Archives for posts with tag: Nicola Ellis

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.

The latest ACA Project Continuum  is launched and I am looking forward to contributing to the programme with some new work exploring the activity of cosmic rays at the edge of the earths atmosphere. I have had two productive meetings with the Imperial College Space Society and the project to launch a high altitude balloon with a cloud chamber in the payload is underway. The first tasks are to make contact with the Civil Aviation Authority ahead of requesting flight permissions and researching how to safely transport helium to the prospective launch site.

1902 DIY mini cloud chamber

The team have been issued with their own mini cloud chamber kit to test and use as a basis for designing the prototype for launch which must be able to function in low air pressure and turbulence.

There was a fantastic turnout to Culture Lab. Newcastle University for the first Continuum event in an inspiring season of art, science and speculative fiction taking place at Allenheads, Hexham and Newcastle. So happy to be involved in this new project.

1902 Continuum Launch

We heard from Minna Långström about her latest film The Other Side of Mars and her installation Photons from Mars which explore how we see Mars through the mediated eyes of technology.

1902 Continuum launch Minna Langstrom

Robert Good analysed what happens at the intersection of art and science, concluding that insight comes from multiple perspectives working together.

1902 Continuum Launch Robert Good

Pippa Goldschmidt read from her texts The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space and Falling Sky highlighting the emotional and lived experience of the scientists who square up to the big questions in astronomy. She has fascinating first hand knowledge of the political sensitivities surrounding studying the stars when visiting observatories such as in the Chilean Atacama Desert when the nation is undergoing a military coup.

1902 The Falling Sky - Pippa Goldschmidt

Chris Welch professor of space engineering from The International Space University gave a lively account of Space Travel. Fact and Fiction; current technology, theoretical technology and science fiction technology. Sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other.

1902 Continuum Launch Chris Welch

He also kindly allowed us to handle a mini rocket smuggled in from Strasbourg

1902 Continuum Launch mini rocket

The artist Nahum relayed a beautiful story of the moon landings from the moon’s perspective written by an 11 year old refugee girl and punctuated by real magic. This originated from his work giving refugee children a sense of belonging by imagining looking back at earth from space to see that we are all human on one tiny planet. In other work aiming to democratise space travel he hypnotised his audience in order to prompt false memories of visiting the moon into their minds.

1902 Continuum Launch Nahum assited by Minna Langstrom

John Bowers and Tim Shaw ended the evening with mesmeric visualisation and acoustics extrapolated from electromagnetic waves generated by meteors, minerals and mystical phenomenon.

1902 Continuum Launch John Bowers

It was a quick visit to Allenheads this time but Annie Carpenter, Nicola Ellis, Robert Good and myself can look forward to an upcoming week of research and stories around the fire as a prelude to making new work for the project.

1806 fire

Delighted that my work Pentacoronae has been selected for the exhibition Insatiable Mind which is part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival 2019. The festival will highlight the anniversaries of the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Moon Landing of 1969. The exhibition seeks to convey the notion of leaving behind the comforts of the familiar in order to discover the unknown.

Pentacoronae encourages the viewer to seek darkness, stargaze, wonder and map their own stories across the sky.

1902 Pentacoronae photo John Hooper

Maybe I should take my cloud chamber with me to Salisbury just to make sure that clean up of radioactive material was as successful as they claim.

1711 cosmic trail

More exciting news is that Carol Wyss, Anne Krinsky and myself have been awarded a two week takeover of Hackney’s oldest building, St. Augustine’s Tower.

1902 St Augustines Tower 2

The tower is the last remains of the original church built in the late 13th century.

1902 St Augustines Tower 1

Our proposal is for an exhibition of site-specific new works made in response to St. Augustine’s Tower and the historic role of spires as a symbolic connection between earth, mortals and the heavens.

1902 St Augustines Tower

There are four floors connected by a narrow stone spiral staircase.

1902 St Augustines Tower roof

It has an amazing clock dating from about 1580; the pendulum case is on the first floor, the clock on the second and the bell on the third floor.

1902 St Augustines Tower 3

Drawing on our individual interests in geology (Anne Krinsky), anatomy (Carol Wyss) and cosmology (Susan Eyre) we will curate the exhibition with the intent of sparking a dialogue between works installed to convey a cohesive exploration of materiality, the passage of time and wider philosophical issues evoked by these relationships.

1902 St Augustines Tower graveyard

 

The New Materialisms Reading group I attend have been reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. It is extraordinary to discover how trees communicate and consider the slow time at which they operate and the age and extent of the largest known living organism, the fungi web. I also have a whole new raft of guilt to contend with.

1902 branch partile decay.jpg

I am also out collecting images of bare branches that resonate with the idea of particle decay.

