Tim Shaw 'Awaken from the Dream of Reality'

28 Jun 2013 – 23 Jul 2013


St Ives, United Kingdom


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'Following the torches as they dipped and swayed in the darkness, they climbed mountain paths with head thrown back and eyes glazed, dancing to the beat of the drum which stirred their blood (or ‘staggered drunkenly with what was known as the Dionysus gait') ‘In this state of ekstasis or enthusiasmos, they abandoned themselves, dancing wildly and shouting ‘Euoi!' (the god's name) and at that moment of intense rapture became identified with the god himself. They became filled with his spirit and acquired divine powers.' Euripides in Delphi by Peter Hoyle ‘Awaken From the Dream of Reality' by Tim Shaw brings together different strands of practice that explore Shaw's ongoing fascination with ritualistic behaviour and the human desire to experience an altered state of consciousness. Music, dance, substances and the practice of certain rites have been used to intoxicate, remove inhibitions and social constraints throughout history. Altered states of consciousness have been achieved in different ways to either escape from, or to expand, reality and attempt to find some deeper meaning to existence. The starting point of this exhibition is a series of individual maquettes accompanying ‘The Night' - the original complete maquette for ‘The Rites of Dionysus' a permanent commission set within the vines of the Temperate Biome at The Eden Project. The worshipping Maenads are seen drunken and writhing, beating drums and sounding horns in an orgiastic, beckoning ritual. Dionysus was the beast-god who, through intoxication and trance, was revealed. Shaw acknowledges the links with wider anthropological behaviour still experienced today; one could cite various ethnographic ceremonies taking place across the world. However, Shaw's focus is closer to home where he examines the hypnotic, almost tribal rituals of festivities such as 'The Obby Oss' at Padstow or the burning barrels at Ottery St. Mary and The Mummers from his birth place - Northern Ireland. All are still practiced as part of our own contemporary traditions. An additional aspect of 21st century culture is examined through 'K', a work that recounts a rave scene witnessed by Shaw, in which a couple in costume dance wildly whilst under the influence of the hallucinogenic drug ketamine. Art critic Mark Hudson said of the work that it is ‘a moment from Bosch or Breugel reseen as a Yoruba masquerade'. Shaw holds a mirror up to this facet of contemporary culture, and questions whether ‘getting out of your head' can be dismissed as pure nihilistic hedonism, or whether it could be a modern day manifestation of attempted transcendence. Shaw poses the question; are ancient rituals, celebratory festivals and contemporary forms of hedonism linked through the desire to be liberated from civilisation and the constraints of our consciousness? The exhibition will include sculpture, installation, print and video. ‘In intoxication, physical or spiritual, the initiate recovers an intensity of feeling which prudence had destroyed; he finds the world full of delight and beauty, and his imagination is suddenly liberated from the prison of everyday preoccupations.' Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy


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