Archives for posts with tag: supernatural

Time is one thing we can all agree on to call supernatural. It is at least neither energy nor matter, not dimension either, let alone function; and yet it is the beginning and end of the creation of the world.  – Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier, 1968

I loved the Joan Jonas exhibition They Come To Us Without a Word at the Venice Biennale 2105, it was a space that encouraged wonder and a dialogue with the spiritual aspects of nature and the rhythms of ritual.

Inspired by the writing of Halldór Laxness she interweaves ghost stories from Novia Scotia with images of a fragile landscape and the enactment of ritual by sombre children.

Glasstress is a collateral event of the Venice Biennale, the theme for 2015 was how the gothic and medievalism has crept into modern consciousness.

1601 Venice glassstress Matt Collishaw

Matt Collishaw Jewel Slot Empire

Invited artists made work referring to ideas ranging across mythology, religion, medicine and alchemy. Flamboyant and emotional, the gothic explored by Petah Coyne’s The Feminine and Mirror Mirror installation.

The Gothic style, born in Europe, was the first international language that spoke across  many nations for at least four centuries.

1601 Venice Glasstress Qiu Zhije

Qiu Zhijie Even More Mythical Animals Are Still On There Way

Today contemporary art has taken on that mantle of communication across borders. The interesting thing is we still ask the same questions and are fascinated by the same metaphysics as we were in medieval times.

1601 Glasstress Kate MccGuire Maelstrom

Kate MccGwire Maelstrom

Performing a ritual out of its designated season is jarring to the senses. Making work that only feels appropriate to bring out at Christmas limits its accessibility. Not really made as Christmas decorations my light boxes ‘Bar of Wonder’ and ‘Bearing Gifts’ do tend to perform that function. It was therefore quite nice for them to have an outing at a Winter Show – Giving curated by Trident and Triangle at Gallery 98 Tower Bridge Road.

1601 Giving

‘Bar of wonder’ places characters from the nativity story into a contemporary Christmas setting, infiltrating a prosaic reality with peripheral and ethereal images that are evoked by the traditions that surround this annual ritual. Is this dated by the number of people outside smoking? A declining ritual.

1601 Bar of Wonder

‘Bearing gifts’ introduces the Magi of the nativity story to the burden of the present day seasonal shopping experience.  Queuing for gifts in Fortnum and Mason.1601 Bearing GiftsSeen through the haze of romantic delusion the figures of the wise men appear as elusive as the purchase of the perfect Christmas.

Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa’s mash up of religion, folklore and conspiracy theories in God’s Reptilian Finger at Gasworks was a step into the world of YouTube paranoia and fantasy. Using similarly cheap inauthentic materials as those used to make the videos that inspire him his polystyrene sculptures are unapologetic colourful embodiments of a wry look at how a belief takes hold and spreads.

1602 Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa 1

Gold painted geometric shapes are full of worms, the progeny of an alien race hidden beneath a shiny veneer. David Icke’s theory of a reptilian race dispersed amongst us gains traction from low resolution video footage of celebrities caught off-guard blinking sideways.

1602 Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa 6

Mormons in need of direction to their own land receive guidance from god’s hand pointing the way amongst the glowing rocks.

The seductive nature of myth and the willingness to believe in absurd fantasies is demonstrated when entering the darkened room at Gasworks to find oneself in the midst of a fluorescent meteorite storm and a giant disembodied finger. Pure joy.


In the humanist library and archives  at Conway Hall home to the ethical society is a section labelled Humankind. I love that. Are all the answers here?

1601 Conway Actants 3I was taking part in a tour of Conway Actants exhibition led by Jane Millar and Deborah Gardner who have placed site specific work throughout this wonderful building responding to the ethos and history of Conway Hall. 1601 Conway Actants

The bee hives on the roof inspired Deborah’s interventions of hexagonal sculptures morphing from the circular ceiling windows. Translating the activity on the roof and the interconnectedness and clusters of activity within the building.

1601 Conway Actants Deborah Gardner 2

Looking through the lenses of history, travelling through time, preserving and learning from the past. Conway Hall is a place for free thinking.

