Archives for posts with tag: Charmaine Watkiss

I am continuing to look at research showing it may be possible that humans retain some residual magnetoreceptor in our eyes that once allowed us to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. We know animals and birds have this ability and current studies suggest that some people do indeed perceive magnetic fields, albeit unconsciously.

I dropped some iron filings into a little water which evaporated leaving a pleasing deposit. I wanted to see if the filings lose their magnetism once oxidized and how the rusted filings would sit on the iris image.

I was invited by Luci Eldridge and Ian Dawson to present a talk and run a Cloud Chamber Workshop as part of the Images In The Making series, a Communities of Practice cross-years project at Winchester School of Art.

Images in the Making considers images in an expanded sense in terms of process, materiality, interaction, exploring how artworks evolve and come into being.

Images – be they human or machine – are entities that are made. They are drawn, sculpted, painted, mapped out, captured, rendered, visualised, spliced, amalgamated. Images in the Making considers images in the broadest sense, exploring them as fluid, dynamic entities that emerge and transform through making, unmaking, and remaking. Process is at the core of this project and we will think about ‘imaging’ as an unfolding activity, investigating how artworks change as they are made and circulated.

Writing the presentation allowed me to revisit and consider how I use process in a practice broadly to do with visualising the unseen.

As my starting point is often an unseen or maybe even an imagined object this might mean visualising a close approximation of something to open up the imagination to phenomena that is beyond our capability to visualise. This would include things like dark matter, higher dimensions in spacetime, or the aura of an object. Or it may be using technology to make visible something otherwise outside the limitations of our senses. Or a conflation of real and imagined such as seeing a galaxy in a frozen puddle.

In Patrick Harpur’s book The Philosophers’ Secret Fire – A History of the Imagination he talks about those inbetween spaces where things are not quite ‘there’ and not quite ‘not there’ which I think is an interesting space to look at when trying to bring the unseen out of the shadows. The book relates how myths have long been used to make sense of the world. For most of our evolution humans have believed in an otherworld of spirits – a metaphysical realm governed by archetypes. Daimons are given context in the book as elusive, contradictory, both material and immaterial concepts that still reside in our culture but are now so far removed from their personified shapes that we fail to recognise them.

All human experience is an edited account of full reality as neuroscientist Anil Seth tells us

“You’re locked inside a bony skull trying to figure what’s out there in the world. There’s no light inside the skull, there’s no sound either, all you’ve got to go on are streams of electrical impulses which are only indirectly related to things in the world, whatever they may be. Perception, figuring out what’s there has to be a process of informed guesswork”

 and then tangled with our reality according to Harpur

“…daimons inhabit another, often subterranean world which fleetingly interacts with ours. They are both material and immaterial, both there and not-there – often small, always elusive shape-shifters whose world is characterized by distortions of time and space and, above all, by an intrinsic uncertainty.

– the subatomic realm, like the unconscious, is where the daimons took refuge once they were outcast from their natural habitat.”

A few years ago when I was visiting and photographing streets and roads called Paradise trying to capture the aura of such a place I stopped to wonder what everything was made of. Did I need to look closer to find hidden patterns or clues in the everyday which might point to something sublime. This is when I turned to particle physics. I found the language to be quite like that of mythology, full of mysterious characters; the quarks, the muons, neutrinos. Characters governed by fundamental forces like the strong force and the weak force that are defined by their characteristics, just like the mythical gods. I also found the theories of particle physics to be as fantastical as the ancient tales where the laws of classical physics do not apply. I was amazed at the time to discover that most of the universe is hidden from us as mysterious dark matter and dark energy. 

To provide a relevant backdrop for the online presentation I set my dodecahedron sculpture Diazôgraphô by the window to light up the images of cosmic particle trails within. The dodecahedron is used here as a motif for the universe. The title translates from Greek as ‘to embroider’. Plato described the dodecahedron as ‘a fifth construction, which the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven.’

The cloud chamber workshop gave students a chance to experience the otherworld of subatomic particles. Dark matter might be inaccessible to us but cosmic particles offer a more tangible contact  – although too small to see we can witness their effects through quite simple processes. In the chamber we see trails from naturally occurring background radiation as well as particles from outer space.

Out of the Studio

Not Painting at Copperfield

Inspired work by Nicola Ellis from Dead Powder series (first pic) in a show hitting the zeitgeist of rethink, repurpose the materials around us. Some beautiful and thoughtful work here much of which will confound you as to its material origins.

Darkness At Noon: Nigredo of a Pandemic at APT curated by Ruth Calland for Contemporary British Painting

Great to see some of Sarah Sparkes exquisite ghost painting series along with Chantal Powell’s alchemical totems and other works from 27 artists.

Alchemy is all about transformation from one state to another, the pursuit of a deeper truth as precious treasure. Alchemists were engaged in the Middle Ages with a physical process, trying to turn base materials into gold through a series of chemical processes, a metaphor for the transformation of the soul. There had to be a Nigredo, a dark night of the soul in order to purify it. Death and decay, destruction of the old to make way for the new, are both real and symbolic in these precarious times of ours. 

