Archives for posts with tag: Tai Shani

92 Light Years is finally up on the wall in my studio. This work was inspired by a visit to the UCL Observatory at Mill Hill with Lumen Studios just before the pandemic. It then became a more poignant and personal piece for me thinking about time spent here on Earth and trying to relate that to the vastness of the cosmos.

The electromagnetic waves of radio and television signals can pierce the ionosphere and travel through space at the speed of light. HD 70642 is a star similar to our sun with a large companion planet that orbits in a circular motion very similar to how the planets orbit here in our solar system.  This means it is possible there maybe Earth-type planets orbiting further in.

This star is in the constellation of Puppis about 90 light years away. Early signals from Earth will just be reaching this distant solar system with a potential Earth like planet. The time it has taken the signals to reach this home from home is roughly the same as my Mother’s lifetime on Earth. 92 years measured in light.

Early TV signals were transmitted in a series of 30 lines to complete one image called a raster pattern. It is a systematic process of covering an area progressively, similar to how one’s gaze travels when reading lines of text. The signal is sent in fragments and must be interpreted on arrival to make sense of the message. The folded sections in this work emulate the raster pattern and are made from a combination of screen print on textile, dye sublimation print using images from the 1930’s and chinagraph pencil marking out the star chart – a bit like a lenticular image – you see the stars from one side and the fragmented signal from the other.

I have inherited a large number of lace and crocheted doilies from my Mother. A strange constellation may emerge.

In the studio I am continuing experimenting with magnets and iron filings while thinking about magnetoreception, methods of navigation and finding the way in the dark.

I have made a new etching of my iris which has been worked into with chinagraph pencil and will be used as background to film the movement of magnetised iron filings marching across the print. I am planning a moving image piece exploring magnetoreception along with a large mounted softground etching and a smaller photopolymer etching. I have tried some larger sized filings on the print which are darker but am not sure they are successful.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute investigating light-sensitive molecules that bacteria, plants and animals use to detect the Earth’s magnetic field have noted that in birds this molecule, located in the eyes, only reacts to the magnetic field if it is simultaneously stimulated by light. The researchers think that some mammals may also use this cryptochrome to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field as there is a correspondence between the blue cones in mammals and the blue to ultra violet sensitive cones in birds. It is therefore entirely possible that this cryptochrome molecule in mammals could also perceive the Earth’s magnetic field and be used for navigation and orientation.

I participated in an online residency @t.ransienttt via Instagram to share some of my work over the course of one week. TRANSIENT supports creatives who explore the relationship between Art & Technology and offers an accessible platform to showcase their work, as well as connecting with fellow, like-minded creatives from all over the world. 

My interests are broadly to do with visualising the unseen. Technology can assist in making something visible which is otherwise outside the limitations of our senses. I use the pioneering technology developed in the study of particle physics as part of my practice allowing us a glimpse into the world of subatomic particles.

Cosmic Chiasmus – This video gives a glimpse into the activity of subatomic particles fired into our world when cosmic rays strike the top of the Earth’s atmosphere. Particles created during super nova explosions or by phenomena we are yet to discover, travel from distant galaxies continuously passing through us. Some particles collide and silently interact with atoms and technology on Earth.

A cloud chamber enables us to see the trails made by cosmic particles as they collide with and pass through our world. It has been said that the cloud chamber might be the most important piece of experimental equipment in the history of particle physics.

Scales of Intangibility and soft borders were developed in a black velvet chamber built during a studio residency at Chisenhale Art Place.

Scales of Intangibility is an interactive life size cloud chamber installation. Visitors were invited to enter the chamber to ‘capture’ projections of cosmic particle trails onto hand held viewing screens.

The concept of a finite but borderless universe and the permeability of our own body is explored in the video soft borders. The work addresses cosmic and quantum phenomena that are beyond human scale and relate them back to the body’s sensory experience. I worked with dance artist Paola Napolitano who performed sequences of movements based on the geometries of the platonic solids as video of cosmic particle trails were projected onto her body. The movements relate to the system devised by choreographer Rudolf Laban who believed – 

‘What we cannot perceive with our senses, especially our fundamental sense of touch, remains unreal and its very existence is denied’

Theoretically it is possible that wormholes exist. Aóratos (which translates as Unseen) was a site specific participatory installation with fire and film presented at Allenheads Blacksmith’s Shop as part of the 2019 ACA project Continuum.

