Archives for posts with tag: Patrick Harpur

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.

Delighted that my etching Forest of Eden has been selected for exhibition at AIR Gallery on the theme of the macabre with the exhibition renamed Memento Mori. What happens when we are confronted with the uncomfortable or visually grotesque? What makes the unappealing difficult to digest but impossible to turn away from?

The myth of the wild man stretches back to the tale of Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality.  In history the wild man’s characteristics oscillate between horror and fantasy. They reflect fear of the other as well as aspirations to be at one with nature often violating the taboos of civilization and symbolizing the repressed desires of society. This person who posts photos of himself in charged poses has become an internet meme shared with equal disgust and fascination. In this etching he is placed back in the ancient forest of all our origins.

I have completed the video commission Cosmic Chiasmus (crossing the universe) for Queen’s Hall Digital but am continuing research into cosmic rays. Around 10,000 muons rain down on each square metre of Earth’s surface every minute.

Muon tomography can be used to remotely explore dense matter for hidden voids. High energy cosmic rays such as muons pass through objects, but in doing so, some will be absorbed by the object and so fewer particles will arrive on the other side. This means sensitive muon detectors can be used like x-rays to determine the structure of extremely large and dense objects. This method has been used to reveal a mysterious, 30-metre-long hidden chamber in the 4,500-year-old great pyramid of Giza, to determine the inner structures of volcanoes and to study the damaged nuclear reactor at Fukushima, Japan.

The Robot, The Dentist and The Pyramid is a 45-minute Documentary (2020) from Ancient Architects

I have discovered an audio manipulation in Adobe Audition that makes my own voice acceptable to me as voiceover for my video work. So I have returned to the video Contingent Horizons, rewritten and recorded new dialogue.

This dialogue is based on the excerpts from popular online lectures that I had used before but I have reimagined some of these quotes and included ideas from ancient descriptions of the cosmos.

the nature of the world emerges from shifting patterns

between matter and myth

to the darkest North with moon on water

to the South with sunlit crystal

to the West with Earthbound cubic alter

to the East with circling zephyrs

walking

to know the land as a plotted dimension

as abstract space

as imagined space

Out of the studio:

Lisa Chang Lee Symphony Zero at San Mei Gallery. Beautiful work creating a fragile connection between humans and the natural world as rhythms coincide to create collaborative music. Plants swaying in the breeze are each represented by a musical instrument sympathetic to its form and its movement is transposed using algorithms applied using modes of symmetry and interval into musical scores which in turn are played by humans.

Less a building: Interactions with the London Zoo Aviary book launch hosted by Passengers at The Brunswick Centre. Transported by readings from the book of this iconic flight of fancy in architecture for avian captives at the zoo. A many layered and collaborative research project by Michaela Nettell with Marcela Araguez, Tim Dee, Polly Gould, Alex Hartley, Julie F Hill, Helen Jukes, Milena Michalski, Colin Priest, Ana Ruepp and Matthew Turner. Excellent writing and gorgeous artworks. Now I wish I’d visited the aviary more often.

Geographies of Print collective Without Horizon, Without Shore. Stunning installations set against the civic backdrop of the Old Lambeth County Court, an apt setting for work looking at passage of time, capturing the transient and the human condition.

Victoria Arney has used the sonograms of bird song to create sculptural woodcuts. Capturing fleeting moments within landscape.

Victoria Ahrens looks at erosion and disappearance, creating work in situ using the minerals present in the landscape to hand colour her prints. We think of colour as light bouncing off matter, some absorbed, some reflected, but this work really brings home how integral colour is to substance.

Carol Wyss uncovers the structures that shape us physically and bear witness human frailty.

Symbols made from bones connect us to the earth as origin and destiny.

Thom Bridge Only Similar or Equivalent at Best solo show at Staffordshire Street Studios. Incredible work with light taking the image into realms of physics and geology.

“The degree to which an image is like the world is a question not of fidelity- as a narrative of documentation or technological development would have it – but of equivalence, the role that an image plays in showing in showing, or demonstrating, representing or bringing into view. Equivalence takes priority over resemblance, because the task of the image is not to repeat the world, but to inform it, and by informing it, subtly alter it in turn.” Duncan Wooldridge

Chudamani Clowes in Figure It Out with the Neulinge Collective. Wonderful immediacy as always from Chud that cuts right through to expose the lived experience of those who migrate. Epic journeys bring stories and transformation. The coral is on the move.

Robert Good in Osmosis: experiments in permeability at Espacio Gallery with work that forces an examination of an addiction to media updates, digital clickbait and daily data news dumps. Assaulted by a tsunami of inane questions and disconnected headlines into a brain numbing torpor the need for space to think is made apparent.

A captivating telling of how magic is vital for our well being and should be sought not shunned. Mythosphere is a multi-media theatre production created by Inna Dulerayn presented by Bacchae productions in partnership with Stone Nest at the atmospherically derelict Old Welsh Chapel on Shaftesbury Avenue. Inspired by the life experiences and creativity of Leonora Carrington and the writings of Diana Wynne.

This is a story about magic. The magic that we lost. The magic that is a forgotten part of our nature. The magic that is our right to be divine. But we still sense it. We dream of it. We feel abandoned without it. We keep looking for it all our lives.

Reading:

I am still dipping into The Waves by Virginia Woolf which I was inspired to read after listening to the Art Fictions Podcast with guest artist Hannah Hughes speaking to Fiona Fullerton. I particularly love the interludes as the sun rises over the ocean and begins its journey across the sky. Like too rich chocolate cake the intensity of Woolf’s writing is delicious but can only be taken in small bites.

I have Chantall Powell to thank for flagging up the book The Philosophers’ Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination by Patrick Harpur. A fascinating book taking the view that just because something is not literally so doesn’t mean it isn’t ‘real’. As in Mythosphere the book seeks to rediscover the Otherworld of spirits, gods and daimons which the west has banished to the unconscious mind.

I was so excited to read the following:

“…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 point is: the words ‘subatomic particles’ could be substituted for ‘daimons’ in the paragraph above without any loss of accuracy. This is not a coincidence – the subatomic realm, like the unconscious, is where the daimons took refuge once they were outcast from their natural habitat.”