Bosco Sodi Totality at König London presents a grounded solar system we are able to walk amongst, surveying the raw materials of our creation. Heat, minerals and time. Very satisfying.

Tacita Dean – The Dante Project at Frith Street Gallery, Golden Square

Hell made heavenly in silvery surfaces, paradise emerges glimmering from the streets of LA.

Magical otherworlds. These stunning backdrops were created for the ballet based on Dante Alighieri’s 1320 narrative poem The Divine Comedy choreographed by Wayne McGregor at The Royal Opera House but can also transport you in their own right. I was lucky to also see them on stage. The sets progress from the monochrome backdrop of Inferno, through the luminous transitional state of Purgatorio into a circling colourfields of Paradiso.

The large-scale photographs printed as negatives are of Jacaranda Trees which bloom in hot climates when the entire foliage turns into purple blossoms. In negative the purple becomes an otherworldly green and the background streetscape is muted with white pencil. The monochrome photogravures of an inverted mountainous terrain in negative using silver ink reference Botticelli’s drawings which signify Dante and Virgil’s descent through the nine circles of hell.

Tacita Dean Monet Hates Me at Frith Street Gallery, Soho Square

The importance of objective chance as a tool of research used as the basis to craft 50 objects inspired by the random choice of a box of artefacts at The Getty Research Centre, Los Angeles. The objects pertaining to ‘an exhibition in a box’ include ‘the forged signature of Christian Dotremont, a long-dead Belgian surrealist, on a postcard; a letterpress copy of Piet Mondrian’s carte de visite, hand-corrected by Dean to match a pencilled correction on the original; Fluxus artist George Brecht’s Stamp Out Stamping stamped on vintage index cards; a vinyl record of Dean reading a montage of text fragments collated from her working photocopies; and ‘a foot of feet’ – a foot-long strip of film made of sixteen frames of found images of feet. Object 1, is a small book which also acts as the key to the provenance and manufacture of the other 49 objects.’

The enigmatic painting I love Lord Pannick sits outside the viewing area for Pan Amicus, filmed in 16mm on the Getty Estate but transporting the viewer to a golden classical Arcadia littered with Greek and Roman objects and imbued with the spirit of Pan “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908).

Mixing It Up; Painting Today an exhibition of painting at the Hayward Gallery.

Charmaine Watkiss showing with Tiwani Contemporary at Cromwell Place.

Meet The Seed Keepers in Charmaine’s magical collection of works on paper. Powerful images brought to life with a luminous delicacy full of hidden symbolism waiting to be discovered.

Researching the medicinal and psychical capabilities of plants, Watkiss has personified a matrilineal pantheon of plant warriors safeguarding and facilitating cross-generational knowledge and empowerment.

New work pentacoronae installed at Grizedale Project Space for In Search of Darkness exhibition curated by art collective Lumen Studios.

1809 Pentacoronae

“Sky glow” is the yellow umbra leaching into the night sky from light polluting urban areas; obscuring our view of the constellations, shrinking our universe and severing our relationship to the stars.
Our ancestors mapped the stars and the shapes and patterns they drew across the darkness became familiar anchors for navigation; describing mythological characters; aligning celestial cycles with the fortunes of everyday life and revealing harbingers of portentous events. This rich history is being lost to a population bathed in the radiant intensity of artificial illumination.

1809 Pentacoronae 2
Light doesn’t always make things more visible. There are other ways to discover the mysteries of the universe and look beyond what our immediate senses tell us is there. Dark Matter is a significant component of the universe, yet we cannot see it. It doesn’t reflect or emit light and so scientists are finding other ways to detect it. In digital visualisations of Dark Matter, organic patterns emerge that could be the veins under our skin or the spreading branches of trees.

1809 Pentacoronae 1
As ever more powerful telescopes and data gathering equipment open new areas of the universe to our view, generating imagery we could never see with our naked eyes, we are drawn to experience space via mediated technologies. Dark sky areas such as Grizedale Forest are precious locations where we can still stargaze, wonder and map our own stories across the sky.

1809 Grizedale Forest

Following on from the group residency earlier in the year we returned

1809 Forest WIP

with new work responding to the naturally dark skies of the Grizedale area  Maria Luigia Gioffre  – a re-tracing of the astral map of 7 July 2018

1809 Maria Luigia Gioffre credit John Hooper

Maria Luigia Gioffre Genealogy of an Asemantic Night – photo John Hooper

Eunjung Kim the journey of unseen travellers across time, memory, the cosmos

1809 eunjumg kim

Julie Hill-‘intimate immensity’ the milky way as bodily encounter

1809 Julie Hill credit John Hooper

Julie F. Hill Dark River photo John Hooper

Anthony Carr– circadian rhythms disrupted

1809 Anthony Carr credit John Hooper

Anthony Carr The Moon, Is The Only Light We’ll See photo John Hooper

Melanie King– ancient light captured

1809 Melanie King credit John Hooper

Melanie King Ancient Light, Grizedale Forest  photo John Hooper

Louise Beer— sounds of the tides slowed; an echo from 420 million years ago

1809 Louise Beer credit John Hooper

Louise Beer Beneath the Moon’s Gaze photo John Hooper

Rebecca Huxley— twilight transitions, a manifesto to darkness

1809 rebecca huxley

Rebecca Huxley 18 degrees below the Horizon 

Diego Valente— “Forests aren’t simply collections of trees….”