Visitors were invited to burn offerings of negative energy to power the ‘wormhole’. They were provided with special paper tokens to write on filled with chemicals that change colour when they burn. They could then pass through a portal to see a video installation showing alternative landscape perspectives and would exit via a different door having made a short journey, leaving feeling cleansed of negative thought. Imagery for the videos took reference from theories of cosmic strings, space foam and the idea of a web of tiny wormholes connecting all points in space. The processes used included putting an endoscope down rabbit holes, using a microscope over foam, fibres and skin, green screen filming magnetic fields, along with footage from a high altitude balloon flight.

Wormholes symbolise crossing improbable boundaries.

There are some cosmic particles which arrive on Earth with such high energies that it could be they come from other dimensions.

At a Distance was filmed at Lizard Point Lighthouse on 29th March 2019 – the first date the UK was supposed to leave the EU. Solitary figures using semaphore flags sign ‘We Are One’ out across the ocean hoping the message will be echoed back as in quantum entanglement theory where particles link in a way that they instantly affect each other, even over vast distances. This mysterious twinning of electrons is what Einstein famously called ‘spooky action at a distance’. The video also uses manipulated footage of Lizard Point Lighthouse lamp powering up for the night to employ another form of messaging over distance. The film is back projected onto a Fresnel lens, the type found in lighthouses to increase luminosity of the lamps beam.

I watched another excellent Laurie Anderson talk in the series Spending The War Without You, this one was titled Birds. All the talks have now been released on YouTube.

Out of the studio

LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art at 180 The Stand.

Subterranean adventures with wow factor. Light as medium and not always light in content as these spectacles can sometimes feel to be.

Hito Steyerl This is the Future is a video installation where a woman prisoner searches for a garden she has has to hide in the future to protect it from discovery by the prison guards. It also features Power Plants which are digitally generated by neural network computer systems based on the human brain and designed to predict the next frame in the video (the future) and are inspired by ruderal species, plants that grow out of waste ground or disruption.

Es Devlin BLUESKYWHITE is an installation beginning with a walk through long red tunnel accompanied by voiced text from Byron’s 1816 poem Darkness. The poem was written after the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia 1815 which released so much debris into the atmosphere there was a perceptible dimming of the sun and drop in temperature of about 3 degrees. It is known as the year without summer. The tunnel leads to a viewing bench and screens where the blue sky turns white and then black. Current solar geoengineering models suggest that a haze of suspended particles in the atmosphere could reduce global warming but would also turn the blue sky white.

Cao Yuxi Shan Shui Paintings by AI uses deep network algorithms to learn from digital pixels of free hand oriental ink paintings on the web to produce unlimited simulations of landscape paintings combined with algorithms simulating the flow of water molecules creating a dynamic ever changing liquified landscape.

Cecelia Bengolea Favourite Positions is a 3D animation of the artist’s body liquified and melting, a body without boundaries where bodily fluids find new pathways and connections to synapses

Universal Everything Transfiguration – a figure keeps a steady pace in a continuous cycle of transformation, relentless unstoppable evolution through lava, rock, fur, water

Lux Carstens unicolor is a study in the psychology of colour perception and chromatics influenced by researchers, scientists and artists including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Hermann von Helmholtz, Werner Heisenberg, Wilhelm Ostwald, Eckhard Bending, Josef Albers and Johannes Iten.

a’strict Morando is an installation of two transparent OLED screens showing video using x-ray and time lapse techniques of peonies as they bloom and die. Peonies are a symbol of wealth and prosperity in Korea and a popular subject for paintings over many decades as well as being displayed at main life events such as births, marriages and funerals.

