Exhibition review

On Saturday, my family and I travelled to see artist Katie Taylor’s end of degree exhibition ‘Latent’. The setting was the atmospheric Crypt Gallery on the Euston Road. Being almost at entry point to my studies with OCA it was of significant interest to me to see Katie’s work at the very end point.

Katie has been exploring  ‘our place in the world, the fragility of life and death and the precariousness of our existence.’ She supports this investigation with a grounding in historical research and the references add an under-surface impact to her 3-d forms. In this exhibition Katie had chosen 6 pieces that exemplified the range and detail of her enquiry – heavily evidencing both materially and conceptually. I have some knowledge of Katie’s earlier work from her previous learning logs and I was intrigued to see what strands of these still echoed both in thought and process. Her more recent work I have followed on Instagram – so to see the real dimensions and to be able to walk around both the individual pieces and the whole, was important to me to get a better sense of their scale and placement.

Initially, one has to escape the busy-ness of the Euston Road and find your way round the back of  the impressive St. Pancras Church to the Crypt Gallery entrance. Immediately, there is a lull in the traffic and an otherness to the experience. Entering through hefty ornate red (iron?) doors one descends down steps to the crypt, the gallery. On the day we went we left a bitingly cold outside and descended into a warm and intimate space, lighting hinting at exhibits and corners, shadows between spaces giving one the time to carry the exhibit scene in the mind,  on to where it is modified by the addition of a new exhibit. The temperature is ambient, the air still and calm, but there is a real sense of ‘something’ – it is not unpleasant, not ghostly as one might suspect of a crypt, but more of a hidden sanctuary, a safe place, a waiting place – giving further weight to my understanding of the term ‘latent’: ‘existing but not yet developed or manifest; hidden or concealed’ which made the setting of Katie’s work feel, as another visitor commented, almost ‘a site specific installation.’

We were lucky in our timing in that Katie was just finishing a tour and was able to take us around describing and confidently engaging us with details about her process and allowing us to explore and read our own narrative as well as offering suggestions of her own starting points. Katie’s thread of ‘latent’ is clarified in her supporting exhibit booklet, ‘A visual exploration of residual memory, using impressions left as a metaphor for loss’. Katie’s work in the flesh as it were (literally in the case of ‘Momentary’ and ‘Sum’ and figuratively for the other 4 pieces) for me read like a complex piece of poetry – there are clues in, then twists and turns, just when one question is suggested another rises up behind it creating a multiplicity of reading at one sitting. Moving through the crypt the pieces clash and intertwine in my imagination creating then collapsing narratives, but never losing me as though her signature voice is the thread through the minotaur’s maze.

‘Marked’ is the first piece which dribbles out of a circular orifice in the crypt brickwork pooling on the floor- the sheen of red ribbon adding a further suggestion of the bloodiness of its subject ‘the endlessness of atrocities of war.’ The red-dyed name-tape length is scripted with Icelandic terms for ‘massacre’, ‘genocide’ and ‘Ethnic cleansing.’ Iceland had been chosen as it is ‘a country  with some of the least conflict in modern history’ – it was poignant that the Icelandic words for the above terms are not loan words, they are Icelandic – even a country that has minimal experience of these horrors has to have a term to name them. The labelling, the repeating to me spoke of the need to get a hold of these incomprehensible experiences of man’s inhumanity to man – as if naming them can contain them, reduce the reality of them to a noun that can be uttered in the media, over a dinner table, in front of the children! I remember as a very young child having a poetry book when I was in the top class of infant school, that had pictures of mass graves from the holocaust and that picture of the child in Vietnam fleeing down the road stripped bare and crying. These pictures were set adjacent to war poetry. ‘Marked’ was like revisiting that experience – I knew the pictures were horrific – especially the holocaust picture, but I also knew that these crimes had to be shown, had to be seen, made real so people couldn’t deny their existence and pretend they didn’t happen. The Icelandic language has to have these words for global responsibility and awareness. ‘Marked’ in its tangle of twisted labels also made me consider the awfulness of our times living with what seems indiscriminate terrorism – who is marked? Whose life is going to be marked by these atrocities? Is it already written on the thread of our lives? The terms are woven through the tape – war impacts all surfaces of our lives – it becomes woven through the very fabric of our being.