1809 Diego Valente

Diego Valente A Copy With No Original

and William Arnold – common lepidopteran misadventures in artificial light

1809 William Arnold 2

William Arnold Dark Spectacle

1809 project Space.jpg

I had the cloud chamber running at the opening event. Photo courtesy of Lumen

1809 Cloud Chamber demo

A cloud chamber gives us a glimpse into the invisible world of particles produced in the radioactive decay of naturally occurring elements and those generated when cosmic rays strike the top of the Earth’s atmosphere. It is a sealed environment containing a supersaturated vapour of pure alcohol sitting over dry ice. Charged particles passing through the chamber cause the vapour to condense resulting in tiny cascading trails. These particles pass though us continuously without our awareness. Witnessing this usually unseen activity can lead us to look beyond what our immediate senses tell us is there and consider the possibility of other intangible phenomena.

1809 Cloud Chamber demo 2

Finale! (another great shot from John Hooper)

1809 dry ice credit John Hooper

At the studio I am moving just across the corridor – mostly so I will have a window but I also gain more space which was great timing to lay out and assemble the suspended sculpture for Grizedale in an empty room.

1809 laying out

1809 assembling

So glad I spent time on careful packing for transporting

1809 preparing for install– getting it up on the scaffolding and hanging was not easy when only one person present has ladder training and therefore allowed at height due to local council health and safety directives.  Thankfully Sean took it in his stride.

1809 install angst

Out of the Studio
Holly Graham Sweet Swollen at Jerwood Project Space. The seductive title is evocative of succulent ripened fruit but also the tenderness of a bruise. This poignant work draws on the history of sugar as a luxury brought to our shores in the 18th century with the taint of colonial violence and the demeaning of those forced to produce treats for European palates. A series of sugar lift etchings depict hands in isolation, the gestures originating from the stylised ‘blackamoor’ figurines that ornament receptacles of the bitter sweet cargo.

1809 Holly Graham

Charmaine Watkiss showing beautiful ephemeral work at the MA Drawing Final Show at Wimbledon College of Art. A collision of then and now, displacement of body and soul, reaching back for symbols of meaning.

Highlights at this years New Scientist Live were talks from Jon Butterworth – Journeys into Particle Physics, Roberto Trotta – What Has Einstein ever done for you? and Dean Burnett – What makes your brain happy?

I came away thinking about what influences my perception of time and the chemicals that subtlety alter how I experience the world.

If you travel close to the speed of light, distances contract in your direction of motion, while time will dilate more and more the faster you move.  A muon lives: about 2.2 microseconds on average. The speed limit of the Universe = the speed of light. Something moving at the speed of light that only lives 2.2 microseconds, should make it only 0.66 kilometers before decaying. A muon has similar properties to an electron. However, it is 200 times heavier. Muons travel at approximately 98% of the speed of light. The closer you move to the speed of light, the slower your clock appears to run. Cosmic ray muons have such high energies that a journey which takes about 300 microseconds from our point-of-view only takes about 1 microsecond for the muon. Time dilation allows these particles to live.

1802 muon

I am beginning research for the High Altitude Balloon project. I need so much help! The good people of the HAB community are thankfully giving me lots of advice. One big concern is that the Allenheads Contemporary Arts potential launch site is high up and in the centre of a very narrow bit of the UK.  Wind makes for a difficult launch and could just take it straight out to sea.

1809 windy HAB.jpg

One of my first jobs is to check with the Civil Aviation Authority that the launch site is safe from their perspective.

18090 CAA.JPG

I want to film particularly at the altitude where peak cosmic ray activity takes place – this is where the secondary particles that we see in the cloud chamber are smashed into existence.  As the particle activity will be invisible I want to film the aesthetics of the curve of the earth and blue haze of the atmosphere bleeding into the blackness of space. I think my target height will be 30km.

1809 cosmic trails.jpg

Cosmic rays are mostly protons and atomic nuclei created in stars and super novae explosions or other unknown events.  Sometimes a rare one will arrive with unimaginably high energy. The first “Oh-My-God particle” was recorded in October 1991 and had an energy 40 million times greater than the Large Hadron Collider can generate with 100 quintillion the photon energy of visible light, it was travelling at 99.999 999 999 999 999 999 999 51% the speed of light. One of these could be passing through you right now.