Flower Meadow a kinetic sculpture by Swiss studio for media architecture

a’strict Starry Beach – beauty and power as luminous waves crash all around and as in a dream we are immersed yet physically untouched

Black Corporeal (breathe) – creating a haunting soundtrack to the whole exhibition, a critical examination on the relationship between materiality and the black psyche by Julian Knxx. It explores the idea that our ability to breathe – an act that is challenged by everything from air pollution, stress, anxiety and societal prejudice – is more than our lung’s ability to take in air, but a reflection of the way we live individually and together.

Terrestrial Act III at Thames-side Gallery curated by Hot Desque with works by Sam Carvosso Anna Reading Davinia-Ann Robinson Hannah Rowan Harry Smithson Giorgio van Meerwijk. Hot Desque creates a future-past landscape through the theatrical presentation of six artists’ sculptures within a set. Initially presented on stage at the Theatre Royal Newcastle within an ornate yet empty theatre, now, dislodged in a new spacetime, the set has transformed over time.

Matter takes the stage choreographed by humans in an atmospheric alchemical collaboration.

In (Matters of the Soul) at ASC Gallery with work by Stephen Nelson, Jane Millar, Olly Fathers, James Tailor, Stephen Palmer, John Bunker and Lex Shute.

Does artwork have a soul?

21 grams was the disputed weight of a person’s soul as measured in Duncan MacDougals 1901 experiments on people before and after death. Certain work defies classification, playing with its own materiality and the illusion of what its seems to be. Other work plays with the legacy of the previous life represented in its material and the soulful spirit that could lie within.

Such an interesting concept explored in these works.

A Strange Kind of Knowing presented by Arusha Gallery and Haarlem Gallery at Noho Studios with works by Verity Birt, Holly Bynoe, Kristina Chan, Fourthland, Susan Hiller, Katja Hock, Coral Kindred-Boothby, Penny McCarthy, Kate McMillan, Aimée Parrott, Chantal Powell, Tai Shani and Eleanor May Watson. A Strange Kind of Knowing investigates phenomena such as the weather, the sea and sea caves, cloud formations and fire; lost knowledge and civilisations; and the natural and psychological cycles of transformation.

These works are pushing at the boundaries of an intuitive connection to the natural world brought to a more acute awareness during lockdown months.

First outing with the crystal ball into quasi countryside creating mini worlds.

Learnt an important lesson about the intensity of the sun + polished glass. Within seconds of putting the ball on a bench the wood was furiously smoking. I left a series of charred marks behind and have decided to keep the sphere in its box when not in use.

 

The mysteries of the sun was the focus of the exhibition The Green Ray at Wilkinson Gallery curated by Andrew Hunt.

1604 Le Rayon Vert

A momentary green flash visible at sunset when atmospheric conditions combine with light refraction is a rare and fêted phenomenon that inspired the novel by Jules Verne and Eric Rohmer’s film. Witnessing the green ray purportedly bestows powers of insight and perception. The poeticism of such a moment is captured in this text piece RIFT>GLYPH by Sophie Sleigh-Johnson

1604 Sophie Sleigh-Johnson

1604 Jeffrey Dennis

Jeffrey Dennis The Green Ray

1604 Anna Barriball

Anna Barriball Sunrise/Sunset XII

1604 Daniel OSullivan

Daniel O’Sullivan Palm Beach

1604 The Green Ray Phil Coy Yellowed Sun

Phil Coy Yellowed Sun

At MIT they have their own henge sunset celebration when the sun is in alignment and sweeps the length of a corridor. Yuri Pattison’s installation Sleepless Synonyms, Sleepless Antonyms uses this natural phenomenon occurring at a technological site to make connections between natural and screen light and the psychological  effects of sleep deprivation while wafting us with Sweet Dreams vaporised melatonin.

Terra Tremula at Lubomirov/Angus Hughes Gallery was a show about instability and tenuous balance. I was particularly drawn to the glossy striated surfaces of Paul Manners paintings. Caught somewhere between peering out and peering in. I must have some primordial fixation with the circle.

Juilette Losq’s muddle of undergrowth is slightly claustrophobic yet like all the best fairy tales also inviting. Strange abandoned structures are being entwined, obscured, pulled under. She sets up a tension in a quiet space and leaves you there.