‘Sum’ impacted my children and partner the most. The beef casing on the cast skulls added a further reality to this piece. The fabric imprints on the ceramic hinting at the identifying nature of textiles – and its use in helping identify the victims in more recently excavated mass graves. I wanted to pick up the skulls, they felt child-like in their scale and needed to be touched, they cried out to me for someone to tenderly examine and notice them. They spoke of a need to be known, a need to be seen and tended and their stories told. This piece bore heavy witness to a perpetual cycle – the surrounding optic fibre encircling these skulls to me spoke of a need to shine a light on these people who had become faceless and voiceless, whose individuality had been stolen by the singularity of language that wants to name ‘a mass grave’ but not speak of the plurality of truth.

With these two pieces lingering in my mind, and the weight of all the voices that clamoured to be heard we turned the corner to the powerfully placed ‘Evaporate’. Tiny yet wholly absorbing on its own platform ‘Evaporate’ allowed for a pause and recollection of emotion. The fact it is an upturned vessel amplified that feeling of collection and focus for me. Katie talked us through the processes and sampling she had undertaken to settle with the chosen combination of alum salt and food colouring. Interestingly the piece is now changing colour – taken in the context of grief and mourning, sometimes this small place of darkness inside can be transformed with moments of sparkle as time passes, oftentimes the dark lonely space of mourning overshadows and changes the colour of the surroundings. I am reminded of my friend’s mother who says that when she is in the worst place of her Depression it is as if she sees the world in grey – all the colour has gone. The supporting text made me consider that it is not the matter of us that is the essence of us, it is the energy. Evaporation is a process of transformation powered by, in nature, the heat of the sun – the sun’s energy. It is only by being exposed to light can the dark places in us have any chance of being transformed. Likewise, the darkness in the world will not go away for being hidden, it has to be brought to light. This piece speaks to me in pure poetry, I could keep coming back to it again and again. For me, in my stage of learning, it has helped me comprehend that a work need be suggestive without being too dictatorial. Perhaps what my tutor was getting to with my wounded clothing pieces was that they were too directive in their meaning – there was not enough for the intelligent audience to puzzle through or discover. Seeing Katie’s work I realise that I love the mental play of discovering what the pieces may mean to her, but discovering what they say to me and how that varies from moment to moment, how different connections pop up and fade as other more enriching link are created. It is this I need to recognise in the making of my work – to leave some of the work for the audience.

Both ‘Momentary’ and ‘Lay Waste’ showed Katie experimenting with contrasting processes and pushing the boundaries with materials: the former being bone ash on casing. For me these pieces arrested me technically and I enjoyed the concepts they presented and found them a fresh and unique way of delivering both ‘textile’ and their subject. These pieces created further dialogue and transition in the exhibition which became very much whole, circular – you could enter the exhibition at any piece and find the narrative continuous and contiguous. These pieces have made me consider how pieces can be presented, how the audience’s view can be directed and how chronology does not have to lead – when there is a clear vision then any work is a window into and onto this.

This exhibition has also emphasised to me the importance of selection and precision. There is a point at which too much work will water down the message and too little will fail to move your audience. I understand that Katie had had her moments of self-doubt too concerning this, but from my vantage point the exhibition felt balanced and professional, a clear stage set – the Crypt- on which we as audience collaborated, the lighting creating nuances and subtly directing our flow and perspective, each piece being a character on the stage – now I type this I am recalled of the Guildsman’s ‘Miracle’ or ‘Mystery Plays’ of the Medieval era which were performed in cycles – sometimes lasting days. This perhaps brought to the front of my mind by the church setting. I shall consider this further – reconsidering the text that supports ‘Evaporate’, ‘the soul leaving the body and rising’. How much of a step would it be to consider this exhibition further in the light of a religious and secular overlay? Thoughts to think on.