1601 Conway Actants 2

The archive is a place of secrets as well as a place of discovery.


I made another visit to Conway Hall for the panel discussion – Why Do We Believe? It was a  diverse mix of people who packed the hall to ponder this question.

On the stage were; Prof. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion “an atheist with huge respect for religion” who regards her work as “a branch of history like any other”; Prof Richard Wiseman, Britain’s only Chair in the Public Understanding of Psychology who has gained an international reputation for research into unusual areas of psychology, including luck, deception, and the science of self-help; Alice Herron a PhD candidate who was brought up a Catholic, married a Muslim, got divorced and spent 27 years in the cult of Indian Guru Sri Chinmoy and is currently researching atheists who claim to have had some sort of mystical-type experience; Bruce Hood a Professor of Developmental Psychology, currently the President of the British Association for Science psychology section who has given the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures “Meet Your Brain” and written books such as; SuperSense: Why We Believe In The Unbelievable and The Self Illusion: Why There is No ‘You’ Inside Your Head; Deborah Hyde the editor in chief of the UK’s only regular magazine to take a critical-thinking and evidence-based approach to pseudo-science and the paranormal and who is fascinated by the supernatural, and probably knows way too many facts about werewolf folklore.

1602 brain 1

The opinions expressed can all be heard at the above link. There were different perspectives and lots of interesting facts but on the whole what I found fascinating was the general consensus of disbelief throughout the room considering the percentage of the population cited to hold a belief in ‘something’ supernatural. Maybe the discussion should have been called ‘Why did we believe?’ or ‘Why do other people believe?’ Perhaps it was the authority of the panel who made it sound like a weakness, a fiction to turn to in times of existential crisis, to bring a sense of order and comfort to our lives. I was hoping for someone to pipe up during question time and dispute these claims but none did. And what about belief in a supernatural that brings disorder? It’s a fascinating debate believers or not.

A Leap Of Faith at St. Laurence Church, Catford was presented for one day only by The LivingRoom a nomadic space committed to blurring the boundaries between the display of  work and the work itself. 1601 A leap of Faith 1

The artist’s works were placed among the Church’s artefacts, propped in pews and laid on tables. The boundaries disappeared.

1601 St.Laurences ChurchI entered late in the day, there had been a schedule of performances but I had missed most of these. Coming in from torrential rain outside, the place was immediately a sanctuary. People milled quietly and took their seats along the pews. I sat waiting but not sure what for and in the hushed gloom had the uncanny feeling I had inadvertently joined a cult. After a while, strange resonating sounds from Michael Speers  performance of distorted feedback filled the space. We sat in quasi religious contemplation.1601 A leap of Faith 2A leap of faith considers the universe, civilisation and the individual; questioning our existence in relation to infinite time and space or to a particular moment in history. Based on natural phenomena, scientific observations or constructed narratives, the works ponder on past ideas and beliefs whilst also constructing their contemporary ones. This cycle of renewal, found in religion as well as in other systems, is visible in the artists’ attempts to make sense of and reorganise traces of our existence. 
1601 A leap of Faith 5Among the artists in this show were Mark Ariel Waller projecting SO-LA, video footage from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory above a bronze cast replicating ‘Sit Shamshi’ a 12thC relic of Iran which depicts two figures in a temple setting performing a ritual to the rising sun.

1601 A leap of Faith 3

One of my current objects of interest – an obelisk seen here in Salvatore Arancio’s mash up of Carl Sagan footage from the TV series ‘The Cosmos’. These striking forms also originated from rituals of sun worship.

In a very different space Cerith Wyn Evans exhibition at  White Cube focused on flows of energy, referencing Marcel Duchamp’s work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even.

The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) 1915-23, reconstruction by Richard Hamilton 1965-6, lower panel remade 1985 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968

Reassigning and charging with gas the circular forms that are known as the Oculist Witnesses in Duchamp’s piece.

1601 Cerith Wyn Evans (2)

These forms now glowing brightly above our heads would have centred the flow of illuminating gas from the Bachelors to the Blossoming of the Bride should Duchamp have allowed this ejaculation to follow its course.

Ghosts of the past brought to life to bear witness once more.