1603 Terra Tremula Juliette Losq

Shelagh Wakely Spaces Between Things at Richard Saltoun Gallery could be described as barely there and likely to disappear at any moment. Fragile, ephemeral materials, translucent papers, jittery images, loose threads, sprung wires make a tenuous hold on materiality.

1604 Shelagh Wakely (1)

Shelagh Wakely’s work has a lightness that Richard Deacon expresses beautifully when he says that her work helped him come to ‘the realisation that an object could share space rather than occupy it.’

This is something that is also apparent in the work of Maud Cotter seen at Domo Baal in the her exhibition Matter of Fact.

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Maud Cotter Litter Bin

Everyday items and materials are opened up in space allowing us a glimpse into the complexity of structure in the world around us. What at first glance appears to be basketry turns out to be tightly packed lengths of spliced corrugated cardboard arranged in geometric patterns. The secrets of the universe are held in the simplest of building blocks.

1604 Maud Cotter 2

Maud Cotter Matter of Fact

The Subterranean Saturday event at Conway Hall presented 3 speakers on the subject of exploring underground. Scott Wood gave an idea of the sort of myths that circulate relating to the London Underground system and the origin of those stories which appear and reappear in modified forms throughout history. Antony Clayton the author of Secret Tunnels of England; Folklore and Fact shared his knowledge of where to go to find a tunnel system to explore and the myths that have built up around some of these spaces. It’s astonishing how much of the ground has been burrowed through.

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Gary Lachman’s talk was called The Occult Underground but it was much broader than that and I was interested in the analogies he made between matter and consciousness and how the tunnel plays a part in transcendental states of mind. Tunnel vision experienced when in a trance like state is said to have nested curve lines that give the impression of entering a tunnel in the mind and shamanic tunnelling is performed to enter the spirit world.

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Entoptic phenomena are forms that originate within the human visual system. There has been research into the similarity of these geometric patterns that appear on our inner eyes when they are closed and the sort of shapes and marks made in paintings by societies that practise altered states of consciousness through religious, shamanistic or drug induced means often in the dark depths of caves. Our physiognomy hasn’t changed in 40,000 years so we can still experience floating shapes within our eyes, how we respond to these optical hieroglyphs depends on our culture and transcendental interpretations.

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The research of Raymond Moody in the 70’s into the Near-Death Experience of people who had experienced clinical death discovered that many experienced shared features, such as the feeling of being out of one’s body, the sensation of traveling through a tunnel, encountering dead relatives, and encountering a bright light and often returning with a new found faith in an afterlife. This inspired Moody to build a psychomanteum replicating the practice of the ancient Greeks who would sit in a dimly lit room staring into a mirror to consult with the apparitions of the dead. Moody calls his psychomanteum The Dr. John Dee Theater of the Mind. He has written a more recent appraisal of his work ‘Paranormal’ looking back at his fascination with death and beyond in which he writes;

“I felt the question of the afterlife was the black hole of the personal universe: something for which substantial proof of existence had been offered but which had not yet been explored in the proper way by scientists and philosophers.”

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There are many theories past and present sparked by the concept of the tunnel and Lachman mentioned quite a few in passing.  The birth canal being our first encounter with a tunnel which according to Otto Rank was also our most painful trauma which we spend the rest of our lives trying to recover from. Stanislav Grof is also captivated by the idea of passage through stages of perinatal matrices before we are born.

1412 Her

Her

The tunnel takes us underground to the underworld, in ancient Egyptian mythology to Duat, the realm of the dead where the sun god Ra goes every night. In Greek mythology to the domain of Hades and Persephone and the journey of poet and musician Orpheus to rescue his wife Eurydice.

1605 persephone

The theme of a sunken, subterranean, and secret chamber is found in many secret societies. The early Roman cult of worship that centred around the god Mithras made its temples underground. The powers of Mithras are celebrated in his dragging a bull down into a cavern and slaughtering it with a sword then feasting with the sun god in this underground sacrificial place.

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Mithras requires seven steps to initiation which relate to the seven planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Luna, Sol, Saturn.

