Christchurch, New Zealand. Feb 8 -March 15 2013.
This is an exhibition of five works ‘whose compositions swirl differently about the circle.’ (Smart, 2013) One square space, five circles, and a distinguished muster of artists from the mountain peaks of New Zealand art – Neil Dawson, Chris Heaphy, Peter Peryer, Fiona Pardington and Julia Morison.
Chief musterer is gallery owner and curator, Jonathan Smart. Beginning with Chris Heaphy’s Poroiti – a massive canvas shipped down from Auckland, Smart then added one of Neil Dawsons’ dynamic vortex sculptures Vortex V1 – hot off the steel press in red and black. The swirling around the circle was taking shape… He then recalled from stock Fiona Pardingtons’ Still Life with Wild Wheat and Freesia (also with Duck Eggs and Moon Globe) and brought into the fold one of Julia Morison’s remarkable Amperzands in Liquefaction. Finally Peter Peryer sealed the space with his exquisite Veil – a microscopic image of a cape gooseberry sheltering inside a latticework of decaying leaves.
I have been thinking about circles a lot. What is a circle? It is a one, it is the sun. It is the golden halo, the womb of God. But a circle is more than the space it defines, it is also the space that defines it – the beyond of the circle. It is defined by the outer/other space. Stars, planets, and moons all evolve into spheres because of the electromagnetic dynamic forces acting upon them. The circle is the way to move beyond the limits of Cartesian space and our outdated notions of matter and into an “understanding of the spatial possibility that permeates within, around and through natural features from sub-atomic to Universal.” (Raynor, 2007)
‘We can then see through the illusion of ‘solidity’ that has made us prone to regard ‘matter’ as ‘everything’ and ‘space’ as ‘nothing’, and hence get caught in the conceptual addiction and affliction of ‘either/or’ ‘dualism’. An addiction that so powerfully and insidiously restricts our philosophical horizons and undermines our compassionate human spirit and creativity.’ (Raynor, 2007)
Alan Raynor’s theory of ‘inclusionality’ expresses the idea that space, far from surrounding us passively and isolating discrete massy objects, is in fact vital and dynamic. Julia Morisons Amperzand exquisitely represents this – where the relationship of the shapes to the space is pivotal. I’m sure that ‘amperzand’ is really just code for ‘hypocentre’ or ‘s-wave’. Her shapes present the basic geologic concept of an earthquake occurance. The Canterbury earthquakes were an experience of ‘inclusionality’ in action. We were the receptors of a dynamic universe; we became less solid for many seconds at a time; we understood completely that space is NOT nothing. Her shapes are sprinkled with the silt from the liquefaction that occurred in her studio. The surface is harsh and rough like sandpaper, while the shapes are fluid as in a ripple:
‘Here, complex, dynamic arrays of voids and relief both emerge from and pattern the co-creative togetherness of inner and outer domains, as in the banks of a river that simultaneously express and mould both flowing stream and receptive landscapes.’ (Raynor, 2007)
Neil Dawson’s Vortex VI has a similar relationship to the non-empty void. On first glance the interior red paint which self-illuminates the background wall makes the work seems solid – an orb extruded from the wall. But we are deceived – the space behind is empty. It is a latticework of chair shapes constructed within a singular thin sheet of metal into a koru vortex shape.
A vortex is created by turbulent flow ‘characterized by chaotic property changes’ (Wikipedia, 2013) – in other words – scientists don’t know how vortices are created. Physicist Richard Feynman considered it one of ‘the most important unsolved problem of classical physics.’ (Vergano, 2006)
‘No one really understands precisely how the flow of gas or liquids transitions from smooth flow to choppy turbulence (not even something as simple as the point at which water from your tap goes from a smooth, or laminar, translucence to burbling foam.)’ (Vergano, 2006)
Dawson is engaging in the pursuit to understand the nature of the vortex. The vortex is the shape of our galaxy, possibly the universe. It is the velocity of nature who does not shed her secrets easily. There is no hierarchy in our understanding of the vortex – artists, scientists, astrophysicists and gardeners are equal in our vagueness of this remarkable turbulence. Biodynamic practitioners handstir their 501 water preparations in vortex shapes for over an hour, they are highly observant of the nature and power of the vortex.
‘The water is moving at different speeds – slower at the edge and faster as it moves inwards and downwards and then up and out again. It is amazing that no particle of water is moving at the same speed as any other. In a large enough body of water the particles furthest from the vortex do not move at all and become still.’ (Proctor & Cole, 2004)Dawson and Morison’s work explore the unknown – the mystery of the vortex or the power of the s-wave emanating from a hypocentre deep in the earth. They are connective of space and matter. They are ‘adjoining domains with different arrays of voids and physical relief.’ (Raynor, 2007)
The space within and without the circle permeate everywhere from the sub-atomic to the galactic. In this exhibition it is revealed in Pardington’s moon globe to her duck eggs, in Peryers image of the microscopic lace that veils the swollen gooseberry, to Heaphy’s replicating scale of imagery that create his Poroiti canvas – they all are employing the ‘microscopical and telescopical investigative tools of science’ to understand that when we fully investigate and understand matter – the solidity of ‘stuff’ – we ‘find that it is actually full of holes.’ (Raynor, 2007)It is in places like the gallery space, where we can have these conversations. Where Art brings together science, gardening, theology and the pursuit of human knowledge. Where the microscopic lattice work on a gooseberry leaf can reflect in a galactic vortex in steel. Where hypocentres and moons, or eggs and skulls can come together and become transcendent through their relationship with one another. It is a place where we can shift the way we frame our reality – perhaps reality is not absolutely fixed but relationally dynamic? And that there is a force in the ‘holes’ that we do not yet really fully understand … it needs some more conversations….
NB. The biggest challenge for me with this exhibition was finding ∏r2 on the keyboard. What I learnt? Scale – I’ll look to create my work larger.
Proctor, Peter & Cole, Gillian (2004). Grasp the Nettle. New Zealand: Godwit.
Raynor, Alan (2007?) INCLUSIONALITY: The Science, Art and Spirituality of Place, Space and Evolution. Bath, UK. Retrieved from http://www.inclusional-research.org/placespace.php
Smart, Jonathan (2013) ∏r2. Exhibition Copy, http://www.jonathansmartgallery.com
Vergano, Dan. (2006). USA Today: Turbulence theory gets a bit choppy. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/science/columnist/vergano/2006-09-10-turbulence_x.htm