Archives for posts with tag: trade

Amazing News Update – Laboratory of Dark Matters has been awarded a month long residency at Guest Projects for April 2017. Exciting times ahead.

Image - Laboratory of Dark Matters.jpg

Laboratory of Dark Matters is a response by artists to scientific investigations into the unknown nature of the Universe; opening a dialogue between scientists and artists who are each driven by curiosity and seek answers to fundamental questions about matter and consciousness.

“All visible matter in the entire Universe, including all the stars, cosmic objects, black holes and intergalactic gases, amounts to less than 5% of the mass we know to be present.”  

The search for dark matter is a scientific endeavour but also requires a large degree of faith in both the existence of these elusive particles and in the scientists’ ability to eventually detect and identify them. For artists, creating work is often about searching for some unknown and embracing an unexpected outcome.

The participating artists will be Amy Gear, Daniel Clark, Elizabeth Murton, Kate Fahey, Luci Eldridge, Melanie King, Peter Glasgow, Sarah Gillett, Susan Eyre.

Unexpectedly found myself trailing Game of Thrones fans location hunting.


Visiting Northern Ireland’s dramatic coast and spiritual heartlands. Brooding ruins and primeval earthworks, geological anomalies and wide windswept bays. I was on the lookout for saints and sacred wells.


breathing it in



The walls of Dunluce Castle – struck through with the local geometric formations




mossy glade – moss prohibition



‘The Armagh Astropark – where Heaven comes down to Earth…’




faith and ritual


At Cranfield Holy Well there was no evidence of fine spring water and amber coloured crystals, it looked dank and more pestilent than healing. Still it is festooned with personal items tied to the overhanging branches, each one a little prayer. According to  custom, one must bathe the infected part of the body with a rag dipped in the well, pray and then tie the rag to a large overhanging tree, as the rag decays the affliction is supposed to disappear. Judging from the preservation of these items, for some, the cure is a long way off.

1609 Cranfield Holy Well 2.jpg

County Antrim wears its heart on its sleeve.



Settlements past and present – Downhill House a recent ruin and the grassy banks of Lissenden Earthworks


The enigmatic nun, dark Julia’s grave stone at the ancient Bonamargy Friary


The bronze age Tandragee Man brandishing  his legendary silver prosthetic limb


The even more ancient belly of the earth at Marble Arch caves


Containment slotted nicely into the Plastic Propaganda curated exhibition Sugar and Spice at St. Katherine’s Dock.


Made in response to the trade of exotic objects by merchants who journeyed across the globe five hundred years ago when navigation was reliant on the stars.


Shaped plates, etched using a sugar lift technique, are filled with inks made from ground spices and copperplate oils wafting traces of their origins in to the gallery space –  turmeric, coriander, cumin, paprika…


These operate as markers plotting the spice route from India around Africa to Europe according to the latitude and longitude lines taken from C16th maps of Mercator and Ortelius. The patterns combine ideologies of origins with destinations reflecting the breadth and mix of cultures that came together. I like how viewing becomes a ritual.

Sugar and Spice explored ideas of trade, hybridization and inter-cultural exchange and the legacy of the rich mercantile history of the docks. Looking back informs, educates and gives us the platform for continuous debate…

 …all more poignant post referendum.

Sarah Gillet’s magical show Quarry at Brocket Gallery was in itself a process of quarrying – exhuming material from a forensic analysis of Paolo Uccello’s painting   ‘The Hunt in the Forest (1470). The pursuit of quarry. This inversion of meanings repeats itself in the work as do the shapes and shadows of a forest that extends beyond the boundaries of any canvas into the dark depths of dream spaces where strange creatures abound.


In such a space where would you turn to escape.


It’s how I imagine the labyrinths of Venice should be during the carnival. Full of intriguing theatrical creatures appearing out of the void; playful menace.

I have long enjoyed the work of Raqib Shaw and the dazzling paintings he creates with intricate enamelled surfaces glistening with gemstones and gold; the chaos of  battle played out to the personal beat of shamanic drums; the quest for unattainable perfection.  His obsession with self, pitted against the world, seems to have reached a melancholic peak with Self-Portraits at White Cube. This reimagining of old masters heavily laden with references to his own worlds of Peckham and Kashmir appear as premature reliquaries to a life saturated in self immolation.