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The planets also figure in legends surrounding the tomb of Christian Rosenkreutz founder of the Rosicrucian Order whose interred body is said to have been preserved for 120 years in a heptagonal vault lit by a miniature sun with the Alchemical motto: V.I.T.R.I.O.L.  – Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem – “Visit the interior of the Earth; by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone.”

The mysteries of what may be discovered underground, caverns of light, treasure, the philosopher’s stone inspire the imagination and feed into mystical tales such as The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, a collection of interconnecting fantastical tales involving an underground society by Polish Count Jan Potocki who tragically committed suicide as he feared he was turning into a werewolf.

On a visit to southern Italy in 1638, the ever-curious Athanasius Kircher was lowered into the crater of Vesuvius then on the brink of eruption, in order to examine its interior.  His geological and geographical investigations culminated in his Mundus Subterraneus of 1664, in which he suggested that the earth’s tides were caused by water moving to and from a subterranean ocean.

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Trained in law rather than science John Cleves Symmes  was a proponent of The Hollow Earth Theory  publishing a circular in 1818  – I declare the earth is hollow, and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentrick spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles 12 or 16 degrees; I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking.

The hollow earth theory was popular with novelists and science fiction writers such as  John Uri Lloyd who wrote the Etidorpha ( Aphrodite spelt backwards) series of books relating a journey to the earth’s core.  Jules Verne ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ being the most well known of the genre and although inspired by recent geological discoveries was also perhaps written in the vein of a journey of self discovery.

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ANATHEMA – distortion/displacement/the other. The programme of artists films screened at Danielle Arnaud’s gallery was curated by Anne Duffau as the first in a series of events by A—Z, a platform to explore various unstable potentials that lead from the idea of entropy.

Zina Saro-Wiwa Phyllis

Laure Prouvost We Know We Are Just Pixels

1604 Laure Prouvost

Jordan Wolfson Animation,masks

Tai Shani The Vampyre

Even if the post human was addressed via the digital all were films that get under your skin.

In other rooms of the gallery a skin was forming over pools of tinted cough syrup slowly evaporating from smooth concrete surfaces leaving chemical residues in Robery Cervera’s Drawn reservoirs.

Larger than life images of limbs and torsos are draped over scaffolding as though hung out to dry by Alix Marie in Hanged, hung, numb. The sharp resolution gives fascinating detail to every hair and pore, crease and blister of skin, naked and exposed thrown together in a haphazard mingling of flesh.

The works showing in ICHOR share a sense of the unheimlich.  As ‘ichor’ could be the discharge from a weeping wound or the golden fluid running through the veins of the gods so the films screened in ANATHEMA and the works in ICHOR carry both possibilities of visceral mortality and mythical powers.

 

 

 

 

 

The myth of the wild man stretches back to the ancient tablets inscribed with the tale of Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality. As a barometer of the mores of society the wild man’s characteristics reflect topical fears and aspirations. If society is perceived to be corrupt the wild man symbolises natural wisdom, if society embraces convention the wild man represents anarchy. His character can also be assessed from the landscape he purportedly inhabits, a pastoral setting reveals an ideal to be strived for whereas the dark forest conceals the untamed savage.

Forest of Eden

Susan Eyre Forest of Eden

I wanted to discover a female counterpart to the contemporary wild man (an internet meme) I had placed back in the ancient forest.

Rather than a female on the edge of society I wanted a female at the centre of society.

Wondering who a contemporary goddess might be I was introduced to Bernadette by a mutual friend.

I spent some time with Bernadette, listening to her stories.  She is very proactive person in the local community and has had an impact as a campaigner for the Green Fair, uplifting some dark neglected spaces with vibrant mosaics, and more recently setting up the choir Shakti Sings recognisable in red with flowers in their hair who honour the earth through song and have become a mainstay at Glastonbury encouraging the crowds to keep the site clean. She has also established the Beacon Temple as a place of worship to honour the many goddesses in her own home. She kindly agreed to my taking some photos of her at home which I have used as basis for work focusing on connections between ancient spiritual beliefs and contemporary society. Her spiritual life requires that she gives up stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine as well as any contact with money. One of her missions is to uncover and document the ancient sites of goddess worship that have become hidden within the palimpsest of the city. The goddess Isis cropped up a lot in our conversations and so for one piece I used imagery from the ancient temple to Isis at Philae in Egypt, placing Bernadette within the sphere of the ancients yet maintaining her contemporary domesticity with her carpet and slippers. I was inspired by the exhibition Mirror City at the Hayward Gallery which refers to Jean Cocteau’s Film Orphée and the significance of a mirror as a portal to another world.

