Collyer Bristow LLP presents:
Toto we’re not in Kansas anymore…The Wizard of Oz. L.Frank Baum.
Guy Allott, Sasha Bowles, Hannah Brown, Sandra Beccarelli, Emily Jane Campbell, Michael Coppelov, Graham Crowley, Robin Dixon, Carrie Grainger, Jane Hayes Greenwood, Julie F Hill, Roza Horowitz, Steven Heffer, Cathy Lomax, Robyn Litchfield, Clare Mitten, Monica Ursina Jäger, Joanna Whittle, Alice Wilson.
Curated by Rosalind Davis
The Immaculate Dreamis an exhibition of fantastical landscapes and constructed spaces, dark fairy-tales and silent stage settings. Works by nineteen artists invite us to explore a looking glass world in which pasts are reimagined and futures projected through the various lenses of cinema, technology, science fiction and cosmology. These places are fragile, experimental, romantic, alchemical. All beyond reach…
Sasha Bowles works across painting, moving image and installation. Her practice deals with illusion, intervention and metamorphosis, investigating the past by embellishing artworks and fabricating artefacts that are placed within immersive architectural environments. In the past, hundreds of stately homes were razed to the ground for fear of death duties and the many that were saved are now visited as museums of theatrical opulence. They are kept in perpetual suspension, their historical nostalgia and elaboratefaçadeslike empty sets for farcical plays. Bowles’ characters inhabit grand spaces and fantastical places, their different uncanny properties conduits for intimacy, existence, status and personality. The artist’s studio table serves as a holding space of props and players waiting to be animated in unending, impossiblescenarios.
Jane Hayes Greenwood’s recent works juxtapose bodies and food in playful, painterly compositions, exploring ideas relating to consumption and desire. Her works are veiled with seductive qualities, yet reveal worlds of anxious uncertainty. Apocryphal stories and personal histories are interwoven and humour is used as a device to disguise complex and multi-layered meanings. Her works reference imagery culled from different times and places; contrasting elements rub up against each other to generate abundant associations. Hayes Greenwood’s invented compositions hint at narratives, twisting the familiar into something more disturbingly revealing. Ultimately, her works aim to comment on the complexity of human desire in a world of excess.
Clare Mitten's work begins from a curiosity about objects and their actual and imagined appearances. The process of attempting to objectively describe something, while at the same time re-creating it, allows similarities and connections to other, disparate ideas about these objects to be playfully explored. Flipping between two and three dimensions, construction, painting and collage, affords a synthesis of different ways of viewing this real/unreal combination. Often referencing technology and plants, the original object is a hub to come and go from, an axis to revolve around. Ideas of time and its passing are central to these works. For this exhibition, Mitten presents a series of timepieces: hybridised constructions including a ‘re-analogued’ digital watch; a clock-face/listening device; and painted studies derived from the reproductive parts of plants. Each is paused from the ‘ticking’ activity of making, held in suspension while the viewer continues to revolve around them in the real world.
Guy Allott’s work is about documenting what he sees and feels around him. Where we are now relies heavily on where we have been and where we are going. Distantpasts and far-off futures inform the present, dystopia and utopia intermingle. Early examples of science fiction include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a love story full of moral warnings, which are as relevant now as ever they were. The Grimm Brothers gave us children’s tales from the ancient forests of Europe, teaching us not to stray from the path and beware of those that lurk in the shadows. Allott refers to the stories we tell our children – science fictions or fairy tales – to show us who we are today.
Michael Coppelov’s Silicon Valley is a painted aerial landscape in which every surface is completely covered with dials and controls, similar to the interior spaces of an aircraft cockpit or the map-covered landscape in Jorge Luis Borges’one paragraph short story On Exactitude in Science. It is part of an ongoing body of work which explores our highly-networked world and the support structures which underpin it. Reminiscent of early 90’s computer games, Silicon Valley utilises a lo-fi graphic and an isometric grid structure to create an illusion of three-dimensionality which situates the viewer above the landscape. Entering into the painting in this way, one is confronted with a system which allows for mental manipulation. Paradoxically, this same system also ensnares the viewer as the dials and controls reach to and beyond the edges of the painting in the same way that the computer screen offers the game-player a very small window into a much larger whole. The multitudinous network simulated in Coppelov’s painting acts as a microcosm of the larger systems which support global society, exploring the complexity of our world and our attempts to comprehend it.