I want to finish with ‘Weight’ although on our tour this piece was half way round. There is the fascination with the materials and their textural contrast – the shine, light-reflection and impression in the pewter, the hidden trace of the lace from which it took its impression against the light absorbing quality of the lumpy coarse, rigid concrete engineering block – each material carrying its own poetry and metaphor; all this heavily restraining the cotton length – in this setting reminiscent of a winding sheet – which now makes me consider the cloths left behind in the empty grave in the Christian story of the Resurrection of Jesus. The movement in the cloth held so much story – as it was tugging the weight along it pulled tight and thin and possibly threatened to break – at this bottleneck one could be forgiven for thinking, if one was going through this, that the weight was just about to shift as the tension would be at its fullest. Yet the cloth gathers in drapes and ripples where the resistance has broken and the cloth has gathered back into its own natural shaping, after this a stretch of fabric smoothed out – making me consider how we try to smooth things over when we can’t pull them into the shape we want, and then there is the edge – the piece is left behind, the weight is left, and with it the small moment of precious pewter. How much concrete are we carrying in our psyches for the sake of a small perceived moment of treasure which is in fact an impression of the now gone beauty?

Meeting Katie and hearing her words and voice to add commentary to the exhibition both grounded and enlightened me. Creating an exhibition is achievable, there are technicalities and logistics to organise and overcome (not least of all the funding). Yet with all these profane concerns, the how’s and when’s and where’s and whatnot’s, it is the vision that elevates the work into a sacred experience – through the work we find another place in ourselves and look at the familiar yet newly strange place of ourselves in the World again. Like Orpheus or Eurydice we climbed the steps back to the busy ground level of London, resurfacing visibly unchanged, yet inwardly transformed.

Thank you Katie.

(All supporting images are available on the artist’s website – link below!)

Bibliography:

http://cryptgallery.org/

http://www.kmtaylor.co.uk/blog-news/

Growing the series

Topography of Harm still seems to have much life in it and direction. I’ve been dwelling on what purpose these works serve and what promise they could hold. Yesterday, I went to see the ‘Making Nature’ exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. I haven’t been to this museum since I was a teenager and it continues to live up to its slogan of being ‘the free destination for the incurably curious’. It was also, dare I say it, a sanctuary of curious grown-ups!

After being greeted by Anthony Gormley’s inverted suspension ‘Feel’ (2001)in the atrium and climbing the beautiful staircase we watched a film broadcast on 3 screens all about communication – and humanity’s need to create giant listening ears for alien life  (like ESA’s new deep-space listening station) across the universe without really hearing the lifeforms on this planet that are gradually becoming extinct (actually without hearing their fellow man at times). As always seems to happen, something that I thought I was just watching settles deep deep inside and then resurfaces after sleep as being of profound impact. The exhibit was called ‘The Great Silence’ and it beamed the sound of silence from deep space (intimating that any intelligent life would do its absolute utmost to stay undetectable by the human species- a contributing factor to understanding the Fermi Paradox). The silence however is the sound of space ever vibrating from the Big Bang. Space is vibrating, that sound rippling further and further away like a great wave on a puddle. Yet for all this that we can listen in on, we fail to communicate with each other and ourselves. what if we strove for listening to our internal deep space, or listening to another’s?

In the next exhibition I knew I would have rather a closed mind: ‘Bedlam’. Whilst I fully uphold the importance of righting the wrongs of those incorrectly incarcerated and those who were mental health patients whose treatment was inhumane, I do believe that we mustn’t over-romanticise the legacy of mental health illnesses on family and friends and community. There is still the drowning-the-witch chair feel to diagnosis. If you say your insane then you’re incarcerated, if you claim your sanity then it proves your insanity. The exhibition did highlight the circus of therapies available as contemporary treatment – but this made me question all the more – what do we have that we can cling to as sanctuary in our lives. What makes us feel safe? I think I was turning over in my head those amulet pieces.

Finally, we went into the ‘Medicine Man’ exhibition with its wonderfully idiosyncratic display ranging from medical instruments (like an array of historical amputation saws) to the amusing array of rather more er sensitive(?) exhibits – a chastity belt, fruit sculptures containing a miniature couple mid foreplay. But what really caught my eye, were the amulets and reliquaries ( see Wellcome Images then search ‘amulets’). There seems to be an ancient and human need for something tangible to help us feel protected. From the comfort of a doll or teddy for children, to hope beads to enable a child to map their progress through chemotherapy treatment, to the amulets and reliquaries of ancient and other cultures.

Which brought me back to my making. These miniature amulet designs are serving not just to ward off, like the guardians, but are actually seeking to bring goodness towards. They purpose of these amulets seem to be to attract and repel. The secret script on many of the resembles the asemic texts I have been working with.

There is much mileage in the creating of guardians and amulets to protect against the harm that is being mapped out in the series.