1609-raqib-shawHe looks weary.

Hidden undercurrents of surface beauty are exposed in Victoria Ahrens thoughtful presentation of her PhD research ABSORB. A meditation on the history of the Paranà River in Argentina. From a mystical place of leisure for her Grandfather to the brutal grave of those who ‘disappeared’ during the military junta, thrown to their deaths to be slowly and anonymously absorbed into the landscape.


By allowing the waters of the river to wash over the plates and images that she creates the alchemical processes continue and those lost into the waters imbue the work with a gentle pathos.


From shards of shattered time an image is built that hovers between past and present.

Alex Simpson’s exploration of material in Through Viscera at Barbican Arts Group Trust was fresh and almost vibrating with energy.

Like a virus spreading across all surfaces, into the core of matter that lay extruded across the floor, eaten into and vein like, globular and thick with fungal felt, drying and dropping, leaving prints as scars.


In Lichtlose Luft, at PARCspace the LCC’s photographic archive resource centre,  Johanna Love’s lithographic prints and drawings on digital prints of tiny specks of matter magnified to reveal the sublime contours reminiscent of a mountain landscape were a very successful exploration of finding the human relationship in a scientifically generated image.


The technical image is a starting point for the work, either obtained through the electron microscope or the digital scanner. Through the process of drawing and digital manipulation, there is an attempt to bring the image back into the physical, material world of the living and imagination, for as Merleau Ponty (1964) states, ‘science manipulates things and gives up living in them.’


Isolated like meteorites falling through a grey space that vibrates with the blurred colours we see on the back surface of the eyelid; these drawings capture the imagination.

Super/collider once again brought us a mind blowing yet entertaining talk at Second Home.  Dr. Andrew O’Bannon has been studying Holography for 15 years. He proposes a bold idea that all the information in our 3D universe may be contained in a mysterious 2D image, like a hologram. Promising not only to unite Einstein’s relativity with quantum physics, holography also has the potential to provide us with cleaner energy, faster computers, and novel electronics. Using ideas from string theory he studies holography and strongly interacting systems.

In everyday life, a hologram is a two-dimensional image containing enough information to reconstruct a three-dimensional object. In theoretical physics, holography proposes that some strongly-interacting systems are equivalent to Einstein’s theory of gravity in one higher dimension.


“Many experiments to detect proposed dark matter particles through non-gravitational means are under way. On 25 August 2016, astronomers reported that Dragonfly 44, an ultra diffuse galaxy (UDG) with the mass of the Milky Way galaxy, but with nearly no discernible stars or galactic structure, may be made almost entirely of dark matter.” From BBC science

There were two talks at New Scientist Live that I found particularly interesting. The first was from Dr Andrew Pontzen a theoretical cosmologist explaining the evidence that dark matter exists and why it is proving so hard to detect. He spends his time working through theories that are then passed on to someone like Cham Ghag, an astrophysicist who will devise strategies to test theories in direct detection projects such as ZEPLIN and LUX.


It’s not only the calculations from gravitational lensing that suggests way more mass is present than can be seen but also large computer modelling samples of how galaxies form and rotate. Removing a few stars from the model galaxy ends in a chaotic breakdown, but making a few stars ‘dark’ so that the mass remains but we cannot see them does not change the rotation of the remaining stars we can still see. The distribution of dark matter across the universe appears like a fibrous net, imaged from the cosmic microwave background, an echo still reverberating from the first few seconds at the birth of the universe. The second talk ‘Beyond the Higgs’ was from particle physicist Professor Tara Shears who inspects the data produced from the experiments colliding proton beams to create fundamental particles at CERN, for anomalies that might turn out to be evidence of an interaction with a new particle. The search goes on.

1609 New Scientist Live dark matter.jpg


Danson House – an amazing setting for ‘Couriers of Taste’ curated by Day + Gluckman.

Danson House

Danson House

‘Couriers of Taste’ explores trade routes, global consumerism and cross-cultural influences. Danson House was built for leisure and decadence but that lifestyle was supported by a dark history in colonial exploitation.

The works shown are by artists who are interested in how the history of trade and cultural appropriation influences our understanding of the world today.

The fascination with the East dates back to the days of the China export trade and Silk Road. Even at the height of chinoiserie, as the Western market was being flooded with Chinese products the Chinese people themselves were unwelcome aliens and were targeted overseas by racist laws.