Julie F Hill is an artist who employs an expanded approach to photography and image-making, creating sculptural works that explore conceptions of deep-space and cosmological time. The astronomical image is shaped into formations that resemble uncanny meteorological or geological phenomena, creating immensities that we can walk amongst, and enter into. Enigmatic and illusory materials such as mirror act as conduits or portals, inviting us to cross a threshold to experience the unknowable. Through such environments she questions scientific images and the technologies used to construct them. Chasms is an ongoing series made by digitally processing RAW images from the Hubble Space Telescope using FITS Liberator – a free scientific programme for processing astronomical science data. Various algorithmic functions have been applied to visualise the image. The image has then been sent through a series of digital and physical transformations as an attempt to explore the chasm-like depths of interstellar and photographic space.
Joanna Whittle’s tent paintings represent fragile and temporary structures constructed within the romantic notion of the ruin. Canvas sits in water; ropes are pegged in to fluid land. They are miniature worlds rendered in almostforensic detail, but on closer inspection reality unravels. Time sits still and moments brush against each other, canvas rots and weeds scramble over surfaces, but some lights remain on or have just been lit. They hold their own histories –suggestions of vanished circuses, festivals or fairgrounds – events once frenetic now silenced and ominous in dusk or rain. Concealing their internal space whilst their exposed surfaces weather and rot, they are hostile in their refusal to reveal their secrets. The still light ossifies both tents and trees, whilst liquid, motile elements pool around them making these worlds at once static yet slowly moving towards an uncertain or foreboding conclusion.
Emily Jane Campbell’s work considers remembrance, alternate realities, personal mythologies and the spirit of place. Her fantastical landscapes are an amalgamation of photographs, childhood memories and imagination, allowing her to re-author and mythologise her history and memorialise that which has been lost. Natural forms such as rocks and trees hold vigil, reassuring in their solidity and solidarity. The presence of stones signifies loss as they become the cairns and totems of memorial. They reference an awareness of our place in the human story and the layers of history held in their geological strata: rock contains the remains of something, just as the trace elements of a person, a place or a happening is locked in our memory. Those idealised locations are treasured but inaccessible spaces that we can never return to. If only we could enter through the humming portals, the neon gateways or hovering dark holes which lead in and out of the landscapes, but whose destination remains elusive. Idyllic and dreamlike, these rose-tinted views conjure the magic of childhood, and reveal the artist’s kinship with the natural world.
Graham Crowley’s luminous landscapes track a fundamental narrative involving political, cultural and personal histories. His paintings in ‘The Immaculate Dream’ rely upon our knowledge and understanding of convention. Landscape painting is one such convention – particularly when viewed in a post-conceptual context. Simultaneously liberated and problematised by photography in the latter half of the 19thcentury, landscape painting continues because it has the potential to reflect consciousness. What was once a state of affairs is now a state of mind. Both paintings are duotones and as such employ a vernacular graphic and minimalist approach. When painting, Crowley exploits the nature of the medium, collaborating with the medium. He relies upon the medium to 'do the work'. Despite appearances, these are 'slow' paintings. The subject matter is the landscape, and the history of landscape painting, but the content is light and shadow which causes these paintings to appear luminous.
Landscape is used in Alice Wilson’s practice to explore concerns with experience, access and expectation. In the Barrier System works the image transfers of rural, romantic or dramatic landscapes become at once framed and confined on their pools of plaster by the assembled timbers, which reference a potential construct as well as a literal construction. The works convey Wilson’s interest in the ways we access and negotiate landscape and its potential allegory to educational, political and social structures. The Barrier System paintings are in some ways by-products of sculptural works, developed from material investigations, surplus, colour tests, off-cuts, and collected imagery.
Robyn Litchfield uses landscape as a ubiquitous template for investigating her personal history, notions of cultural identity and alienation. Her paintings envisage how sublime encounters with places, pristine and untouched, might encourage contemplation and self-reflexivity. Ship Creek in New Zealand is a place where one can step back in time to view the primeval forest as it was before mankind arrived. In Litchfield’s painting the foreground vegetation creates a cinematic perspective allowing the viewer to feel concealed whilst observing the ancient Kahikatea Swamp Forest luminous in the fog and gloom. Through the building up of layers of glazing, Litchfield creates paintings that transport the viewer to the silent stillness that can be found beside these slow-moving dark waters. In a departure from previous works, Forest Gloaming is derived from a contemporary photograph of European forest. The painting portrays forest where the mystery of what Therese Brosse describes as “a veiled space prolonged indefinitely” acts as a psychological transcendent. The nocturnal spectral world seems to emulate that of the haunting and mysterious forests of New Zealand.
