Lone Pine Club presents work that explores the marginal areas between conscious and unconscious activity. The research that Hayley Lock has undertaken has focused around Austin Osman Spare, an artist who worked across a number of areas and touched on many subjects including the occult, surrealism, automatic drawing and spiritualism. Spare has been posthumously connected to a number of groups, ideas and ideals, in an attempt to understand his approach and focus, leading to a number of myths surrounding him. It is clear that he trod his own path, exploring a variety of interests and amalgamating a number of different sources to develop his own philosophy, the Zos-Kia Cultus, which was a hybrid of magic and religion. The exhibition takes its title from the children’s books and subsequent real life club for readers from the 50's by Malcolm Saville that is referenced in Phil Baker's book Austin Osman Spare, The Life and Legend of London's Lost Artist. The phrase 'and we had adventures in our heads' connects the books with the mythologies that surround Spare.
Hayley has been adopting a similar approach to Spare in terms of assimilating ideas from a range of sources to inspire the production of work that suggests a common philosophy and belief, resulting in an over-arching ethos that is intangible, indefinable and indistinct. By producing works with common connections, whether symbolic, graphic or of material, themes are inferred for the viewer to adopt or reject as they see fit.
The exhibition inhabits three rooms, each having a particular thematic approach. One room presents a short looped film that has been inspired by Spare’s use of the ‘death posture’. This is a physical position that is adopted in order to connect mind and body to enable a deep imprinting of specific goals. Taking ideas from meditation, asanas (yogic poses) and psychological imprinting, Spare developed his own approach and technique. The film consists of a montage of diverse but connected found images that have been combined to suggest a loose narrative, but one that is intangible and unclear – with a meaning that will always be slightly out of reach. A female character features who is representative of Spare’s female spirit guide, a persona Hayley has adopted for the production of the work. The soundtrack and the film have an element of vibration that is integral to their function and also connects to Spare’s work.
Home Circle is the name Hayley has given to a space that contains a banner, drawings produced whilst in a trance, and floor drawings. Circles feature prominently here and are representative of a number of ideas including magic circles (spaces drawn by magicians as protection or to contain energies), the closed circle of secret societies, the great Circle (or O, a symbol for the universe and its spherical bodies), and the egg, as symbol of birth, life and rebirth. Sigils are also found in this space –a form of magic symbol that was popularised in modern times by Spare, who developed a method of reducing a statement of intent into an abstract design that can be imbued with the will of the creator. The banner has been embroidered, referencing what is considered to be a mainly female production technique, and features symbols and dancing girls as a reference to the Zos-Kia Cultus, Spare’s magico-religious beliefs in the interplay between dynamic forces that can summon hidden images from the cosmic subconscious.
At the heart of Hayley’s research and production is an exploration of the unconscious areas that lie just beneath the surface. Working with hypnotist Graham Howes, Hayley enters a hypnotic state that allows her to uncover the often untapped potential of the unconscious mind. Whilst under hypnosis she is guided through her nether realm by Graham, prompted through the reading of texts, and relaying her journey through unbidden spoken word, drawing or writing (resulting in the kind of production that has been termed ‘automatic drawing’ by surrealists and others). A channelling will be undertaken by Graham and Hayley on the opening evening in the Neither Neither room – the place in-between that is neither one thing or another that is referenced across religions and mythologies as either a state (purgatory) or a place (limbo) – perhaps also a connection to Never Never Land, or nether regions – the lowest or furthest parts of a place.
Included in this room is Claude, a large black mirror that was commissioned by NN Contemporary Art, and is on loan from its semi-permanent location there. The Claude glass was commonly used in the 18th and 19th centuries by picturesque artists to view scenes in a different state. These objects have since been associated with the spiritual, reflecting a parallel space that could be interpreted as ‘the other side’. The altered light, shadows and reflections that can be seen within Claude are elements that Hayley has manifested in work outside this space with light, shadow and aural vibrations. A number of wall-mounted images containing further symbols, sigils and found imagery also feature here, including ‘thought forms’ – a series of drawings in chalk on gesso that reference Rudolf Steiner’s blackboard drawings and embody a transitional and impermanent state that is prone to erosion over time.
There is a conviction amongst many occultists that artists are magicians – conjuring their work from the energies found in the fabrics of space and time that exist around us, and bringing new materials and ideas into the world. Perhaps the need for an artist to produce work as an uncontrollable impulse could be seen as a need to feed an unseen force – an invisible demon that craves the production of new ideas.
Many thanks to Graham Howes, Phil Baker, Gavin Semple and Robert Ansell for their time, help and patience with the development of this exhibition, to Simon Keep for his sound procurements, and also to Catherine Hemelryk and NN Contemporary for the loan of Claude, and especially to James Birch for the loan of a work by Austin Osman Spare.