Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Back with the ladies again

Back with the Vogue ladies - drawing and colouring in.  The colouring is the hard part. I can fully understand why artists use photoshop for colouring but for now, I'm trying to use it for ideas before working on the original.  I have a feeling I will ruin them with the colour - damn preciousness!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: Cosmic Dust - VISUAL, Carlow

Back in March I did a two part regional art writing course with PaperVisualArt (PVA) at Visual in Carlow.  The exhibition we had to review was Cosmic Dust which was on at the time and this is my review.  I really enjoyed this show and as you can see, there is just about time to catch it if you are around Carlow.

Rudolf Steiner, Anita Groener, Martin Healy, Brian King, Chris Fite-Wassilak, Ruth Lyons, Mark Cullen and Remco de Fouw with George Melies film, Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902)
Curated by Emma-Lucy O’Brien
Visual Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow, 24 January – 17 May, 2015

We rarely get invited to consider the cosmos.  With light pollution, sometimes we can barely even see the stars.  We are instead held firmly earth-bound by celebrities, soap operas, and the very terrestrial events of social media.  Our cosmos too is monitored and managed; cameras send back extraordinary images of galaxies and nebulas, our nearest planetary neighbours are designated for not-too-distant future colonisation and satellites flickering among the stars bring us our TV, internet and phone calls.   And yet to look into a night sky and see our galaxy is still to wonder about our place in the Universe.  Carlow Visual’s latest group exhibition, Cosmic Dust, launches with this primordial mystery, interpreted, answered or represented by the works gathered here by Emma-Lucy O’Brien. 
As its theoretical starting point, Cosmic Dust uses Thomas Browne’s book The Garden of Cyrus published in 1658 in which Browne uses symbols, visions, natural imagery and his own observations to try and explain the interconnectedness of art, nature and the Universe.  Interconnectedness is a very important theme for this complex show and the works in it revolve around each other, transfer concepts and energy between themselves, counteracting attempts at a linear interpretation of the works and ideas.
On this cosmological tour, the blackboard drawings of Rudolph Steiner are an appropriate place to begin.  Steiner made these drawings between 1919 and 1924, originally as visual accompaniments to his theories on ‘spiritual science’; a philosophy to connect natural science and mysticism.   The drawings are in chalk on black paper - white, red and yellow in sweeping circles and lines with arrows and annotations.  Some drawings show figures, all are energetic, so much so that in areas that have been rubbed out and re-drawn, I look closely to see if any chalk dust has fallen inside the frame.   Reflected in the black paper though I see only myself with the gallery space behind and the drawing superimposed on my reflection.  I have become a figure in Steiner’s universe and this seems apt since there are few other figurative works in this exhibition which seeks to define our place in the cosmos. 
The mathematical school book-like doodles of Mark Cullen also propose links between nature and science.  These drawings are sharp in more than their form consisting of lines drawn in various coloured pencils and pens, crossing and joining to form circles, decagons, stars or three-dimensional structures that spin away towards the gallery wall.   Cullen follows lines already drawn on the paper in faint pencil but then adds in other lines or shading which destabilise the structure and seem to map a personal as well as a physical space.  Cullen’s work concerns our position in the cosmos at a macro level in terms of stars and planets and also at a micro level, in terms of energy transference between bodies, and these multi-dimensional drawings interpret both these ideas effectively, evoking both constellations and electrons, meeting, colliding and continuing along expected or unexpected trajectories. 
There are white lines and white circles made from lines in the painting and digital animation by Anita Groener.  Groener’s concern is how we situate ourselves in the world and the animation work, Somewhere Else, suggests a constantly evolving cosmos, beginning with a flickering black and white drawing of an armchair and transforming into two rotating circles of chalk lines shimmering and moving towards and away from each other.  In the gap between the circles, animals, figures, chairs and trees fall before eventually the circles, or cells, themselves break down and all that is left is a dark sky with flashes of stars.  The earth is seen from space until it shrinks and disappears; the moon rises and completes its cycle and then there is only blackness but whether everything has ended or moved on or back in time is impossible to know. 