Karen Tam’s work looks at the infiltration of chinoiserie, and the continuing, conflicted relationships between “East” and “West”.

Karen Tam's recreation of an opium den

Karen Tam’s recreation of an opium den

Karen Tam believes the fear of China’s rising status as a superpower, its economic strength, position as the world’s manufacturer, and host of the 2008 Olympics is causing a current recurrence of racist attitudes towards Chinese people today.

Karen Tam's recreation of an opium den

Karen Tam’s recreation of an opium den

I think she is right that there is a lot of uncertainty around and this can fuel fears that might result in negative attitudes. The balance of economic power has shifted entirely since the term Oriental was first coined but China remains a mystery to most westerners. The fears we have are a lot to do with the messages we receive about life in China and its political system such as the treatment of Ai Wei Wei.

Vivien Qu

Vivien Qu

The film Trap Street an independent film directed by Vivien Qu showing at the London Film Festival about the authorities detaining and torturing innocent/naive people who’s lives can be suddenly destroyed with no recourse, not that this doesn’t happen in every other country up to a point, but Qu says these detentions in China are on the increase and the possibility to make independent films about such matters is declining. The reasons for this seem to be economic to some degree as Qu explained that investors now have the opportunity to make big money in commercial films so there is less for the small independent companies. As to the increase in detentions could this be down to more technology, more surveillance, more paranoia.

Trap Street

Trap Street

Meekyoung Shin copies Chinese porcelain vases. She transplants a foreign cultural tradition not only geographically from east to west but also in terms of media (from marble or porcelain to soap).

Meekyoung Shin Translation

Meekyoung Shin Translation

Shin’s use of soap, a transient and unstable material, questions the authority and originality that the original vases demand. Presenting the vases on the packing crates in which they are shipped from location to location, further emphasizes the sense of dislocation and transformation.

Like most 18th century houses Danson House would have housed ceramics and possibly wall papers from China, and would almost certainly have housed furniture and collectible items which borrowed chinoiserie elements.

Meekyoung Shin Translation

Meekyoung Shin Translation

In the 18th century new goods from around the world were influencing consumption, tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, spices, cottons and silks, changing the habits and fashions of society.

Stephanie Douet is interested in chinoiserie as the birth of leisure in Europe.

Stephanie Douet

Stephanie Douet

The fractured, fictional, idyllic life of the aristocracy in Europe imitating China is explored in Douet’s sculptures. She sees a similar distance in Europe’s understanding of the country today and a continuation of trade and misunderstanding from that of the seventeenth and eighteenth century.

Rapid growth in contemporary hi-tech consumerism and global manufacture is epitomised by Susan Stockwell’s installation of computer cables tumbling down through an antique Western fireplace.

Susan Stockwell

Susan Stockwell ‘Firewire’

Our reliance on technology and the huge impact that online shopping has had on production and global trade creeps into the imaginary trader’s bedroom at Danson House and begins to encroach on every aspect of his world.

The spectacle of Laura White’s ‘Esque Collection’ of sculptures pulls together ideas of hybridity, the pagoda dotted landscape, porcelain ware, shop display stands and the seduction of opulence.

Laura White

Laura White

These look magnificent highly prized items but close up it is apparent they are constructed from the back self of a charity shop and held together with plasticine.

Laura White

Laura White

They are confections.

Laura White

Laura White

Little towers to consumerism.

Laura White

Laura White

I found them joyful. They have a happy Frankenstein quality.

Laura White

Laura White

A tangle of origins melded together to create something new.

Ray Richardson is an artist whose roots in East London are very important to him. His work features his local landscape, his friends and family and a lot of dogs.

Ray Richardson

Ray Richardson

English bull terrier dogs who he sees as representing himself.

Ray Richardson Irish Frank

Ray Richardson Irish Frank

At his talk at Ochre Print Studio he told us about the local characters in his life and how his love of soul music and football influences his work.

It was hard to imagine him teaching at a public school but he spent a year in residency at Eton College.

He had a very philosophical attitude to his experience and as he said he was paid.

As he was to do this commission.

Ray Richardson

Ray Richardson

A another clash of cultures.

I have just started reading A History of the World in Twelve Maps by Jerry Brotton.

Came across this wonderful quote in it from Oscar Wilde –

‘a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail’.