines circular thought patterns from ancient texts, Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition. The abstract is as follows – ‘Many famous antique texts are misunderstood and many others have been completely dismissed, all because the literary style in which they were written is unfamiliar today. So argues Mary Douglas in this controversial study of ring composition, a technique which places the meaning of a text in the middle, framed by a beginning and ending in parallel. To read a ring composition in the modern linear fashion is to misinterpret it, Douglas contends, and today’s scholars must re-evaluate important antique texts from around the world.’

 

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Mona Hatoum +and-

 

Another experience of dirt was the excellent broadcasts from DIRT collective including  Peter Glasgow It’s not the Digging it’s the Dirt as part of ArtLicks Weekend which can be listened to via above links.

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 All of which reminded me of this work “THREE STONES” (2004) Antti Laitinen dug a hole and collected the stones he found after seven minutes of digging, seven hours and seven days.

 

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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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

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