This also gives me room to work on a range of scales and with a variety of media – significantly into 3d.

When I watched all the people hunched over at the station waiting for the train, crouched over their phones, it made me realise, we so want to be found yet we are busied up in the business of finding, we want to be discovered, yet there’s that real innate drive for discovery, we want something other to connect and communicate with us. Our sense of sight is overused – it is the sense that is supposed to protect us – alert us to danger, find a safe route, help hunt for food. Yet what about out deeper senses, what about that very human sense of imagination. Imagine if we really listened. Really heard and understood. That’s what we’re searching for in our likes and dislikes I think. Something that says, ‘I’m here’ and something that says ‘Yes’. Aren’t we looking for home? Why would we listen across space for intelligent life? It’s not just for protection against some imagined threat from alien species. It’s not to be shown how much more intelligent another life form is. It’s because we really don’t want to be alone out there in that great huge void of space. But just as interpersonal loneliness is separate from existential loneliness, being heard is separate from communicating.

Perhaps that is what we artists are doing on the page, in the air, on the bare surface: populating empty space to ward of that existential loneliness. Trying to hear our spirit on the page?

And when I realised this and looked at all my fellow passengers, curle over their phones, plugged into headphones, staring at these tiny screens, I recognised that I need to make more amulets. I need something to hold on to that shows I’m not invisible, even if it is a tiny 1″ piece of card with my marks. Those marks trace my beingness. They might speak to another too.

Asemic explorations

Following on from my final piece and with part 5 sent off to my tutor I’ve continued to investigate the quality of line that I can create with asemic texts and the combination of this with the bloody splattering and dripping. This  has all been encouraged and reignited very a very positive skype chat with coursemates at the weekend.

I’m finding the outcomes very expressive and fluid and one sketch leads into another. When I paint it is as if I’m dancing the brush, painting the movement rather than placing colour and line – my focus is on how it feels to move the brush and paint rather than what I see. I’ve loved the combination of 3oo weight watercolour paper and the Koh-I-Noor watercolours I have – the pigment dries with a satisfying gritty texture and if I want a pure flat opaque line I have added black india ink.

I’ve then taken these experiments further developing the movement: the hide and reveal of the final piece and have explored other forms whereby surfaces are revealed and obscured: namely the form of a flexagon and tetra-tetra-flexagon.

I’ve most enjoyed the fluidity and reverse composition that the ttf form provides.

Video with these animations on can be found on Instagram:

Learning #tetratetraflexagon #sampling #asemic #book #expressive #experimental even more hidden layers!

A video posted by Lottie (@curiouslottie) on Nov 6, 2016 at 1:39pm PST

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js
 

And to keep up the visual input I went to the large and bright and colourful exhibition that is Grayson Perry’s:

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I love the layers of reference and story within the tapestries and the moral mocking tone that is not vitriolic or ironic…just presented as so.

I thoroughly engaged with the exhibition downstairs by Georgie Meadows concerning stitched drawings that take on the appearance of specific portraits and their stories from a geriatric ward. Poignant, sad and reflective.

What I’ve been up to…

Experiments and samples:

Trying out the ‘blood’ brusho mix on different surfaces for the homely designs that are growing in my brain. Some mini canvas – very simple but very realistic bleeding colour and stain; two acetate layers – 3 days on they still haven’t dried. I love the still fluid look but wonder what will happen as it dries. Bleeding onto dry khadi paper (not effective) onto wet khadi paper – something altogether wonderful.

Is this part 5 or am I kidding myself and actually does it sound as if I care?!!

Images from the garden:

And Estuary 16 which is calling for me again this weekend.

It doesn’t matter how far away I go, I could not live without my Estuary. It is the underbeat of my heart.

Colliding Connections

Jennifer sent me a perfect connection today that would otherwise have remained unknown to me: Imran Qureshi. Seeing his work was like hearing my name called from far and recognising it over all the noise of a train station. His leper footprints lingered in my mind reinvigorating my bloody wounds thread. I immediately ordered the Barbican’s text that supported his exhibition there earlier this year and I hunted as much online with regards to his process and thinking as possible.

It is not possible to verbalise the impact effectively. It’s like I thought I was the only person left seeing a forgotten language that I hadn’t heard uttered, then stumbling upon the sound of it clear and true.