Hannah Brown’s paintings draw on the omnipresent legacy of the English landscape tradition. Working within and against this framework she presents carefully edited interpretations of seemingly bucolic scenes. Her oil paintings depict idealised versions of our landscape, emptied of people and obvious signs of life, under a familiar flat grey English light.
London and East Sussex, where Steven Heffer has lived and worked have provided inspiration for his paintings which include landscapes, seascapes and abstracts. The River Thames, London canals and the coast and rivers of East Sussex feature in many works; the industrial buildings along the Thames Estuary and the sea and cliffs in and around the Cuckmere Valley are constant and absorbing subjects. Edward Lucie-Smith writes: “What they take as their subject matter is not simply the appearance of nature – scenery in its traditional artistic guise – but nature as challenged by industry. In these, there is also a much stronger element of ambiguity, but the ambiguity is to do with the actual process of seeing the world, not with anything to do with the purely technical processes. The two are kept firmly separate. Heffer's work is profoundly rooted in things that one can regard as specifically British … he is a direct descendant of the British Romantic tradition, in the version of it revived and re-shaped by pioneer British Modernists such as John Piper.”
Monica Ursina Jäger’s practice unfolds through a multidisciplinary reflection on concepts of space, landscape and architecture that investigates the relationship between the natural and the constructed environment. Fluctuating between the intuitive, the narrative and the factual Jäger scrutinises processes of transformation, re-arrangement and mediation by unfixing the boundaries between artistic and scientific knowledge production. Recent works address the ambiguities connected to post-natural landscapes and the uncertainties related to geopolitics, natural resources and the Anthropocene. Monica Ursina Jäger is a research associate and lecturer at the Institute of Natural Resource Sciences, Zurich University of Applied Sciences. The trans-disciplinary team develops new forms of dialogue between artistic practices and scientific research.
Robin Dixon’s group of paintings focus on scientific laboratories, which play on the theme of internal and external space. In these paintings the barrier between the contained space of the room/laboratory is ambiguous, the outside environment/surrounding landscape also present. Dixon says, “I have painted some laboratory subjects based on childhood memories of visiting my father's workplace, mineral laboratories hidden in woodland, close to a series of quarries. The strongest impression I had was of the dark, serious, complicated interior space looking out into bright trees/woodland. The experiments/processes occurring in the labs were directly linked to the landscape outside, the materials quarried a few hundred yards away. The images of scientists were from old photos which appear in the textbook material of a few decades ago retaining the mildly heroic look of the earlier part of the 20th century.”
Carrie Grainger investigates cultural superstition, symbolism and ritual practice through multiple forms such as mask making, sculpture, performance and film. She draws on concepts from research into different cultural belief systems with spiritual focus for instance shamanic belief and practice. Her work addresses mysticism, the mind, reservation and concealed societies.
Cathy Lomax: “Everyday life is boring. This mind-numbing drudgery needs to be punctured by episodes of escapism – events and situations encountered not in actuality but as an observer and then lived out within our heads. The most powerful and easily accessible escapist experience for most people is provided by film – 90 minute slices of someone else's life. I decided to keep a diary of all the films that I watch, selecting one image from each to make into a small, rapidly executed painting, thereby providing a record of what it was that drew me in and kept me rapt. This could be viewed as one of those hugely un-scientific arbitrary exercises that artists' indulge in. But as with any other recording of everyday events the choices that I make in watching one film rather than another says something about me and probably defines me at that moment in time as much as anything could.”
Roza Horowitz’s painting is reminiscent of a macabre GrimmsBrotherfairytale, depicting Trump with a woman in his arms, in a wooded forest overseen by a moon with Putin’s face captured in it: “Trump is someone who wants to be the first. Someone who puts pressure on the world around him. From behind, Putin is watching him. He wants to be seen as well. They are rivals, who are always competing. The Taiga forest unifies them, because both of them hide their traces in the forest. In his arms Trump is holding a woman. He wants to be a winner, not only in politics but also in relationships.”
Sandra Beccarelli’s expressive abstract paintings convey visual parallels between physical movement and psychological disquiet. She references nature as a metaphor, exploring a shadowy transitional space where emotions change and consciousness and order slips.Beccarellicreates structures and systems as starting points with the sole purpose of disrupting them: her paintings then evidencing what has been before, with remnants of grids, marks, or tiny syringed seepages of paint emerging from the back of the canvas. Beccarelli’s own restlessness is conveyed through her gestural markmaking and an unending exploration of the potential of materials. She is searching on the edges for the divergent or unintentional and in doing so, creates a visual language where process and meaning are intrinsically linked.