1601 Cerith Wyn Evans (1)

While we circle the gallery a sighing breath intones a melody from glass flutes suspended above us and large potted palms silently rotate though slowed time.

1601 Cerith Wyn Evans (7)

Also using light as medium Tsang Kin-Wah’s immersive installation ‘The Infinite Nothing‘ contemplates the uncertainty of life.

Beginning with Nietzsche’s pronouncement on the death of God: ‘Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space?’ we are led on a circular journey through four stages of transformation, titled 0, I, and r giving physical shape to Nietzsche’s theory of ‘eternal recurrence’.

1601 Venice Hong Kong (1)

Tsang combines philosophy, mythology, religious symbolisms and popular cultural references.1601 Venice Hong Kong (2)

We face Heraclitus’s river into which ‘one cannot step twice’; Plato’s Cave Allegory; and Nietzsche’s notions of ‘Camel Spirit’, ‘slave morality’ and ‘the Overman’.

1601 Venice Hong Kong (3)

Inspirations also come from Béla Tarr’s film The Turin Horse (2011) and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) along with thoughts on karma and reincarnation as Tsang explores all routes in the human quest for self-betterment.

Taking inspiration from the 12th century quest for the philosopher’s stone The Obsidian Project is an investigation into alchemy by Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn who make up Studio Drift. Exploring relationships between nature, technology and mankind they are working with a contemporary chemist who can abstract gold from chemical waste.

1601 Venice Obsidian Project (1)

Left over from this process of extraction is ‘synthetic obsidian’ a black stony glass with unique reflective qualities. Perhaps in its meditative dark space of reflection it is the Obsidian that offers something more precious than gold.




After many weeks of research, collecting crates, working on images, printing, wiring and constructing it was time for the installation of ‘Syndrome’ at Shoreditch Town Hall – in the basement, a rambling rough space and perfect setting for this Illumini Event celebrating Charles Dickens love of the supernatural.

Dickens passion was the stimulation and nurturing of the imagination, to retain a childlike wonder in the world throughout life. As a small boy he experienced the frisson of fear from the grotesque and macabre tales his nursemaid delighted in telling him. Stories from the Arabian Nights with their supernatural imagery were also a big influence on his understanding of the power of the mind to create all sorts of fancies.

First day of installation was the delivery of all the crates. Now I have my wonderful Ford Galaxy I no longer need to hire a van every time I want to transport work.

It did take 2 trips though, so most of the day was spent sitting in traffic and negotiating the narrow streets and one way systems of Shoreditch while avoiding the congestion charge zone.

pre installation

Second day of installation – setting up – thinking it would take a couple of hours but finding it took all day of course.

Not having put them together before in entirety I had to decide how the light boxes would be stacked so that the 1 metre LED connectors would reach from one box to the next.

The LED tape is clipped into each connector – simple in theory but not when trying to see in a dark room even with a head torch while reaching around the back of crates in awkward angles – very fiddly and frustrating as lights flicker and die time and again. Then up the ladder to hang the organza panels which have been pinned to bamboo poles and are suspended from loops of monofilament attached to whatever we can find protruding from the ceiling. These old spaces are great venues but often stipulate no more holes to be made in the walls. I have to thank my ever tolerant Kevin for his help loading, unloading, carrying and holding stuff but most importantly for being on spider spotting duty and removing any before I get hysterical.

phobia alert

Third day is finishing touches – adding some bits of wood to hide cables, attaching torches to the wall for viewing the two boxes that are not lit internally.

‘Syndrome’ installation

Then helping Jane Webb, the curator with the rest of the show installation.

I find myself spreading glow in the dark cobwebs around her space while keeping an eye out for rats.

Jane Webb ‘The haunted rocking chair’

The basement is full of artists crawling and climbing, fixing and connecting and is slowly transformed from bare bricks to a kaleidoscope of interpretations on the supernatural – the Dickensian getting somewhat lost at times amongst a keen enthusiasm for all things spooky.

I become anxious that my work is not scary or dramatic enough. The room next to mine is filled with polystyrene severed heads daubed in red paint. Not very subtle. But at the other end of the space and spectrum is Jojo Taylors beautiful chandelier made of suspended cut glass artefacts and paintings made with impressions taken in smoke and soot.