Yes there is the obvious bloody splattered similarity, but it is the layering of it – as an overlay to life’s surface, the violent afterimage that changes everything, yet too the life-energy that is bleeding. Loss and growth, violence and healing, fragmentation and wholeness.

Many many neurones started firing.

However, they had to do so in the background as I took my girls on an adventure to the Estuary Festival. It was superb and I may detail works seen later.

But right in the middle of one of the abandoned offices that were used as galleries I spotted something on the floor. It was part of the fabric of the building not the show. My heart raced because instantly everything connected together.

This looks like it may have housed a fire, at sometime have been a fireplace, a hearth with all that denotes…yet a wet chalky stain remained. What if this stain was a bloodied one? What else around the home shouldn’t be denatured with violence yet is when there’s a history of abuse. My brain went into overdrive: setting the table, table cloth, towels where you can never wash away Lady Macbeth style; sinks where the tap water runs red staining the porcelain; windows where the view is besmirched with wounds. Domestic violence doesn’t just alter the past it alters the present with a translucent ghost of the trauma. Having exorcised the wounds from within perhaps they need freeing from the shadows, the walls, the furniture, the very environment. How exciting might this be to investigate? Re-energised and re-focused.

Exhibition

Definitely time to wrap up part 3. It’s all blue bagged and the assignment reflection/review is in process. But before I step onto things flat – print part 4 – which has already started evolving in my minds along the lines of: why does it have to be flat, and do you just have to print on flat paper, and I wonder what would happen if I avoided this – I have to mention my recent visit to the Turner.

I have to rant.

‘Seeing Round Corners’: an exhibition that promised to present ‘The Art of Circle’ curated by artists David Ward and Jonathan Parsons, with the Turner Contemporary.

I went in curious, open-minded and determined to immerse myself in the breadth and depth of collated wisdom. Yet again, the Turner has managed to confront me with my own irritations. Shonibare was still there, so we whisked past his work straight to the above exhibition (I’m trying to be succinct here and not comment on the lack of ‘Hands on Philosophy’ that the Turner presents itself as championing, nor the Philosophy for Enquiry methods which it proclaims itself as developing (little aside – one other hat I wear is a trainer in this ‘method’ – I don’t follow anything prescriptively which is why although I have this ‘qualification’ it has rather slipped in to the melting pot of me and become part of the steaming molten flurry inside so I don’t deify it, but I do recognise when it is being presented and Very Much Absent). I saw NO evidence of P for E being shared. At all.

I saw lots of art work hung, positioned and deadened in the still, sterile, false, clinical environment through which one has to wander at a certain pace with a certain look of church-like reverence, keeping voices to a respectful whisper and certainly No photographs and Do Not Touch. 1) The pieces themselves have no hearing – so they are not going to be offended by what volume. 2) This is not sacred ground – and actually I don’t think that my God is that small that he expects you to whisper in the presence of any revelation of the Spiritual (whatever you should receive that as being whether you believe in spirit as godly or earthly creativity, human or otherwise)- awe is not silent. Wonder is not still. Death is. Life is movement and sound and energy. These artworks were created with passion and life and energy. So yes, let’s present them like hanged smugglers so we The General Public can be taught the lesson – this is not for your kind. Or maybe it is not this, may be it is the works so out of reach, so untouchable, so Other, that we are not worthy to raise are eyes or voices around them in case the gods of art strike us low for our disrespect. I have ranted on the forum about a particularly injurious attendant who wouldn’t let some children touch a giant inflated gym ball (even though like me, he’d watched their dad encouraging the game for quite some time).

Anyhow, moving forward. It made me think. I am determined never to be that self-satisfied, that vainglorious, that my work cannot be interacted with on anything other than a cerebral conceptual level. This presents a new question. What will it be made of that can support this function? It cannot be fragile on the outer surface. I want people to ‘have a moment’ with my work, to lose themself in that overlap of my world and their world. Yes, I still need my work to be a playground. I shall have music playing. Very loud and if anyone doesn’t like it they can hire those headphones that will pipe a recording of the silence of a crypt with the occasional shuffle of feet and throat clearance when they get too near not interacting with the work.And if my work ever becomes that precious that it cannot be touched, well 1) I’ll probably be on another plane so it’s not going to matter to me; 2) I am not a commodity, nor is my work. My art is because I’ve wondered, it is there as my question and answer: to wonder at, and wonder with. 3) If someone doesn’t want it touched, buy it. Because I never want some child to be in tears in a gallery because they’ve been told ‘Do not Touch’ about my work. I do not want some curiosity to be killed by ‘You can’t touch because it’s Art.’ If the owner of my work wants to make that rule then so be it, they’ll have bought that right from me, but I never want it to be ‘because the artist said so.’ My goodness we are sent out into the world the most fragile of beings with a heart that can break and a mind that can shatter. We are a piece of Art. It is from me that these creations emerge. They are not me. I will not break because something inanimate I’ve made has. I will just have to make afresh and make anew and make better. If I’m not here to do that…as I said, it won’t worry me. And if there’s the worry about it being damaged because it has might be worth something, then a gallery has become a giant brokers.