1901 Cosmic ray decay

1902 disperse prep

In the studio painting ‘entanglement’ in disperse inks to heat press for the semaphore flags ready for the Lizard Point Residency. Semaphore = information at a distance, entanglement = spooky action at a distance (according to Einstein)

 

 

 

 

Out of the Studio….

Called at SPACE to see Anna Chrystal Stephens’ show Anorak. A derogatory term for an obsessive but maybe it’s a necessary trait if you are to survive in alternative social possibilities. Either that or develop superpowers.

1902 Anna Chrystal Stephens

I joined Robert Good at the opening of Word Bank of Lost Dialects at The Word National Centre for the Written Word, South Tyneside. Word Bank of Lost Dialects created by Jane Glennie and Robert Good is a fascinating documentation of the thousands of North East dialect words donated by visitors to The Word’s original Lost Dialects exhibition.

Also opening at The Word was Cracked! Secret Codes and Communication, with a very useful semaphore flag chart – just what I needed for the work I am planning for the upcoming Lizard Point Residency. In 2019 the Lizard is celebrating the 400 year anniversary of Sir John Killigrew’s building of the first lighthouse on Lizard Point in 1619. The subsequent lighthouse also has important links to the search for reliable Longitude measurement, with an assistant to the astronomer royal visiting the lighthouse at the time of the first Transit of Venus to record an accurate location for the Lizard Rocks. The world famous Goonhilly also celebrates the 50 year anniversary of their transmission of the first lunar landings. We will also be visiting wireless and semaphore stations along the Lizard coastal path, considering the Scilly Isles 30 miles out to sea and the important prehistoric menhirs offering ‘beacons’ for travel & procession across the land.

1902 Cracking Codes (1).jpg

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms at The British Library was full of ancient treasures from the Library’s own collection, including the Lindisfarne Gospels, Beowulf and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, the Domesday Book and Codex Amiatinus, a giant Northumbrian Bible taken to Italy in 716, returning to England for the first time in 1300 years. A surprising number of books in flourishing scripts, illuminated, illustrated and bound in sculpted covers. However I found it very frustrating to be presented with so many undecipherable pages and envied those muttering in Latin or Old English who could gain some insight. More translations please. Possibly you had to buy the catalogue to learn more.

1902 Marvels-of-the-East-from-a-collection-of-geographical-astronomical-and-other-texts_credit-British-Library-.jpg

Inspired by the legend of How Raven Stole the Sun and brought light to the world Joana Escoval’s  The Sun Lovers at Tenderpixel dazzled with an overload of fluorescent tubes.

1902 Joana Escoval 2

Especially blinding when visiting at the twilight hour. The story and further daydreams  were reduced to minimalist gestures in gold wire, feathers and blasted rock.

To celebrate Chinese New Year of the pig the mass underground car park takeover Four legs good, two legs bad (a quote from George Orwell’s prescient 1945 book Animal Farm)was heavily porcine in theme with a weirdly anarchic yet delineated curation. Pick of the show was Carol Wyss and Anne Leigniel.

Some interesting work in Critical Matter at the reduced RCA Dyson Gallery from Rosanna Dean, Victoria Mihatovic, Susie Olczak and Samuel Padfield. Looking at the very current theme of entanglement of materials in the web of life in reference to the philosophy of  Henri Bergson who wrote Matter and Memory in 1896 which argued against memory as a purely physical embodiment.

Flux Social presenters this month were Adam John Williams // a.k.a Chemical Adam, Adeline Rozario from Tinderdust, and Sofi Lee-Henson. Another interesting evening and good to talk to Adam about his use of the cloud chamber to translate the randomness of radioactive decay into music.

I joined Walking as Material led by Lily German who took us through the city down to the shores of the Thames and up onto the walkways and bridges, stopping to look at the fabric of London and consider its past and the changing materials that make up its surfaces. Also the amount of sewage that must be dealt with.

1902 mattering walk bridge pillars1902 mattering walk steps down1902 mattering walk chains1902 mattering walk wall1902 mattering walk london stone

We ended the walk at Matter(ing), an exhibition investigating ides of materiality and the outcome of enabling materials to drive the creation of work at Platform Southwark from artists Abigail Brothers, Lily German and Sebastian Sochan.

Enjoyed the connections made by Zach Blas in his performance lecture Metric Mysticism at Edel Assanti. Tracing the use of the crystal ball from John Dee via Derek Jarman, David Bowie’s Labyrinth, Lord of the Rings, Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology to Palantir Technologies, a private American software company that specializes in big data analytics. Prophecies of a society controlled by the media and the police appear fulfilled.

1902 Zach Blas metric mystics

Treated to a personal private view of Draft at The Hospital Club by Mary Yacoob. Strong work held it’s own amongst the plush velvet sofas and hand embellished wallpaper.

1902 Mary Yacoob