Jojo Taylor ‘The Lost and The Found’

Jojo Taylor

I am late leaving for the opening night as I struggle to gothify my white summery Victorian hat with black lace, fur and ostrich feathers leaving our bedroom looking like the cat has committed a massacre and arriving just in time to miss the evacuation of the building and arrival of the fire brigade. Luckily a false alarm triggered by some incense sticks but leaving Jane a little stressed. The audience, already queuing around the block when I arrived began piling in and quickly filled the space with whoops and screams from gangs of teenage girls. The plethora of performers (£4,000 worth)  booked for the opening night began plying their trades around the corridors, accosting, alarming  and delighting visitors with juggling, Victorian Quackery and magic tricks.

Chris Brown


People Pile

Cilla Conway tarot readings

I stood in my Victorian ensemble outside my room disconcerted to find a performer positioned in the dark corner of my space lighting up his suit and leaping out at people as they began to investigate the crates.

The visitors were having fun but being totally distracted from my work, running out shrieking – after a while I sent him packing. Scrooge indeed.

One surprise of the opening evening was bumping into Kat Hawker the beautiful curator from Bearspace who had selected my work for Exhibit C.  Kevin and I were just saying how different this experience was from Bearspace when she appeared before us. I was glad to have a chat. Kat said she didn’t mind the lukewarm Time Out review of Exhibit C and it was good that they had come at all. It’s only the opinion of one person.

‘Syndrome’ – the syringe

Illumini Events are all about inclusion and democracy.

Aardvark Productions – the body snatchers

Free entertainment for all, combining artists with prop makers and performers to break down barriers and get more people involved and engaged in art. Jane also has a strong interest in history so the venue, historic in itself is littered with information sheets on everything from body snatchers, abandoned tunnels to haunted pubs. There were walks, talks, ghost stories and performances all through the week.

A very popular spot was the dressing up room. I spent hours here invigilating and came away with an aching jaw from laughing so much. People loved it – the big frothy dresses, the wigs, tails and top hats – posing extravagantly and morphing into character – it was wonderful to witness.

Amazing how a costume becomes a disguise and you another person.

By the end of the week I was no longer hiding at the end of the corridor in my Victorian garb but out on the street handing out leaflets and encouraging those tentative souls who weren’t quite sure what to expect to risk a quick look round. Most were very surprised and thrilled by it all.

‘Syndrome’ Mr Wright’s feet

I was really pleased with how my installation came together in the end.

One friend had found it very unsettling and had to leave – I hadn’t expected quite such a strong response.

‘Syndrome’ – the séance

The room was perfect and had a natural chill from a large unseen hole through to the outside which also caused the organza panels to waft mysteriously.

I think a lot of people missed the peep in boxes and after 3 days one of the torches had been stolen anyway but guests were invited to borrow a torch or lantern at reception so the possibility was still there.

I have always liked there to be something left to discover in my work for those who look.

‘Syndrome’ – the cows, the doll

‘Syndrome’ installation view

I also had my light box ‘Entrance’ installed in a small annexe further up the corridor which it fitted into very neatly.


entrance n.1. an opening allowing access.

2. an act of entering.

3. the right, means, or opportunity to enter.

entrance v. fill with wonder and delight. >cast a spell on.

‘Entrance’ reflects on the shadowy workings of the imagination and the desire for a spiritual encounter. A glimpse across the threshold  between the tangible and the ethereal can cause us to stall in our everyday routine to consider the possibilities of the supernatural.

Illumini events always have huge ambitions and bring in a real mix of people so it is a very different but always fun experience.

It gave me the chance to create work for an unusual space and try out some new ideas.

Taking the show down had to be done in one exhausting whirlwind morning – it seemed a lot of work for a one week event but 3,200 visitors passed through in that time.

As we had a deadline to get out I did have to hire man with a van to get all the crates home. Annoyingly they charged £90 not the £60 I expected – £10 for the congestion charge that we didn’t need to go through so can’t recommend

Now just left with the problem of where to put them….