Considering Bernadette’s positioning as a portal between this world and the spirit world I screenprinted onto mirrored acrylic.

I am a portal

Susan Eyre I am a portal

In a second piece of work I took inspiration from the storytelling of Xanthe Gresham-Knight who weaves tales of ancient mythology into contemporary scenarios.  I used images conjured from her goddess tales such as the song of the white snake and the ear of corn she gives out at the end of her performances combined with wall paintings from Bernadette’s home to weave together the ancient with the everyday in a rich multi layered screenprint worthy of a goddess.

Her

Susan Eyre Her

At the RCA I was extremely lucky to be selected to have a masterclass with Susan Hiller who coincidently featured in the Mirror City exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. I have appreciated her work for a long time and share many of her interests.  It was an exciting and nerve wracking proposition to present my work to her. I had prepared a 10 minute power point as requested but after attending her lecture the week before felt this wasn’t perhaps the approach she would approve of. She seemed to find both the Powerpoint presentation and her in conversation partner for the lecture irritating. With her depth and breadth of experience she was going to be a difficult woman to impress.

She began by telling me that she finds printmaking to be an unsatisfactory medium to convey ideas. As I stuttered though my presentation I could feel her impatience growing.

I had used a favourite quote from artist Sergio Vega

“the concrete texture of perspiration” [ ] “that intimate battle with humidity – the monumentality of spaces, the exuberance of vegetation with that smell of ripe fruits, the exotic flowers in the never-ending heat, those sunburned colours, and the buzzing of mosquitoes, which, like fat angels of a tropical rococo, rue without mercy in the sky of Eden.”

She stopped me there and asked how the work I have produced so far addressed this problem of conveying such an experience.

I admitted I had not so far resolved this issue but have been thinking about this since. Sergio Vega also struggles with the problem of conveying an atmosphere, for example an experience of the forest rather than a depiction of the forest. The thing about the Tropicalia exported in the rococo style was its cleanness, its reduction to aesthetic – the mosquitoes  were not exported too. In his work Vega aims to show the sweat, the grotesque dictatorships, the poverty. It may not be possible to show all this in one piece of work but in a body of work over time maybe some of these issues can be addressed, even in printmaking. This is my challenge.

It was wonderful to spend a morning with Susan Hiller, she has an amazing mind – acute and resourceful. She did see a glimmer of hope in my etching Paradise HP2 and also in the spectrum print that was a chance discovery along the way.

Susan Eyre

Susan Eyre

Stephanie Rosenthal the curator of Mirror City describes the mirror as an unreal space, a virtual space like the world behind the screen where we spend more and more time. There was a lot of information to take in at this extensive show so the magical simplicity of Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq’s imaginings of objects from other worlds was memorable and his intense geometric black hole did pull you in.

Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq Black Hole III

Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq Black Hole III

Susan Hiller’s audio-visual installation Resounding (Infrared) relayed earthly accounts of possible extra terrestrial sightings mingled with recordings of static still audible from the big bang while the screen quivered and pulsed with coloured light waves.

Susan Hiller Resounding (infrared)

Susan Hiller Resounding (infrared)

The theatrical setting for Tai Shani’s performance pieces was set behind glass creating a sort of time capsule effect.

Tai Shani Dark Continent

Tai Shani Dark Continent

A world we cannot enter only dream of. In Dark Continent she fantasizes a utopian city of women, different characters in history represented by the Neanderthal Hermaphrodite, The Medieval Mystic and The Woman on the Edge of Time, all bearing the same face.

Tai Shani Dark Continent

Tai Shani Dark Continent

A pink fantasy of a genderless society.