I did like the photograph of Rosalind Franklin’s image ‘Photo 51’ (1952) of the discovery of DNA.

I’m sure if you were to watch the cells in our body, they are constantly in the round of the cell cycle:when we are living the DNA is constantly zipping and unzipping, moving and regenerating, going through all those deliciously worded stages: meiosis, mitosis, cytokinesis… come to think of it – isn’t the cycle of our active art making imitative of this:

  • G1 phase. Metabolic changes prepare the cell for division. (Ideas have gone in, thoughts are generating and that liminal moment that something is coming to form rises inside) At a certain point – the restriction point – the cell is committed to division and moves into the S phase (the sampling begins).
  • S phase. DNA synthesis replicates the genetic material. Each chromosome now consists of two sister chromatids.(Ideas, processes, intention, metaphors, meaning, questions start magnetising to match that first impulse, first stimuli.)
  • G2 phase. Metabolic changes assemble the cytoplasmic materials necessary for mitosis and cytokinesis. (More processing of ideas and meaning and gathering of external readiness)
  • M phase. A nuclear division (mitosis) followed by a cell division (cytokinesis).(The exterior art production and process start replicating the interior material intention and delivery)

The period between mitotic divisions – that is, G1, S and G2 – is known as interphase. Exactly! Which explain everything about that period of apparent hibernation or non-generation. It is anything but!

Isn’t the surface of our art the platform upon which our inner surface is impressed? Imagine if that part of you could touch that part of someone else!

 

Bibliography

http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/genetics/vgec/schoolscolleges/topics/cellcycle-mitosis-meiosis

Joachim Koester research

I’ve been meaning to write about my visit to the Turner in Margate for some time now, but it hasn’t ever felt right. I think what I saw needed to filter in a bit further.

Initially I was pleased to have stumbled upon another exhibition by Yinka Shonibare and was excited to explain to my children about his fabrics and how they brought the two installations alive. These were well researched and supported. Yet, I know he lends himself more readily to textiles art research but I felt his work was too… accessible? Transparent? Educative? I really respect his research into cultural identity and the issues of immigration and how this helps him work towards and answer of ‘Who am I?’ Yet, it lacked something for me…

I think it lacked pondering, no, it lacked feeling. It felt cold and installed and like a lecture. I learnt so much about his presented subjects: ‘End of the Empire’ considering alliances of WWI and created for the 14-18-NOW partnership. In ‘The British Library’ I was able to read and research the names and connections to immigration of many notable names from British History. But…it was learning, my brain was working, yes true my eyes, but that is as far as my senses were engaged. significantly my feelings weren’t engaged. I didn’t feel changed after having seen it. I didn’t look at the world differently, I just felt more educated for it rather than moved.

Then we went upstairs. In the children’s area (I’m refraining from making derisive comments on the staffing and catchment audience – I’ve had my rant on the forum) aka Clore Learning Studio, local artist Leise Wilson had a beautiful display of her work ‘365 days’ which detail her obsessive (and privileged) documentation of every low tide for the year (2014 and 2015) painted on an identical rectangle of tissue from the same window in her home/studio in Pegwell Bay. Looking across the work the seasons could be seen with the colour change in the sky. It was a beautiful document. How I wish I had that view and could be at that window for every low tide!