Remco de Fouw’s work, The Unchurning, might be a metaphor for the whole exhibition.  Complex yet orderly to look at, it consists of pieces of blackboard chalk several layers wide in a perfect circle.  The ends of the chalk are circular too, but displaced in space by the way the sticks fall or lean.  Clearly linking to Steiner’s and Groener’swork, there is yet an elemental response to this mysterious piece and its subtle colour, patterns and texture transform into a desire to touch or to stamp round the edges and feel the material crush underfoot.  Suddenly this act of encirclement has transfused arcane and enigmatic associations into this base material, transporting the viewer from the classroom to the cosmos.  There is the smell of the chalk and dust from crushed pieces of chalk lies inside and outside the circle, a reminder that this as the circle breaks down, the dust will be carried and redistributed around the space by visitors and air currents like the aether which flows throughout the cosmos in Martin Healy’s video piece of the same name.
Healy’s film depicts part of the life of Paul Scheerbart, a German author, architect and artist, who, for two and a half years in 1907, tried to invent a perpetual motion machine using the gravitational pull of the earth.  Scheerbart kept a diary of his failure, published in 1910, and this forms the basis of the film which begins and ends with the perpetual motion of the sea, and drifts, like the aether of its title, through a recreation of Scheerbart’s laboratory, where dust motes float above a globe and chalk dust falls from the blackboard as a hand draws over and over the circle of the letter ‘g’.   The film treats Scheerbart’s obsessive restlessness tenderly but nothing in the film is still.  A patch of sunlight moves over a hillside, a man walks over rocks to the sea and stops, holding a compass, the needle of which we know is quivering towards North.  A narrator talks of aether as an ocean which flows throughout the cosmos and Healy’s film, not only echoes but seems to continue Sheerbart’s search for this force - relevant now in our own restless search for alternative energy sources.
Sea and salt lead to the sculptures of Ruth Lyons, their forms and colours repeated in the seashore rocks seen in Aether.  Much of Lyons’ previous work has been concerned with the sea and its materials such as The Pinking on Sea (2014) ,  Glasimile (2010) and Pilot Light Exchange where Lyons collaborated to produce lime from limestone, itself formed from the bodies of long dead marine life.  In this show Lyons has bowls carved from industrially-mined rock salt from Co. Antrim.  The bowls are essentially raw, brown veined lumps of salt with shallow, circular depressions.  They might equally have been created by water or wear over centuries, rather than the human hand and their placement in the main gallery space is almost haphazard.  Most are on high or low plinths and one is on the floor as if forgotten about.  I would have preferred to see these singly throughout the exhibition; their impact is lost as a group where their earthy quality is reduced by the repetition of so many similar forms.  Seen as individual pieces their convex interiors suggest the negative space of domes and the enclosing shapes resemble the eye or boat structures on some of the small bronze sculptures by Brian King in the opposite corner of the gallery, reflecting back too the female aspect , in opposition to the upthrusting masculinity of King’s works.
In the Link Gallery, the 1902 silent film by George Melies, La Voyage dans la Lune begins (or ends) the exhibition.  La Voyage dans la Lune is projected onto the cement wall of the gallery, competing with light entering and partly disappearing into the surface as it plays. Everything is white and when the astronauts land on the face of the moon and fall asleep, they are awoken by snow falling like chalk dust. 
Like the moon in this film, Cosmic Dust creates a very accommodating atmosphere for contemplation of the cosmos and our place in it.  The contemporary environment of Visual Carlow is suspended as the artists selected retreat to the past or to internal worlds in order to provide their meaning as to our existence.  This backward-looking, visionary view of the cosmos encourages a loose, Romantic approach to the unknowable Universe.  When we have all the answers at the touch of a keypad, it is reassuring to be reminded that once there were things we did not know.  Cosmic Dust makes the viewer aware that wonder and mystery still exist, that worlds and universes can still be created in the imagination and expressed in salt and chalk.  This is a valuable consideration to take away from this exhibition and as I was driving home, the sun was setting and there were white chalk lines in the centre of the road nearly all the way home.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Plane Invasion Part III

Having failed to secure my own photos of this exhibition, I offer here the link for the Facebook page for this show.  This has the advantage that you can see a whole range of wonderful stuff - and mine as well.