Captivity, confinement, sensory deprivation, trauma, isolation, fatigue, and a host of other factors can all induce hallucinations. The drawings in this exhibition stem from a tendency to ‘see’ a parallel world, like film superimposed on reality. The context of the exhibition space, cells, where from 1824, prisoners awaited their fate, has led to further research into ways in which trapped individuals might ‘break out’ of captivity by means of waking dreams, in the lack of multiple sensory elements that assail the body in life, such as weather. This can affect not only those languishing in gaol, as there are frequent accounts of visual, auditory and other illusions occurring to people in yachts, submarines, spacecraft, hospital beds, and also those whose bodily senses are ebbing low, triggering a compensatory response from the brain. These phenomena have been described as ‘idle musings of the brain’, and that may be an apt description of the works made both in response to some of these stories, and as a result of being confined to a restricted workspace, with a two dimensional surface onto which images are often projected by the mind’s eye – of course an experience familiar to most visual artists.
For some, such as composers Olivier Messiaen (who wrote Quartet for the End of Time in camp Gorlitz in 1941), and Else Marie Pade (also ensconced in a POW camp during WW2), the illusions were ‘heard’ as music. For Pade, this extraordinary creative event was preceded by a real-life flashing star, glimpsed through a prison window. Therefore, both the flare of light witnessed from a very dark space, and the aperture through which it was seen, have become part of the content of this body of work. Consideration has also been extended to the almost universally vision-inducing power of words (such as via correspondence) to induce sensations related to realities far beyond confined circumstances. The mirages induced by unfamiliar, barren and hostile landscapes of other planets, deserts, mountains or icy wilderness, in those subject to them are equally intriguing to consider, lying close to the heart of creativity itself. Of course all illusory art, including literature and music can transport the viewer beyond the bounds of any space, and it is within such claustrophobic cells that this perhaps becomes most apparent.