"It's important to me that the mountains and forests in my paintings are places I have actually visited and experienced" - Alexander Heaton
Whilst climbing Baruntse, Heaton participated in a self-driven project to explore the limits of creativity at high altitude. He has made a series of art works in response to this trying and difficult environment. For example, drawing (except in a tent) becomes impossible above 5000m due to the numbing exposure of cold to fingertips. Even cameras become difficult to use and seise up when so high. The constant pressure of time is also a factor when one is exposed and tied to others on a rope. Baggage must be stripped down to bare essentials. Hence, basic existence is a struggle above 6500m. How to make art about such experiences when one cannot readily record or react directly?
For this exhibition at The Residence Gallery, the pieces Heaton made and wrote about in his journal have been developed into a series of larger scale works. Ideas stem from conversations made during the long interludes from climbing whilst sitting out weather in tents, or perhaps moments of respite from the cold and dark-like sunlight, striking the outline of nearby peaks, raising the temperature just enough to make oneself comfortable again. Poetic narrative and deep philosophical reaction to theses places is often negated due to overriding concerns of safety and comfort. This economising of mental capacity is in part due to the lack of oxygen in the brain. The simplification of concern for the everyday is perhaps one of the main reasons Heaton chooses to climb. In not having the ability to think beyond what is directly at hand, comes liberation and form of meditation. Importance of action is reduced down to steps and breaths.
This exhibition is an attempt to represent a fantastic, yet real place, as truthfully and as unelaborated as achievable. All colours have been matched as closely as possible. No revelation was attained at the summit. The work does aspire to see the miraculousness in the minute, but only for what it actually is; "Warm light on snow bringing respite from the unknown darkness and cold, easier breathing and the chance to see where one is going." Perhaps the only metaphysical lesson one can draw from such experience is that one can go as far away as is humanly possible from the womb and yet feel closer and more in need of its protection than ever before. Colours become emotions and memories in these jagged heights, and serve to remind the explorer of people and the need to return.
Alexander Heaton will present his painting in an immersive panoramic gallery installation. This solo show is the third in a series of exhibitions curated by Director Ingrid Z to celebrate The Residence Gallery’s 10th year anniversary.
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