Inspired to learn more about medieval mystics I signed up for an RCA reading group with Tai Shani. The text we were looking at was a section from Amy Hollywood, ‘Mysticism, Trauma, and catastrophe in Angela of Foligno’s Book and Bataille’s Atheological Summa’. Bataille identifies with Angela and seeks to experience the ecstasy she purports  to achieve  from a concentrated identification with the suffering of Christ on the cross.

Excerpt from the text …

It is impossible for me to read – at least most books. I don’t have the desire. Too much work tires me. My nerves are shattered. I get drunk a lot. I feel faithful to life if I eat and drink what I want. Life is an enchantment, a feast, a festival: an oppressing, unintelligible dream, adorned nevertheless with a charm that I enjoy. The sentiment of chance demands that I look a difficult fate in the face. It would not be about chance if there were not an incontestable madness. I began to read, standing on a crowded train, Angela of Foligno’ s Book of Visions. I’m copying it out, not knowing how to say how fiercely I burn  – the veil is torn in two, I emerge from the fog in which my impotence flails. (OC V 245; G 11)

Bataille opens his exploration of ecstatic anguish at the moment when World War II begins and claims that the war itself necessitates his text. Bataille finds his own tormented desire the very anguish that compels him to write reflected in Angela’s pages. Angela, the most important of the Christian mystics for Bataille, surpasses him in the pursuit of abjection and ecstasy.  He wants to be like her in her desire for and proximity to death: “I suffer from not myself burning to the point of coming close to death, so close that I inhale it like the breath of a loved being” (Oe V 246; G 12).

The discussion revolves around the idea of the rapture and how this ultimate dissolution of self over to ecstasy might be achieved.

Anselm Keifer had a major exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. I find his work very inspiring, the scale and exuberance of his paintings carved from the substance of the earth with all the pain and trauma of geological and social evolution. The gallery guide tells us he seeks to understand our purpose here on earth, our relationship with the celestial, the spiritual, and the weight of human history. He also has a fascination with the civilization of Mesopotamia and the story of Osiris and Isis.

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Anselm Kiefer, Osiris and Isis, 1985-87

At the summit of the pyramid is an extruded old television circuit board emanating golden wires and shards of pottery over the ancient steps to heaven.

I was intrigued by his use of geometry and references to ancient beliefs and mythologies.

Anselm Kiefer, The Rhine (Melancholia) (Der Rhein (Melancholia)), 1982-2013. Collage of woodcut on canvas with acrylic and shellac

Anselm Kiefer, The Rhine (Melancholia) (Der Rhein (Melancholia)), 1982-2013.
Collage of woodcut on canvas with acrylic and shellac

The Rhine (Melancholia) references Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia, an engraving dated from 1514 which appears to lay before us clues to the puzzles of the universe.

1412 Durur Melencolia

Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia

It was encouraging to hear Christiane Baumgartner talk about her work at Alan Cristea Gallery in such a down to earth manner, giving credence to intuition in her feel for colour and composition. She takes photographs of her TV screen and through diligence of process captures the flickering screen in a frozen moment. In her series Totentanz she witnesses the smoky death dance of a plane shot from the sky. Her work holds melancholia within it.

Christiane Baumgartner Totentanz 2013 series of 15 woodcuts on paper

Christiane Baumgartner Totentanz 2013 series of 15 woodcuts on paper

She seemed surprised herself to discover so much of her work references the war. Often her images may appear innocuous without their title which is what ultimately adds the layer of pathos removing it from sentimentality.

Chrisitane Baumgartner Wood near Colditz

Chrisitane Baumgartner Wood near Colditz

It is interesting how subtle shifts in the colour of paper and ink can change the atmosphere of an image. For the softground etching of the Chapel of Rest in Paradise Industrial Estate, Hemel Hempstead  I found a soft grey paper worked well with chine collé added over the windows. The grainy etching aged the building and using a lustre powder on the chine collé  reflecting opalescent when viewed at different angles gave the interior an other worldly aura that felt appropriate.

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Susan Eyre Paradise HP2

 

I aimed to take a piece of soulless architecture and give it some gravitas worthy of a resting place for souls.