Moving on we stepped into the world of Danish artist Joachim Koester. His work ‘The Other Side of the Sky’ was paired with selected watercolours by JMW Turner. I was hooked by the title which conjured up stories and pictures and poems in my head before I even entered the exhibition. We went in as total ignorants to the artist and his work. I read no literature until we had seen the exhibition, then I bought the supporting booklet after to see what it would add to my experience. I  entered curious and intrigued, my children were (fairly) willing trailers-behind-mum, Mr Man (who is a self-proclaimed not-arty type but a generous companion) just came in to see. There was lots I didn’t get. Yet, I think part of my unrest and overwhelmedness this week has been down to the fact that there was something in the exhibition that truly got under my skin.

The exhibition began with ‘Some boarded up Houses’ 2009-2014- silver gelatin prints, then ‘Occupied plots, Abandoned Futures, Twelve (former) Real Estate Oppurtunities- 2007 a series of 12 gelatin prints. Mr Man liked these – they held lots of story and were documentary in Nature – and there’s the word that switched me off with Shonibare! My girls and Mr Man loved ‘Praying Mantis’ as they are all fascinated by the creature per se – these inkjet prints along with his film ‘Praying Mantis, 2015 – had them engaged due to the subject matter. I observed these works, again cleanly and non-commitantly. ‘Tarantism’ the film, and ‘The Hashish Club’ and ‘Body Electric’ as well as his other film works were not yet decodable to me. I do not know enough about film to understand the process and I found the subject matter disingeneous and disengaging. However, this was completely turned on its face by the installation ‘My Frontier is an Endless Wall of Points’ a film animation created after the mescaline drawings of surrealist poet and painter Henri Michaux. I have always been fascinated by Surrealist poetry, a little turned off by the over-exposure to surrealist painting but ever captivated by their intentions and experimentalism. This work looked like everything I am trying, but failing, to acquire with colour, even though it was colourless – fluidity, wateriness, marbling, layered, unfixed. I’ve just looked at the work again having appended images to my sketchbook and just realised what I was up to last night in my own sketches, even though I saw this over 2 weeks ago.

I thought, last night, that I was inventing a new handwriting for myself- this comes from my reading on innovators and creatives – you cannot depart from or innovate on a domain without having wholeheartedly absorbed the rules and requisites – one of the only things that I am confidently practiced in is handwriting- so I was experimenting with ‘what if I created a new written language for the sound of music in my body’, in other words I was writing what I could hear of the music that I was listening to (Progressive Trance genre tracks remixed by German DJ Neelix). I’ve looked back at a still of Koester’s ‘My Frontier is an Endless Wall of Points.’ Here am I trying to record my wordless language, what music does inside me, clicking on the links will show you Koester’s work as he animates Michaux’s attempts to ‘explore the inner landscape’ through his meschaline drawings. I don’t need to take drugs to get to this place – just dance music!!

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It all goes in – no wonder I need to get to the sea and sky to clear some inner and outer breathing space.

Julie, I should listen to you more carefully – you’ve said to me before that when I get in a pickle there’s something coming!! And I took your advice Inger, some de-stress time – then bang! This all comes together in my head as I type, which then affirms the usefulness of typing up exhibition visits.

Back to Koester, with a renewed understanding. To the piece that gave the title its name ‘The Other Side of the sky’, 2015. This is not just film. This is stunning. I sat and watched, peeped in through the windows of the ramshackle shed – or as Koester describes it in the following film ‘the shack’- which homed the projection camera and film. This piece was commissioned by the Turner gallery and was inspired by the story of Turner having himself tied to the mast of a ship to experience the full force and journey of the snowstorm. This gave Koester the idea of ‘the trip’ and things you shouldn’t normally see – this now explains the films in the other galleries, the trippiness and drug-related works.

I see!

I am also pleased that we experienced the exhibition exactly as the artist intended it – on a journey, a walk through, a trip and just see what arises. I like that we saw it innocently and unexpectantly. Now I look into it, the works increase in magnitude and influence.

As for Turner’s ‘Colour Beginnings’ I had written him off when I was a teenager, rejecting anything mainstream, suggested, sanctioned or approved (yes, I know, I still retain chracteristics of this attitude). It is time to look at his works with fresh eyes and engage with them through the open door of Koester’s work – as the supporting booklet details, ‘both artists want to go beyond the appearance of things, to create an image free from reality’s contraints. In Koester’s words, both represent a ‘liquefaction of reality.’ They just depart from different perspectives.’

When your reality has been liquified by the guerilla tactics of another, it is easy to step across this boundary and explore the territory. What remains difficult is coming back.