I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, (in)differently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.–
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.
Elizabeth Bishop, At the Fishhouses
Thoughts think themselves, new work by Pierre Vermeulen, sees a return to the artist's core concerns: material lead transformation, open signifiers in a field of absolute relation, immersion, embodiment and the mechanism of consciousness.
Present ubiquitously is gold - precisely imitation gold leaf chosen for its propensity to undergo oxidisation. Applied to painted canvas and aluminium panels the material creates a radiant depthless plane, a substrate that receives the imprint of human hair orchids and the artist's body coated it sweat.
The process of making is meditative and ritualistic. Painstakingly woven from human hair, the orchids transform over time as they are soaked in sweat, are applied and replied to the surface of the picture plane. So too the body transforms as it moves, perspires, presses against and rests momentarily on the golden surface. Time becomes a medium. Controlled and compressed, it allows the chemical mineral transformation that leaves a free form floating composition as residue. With these choreographed rhythmic marks, their movement and repose, Vermeulen presents the body and mind in full transparent exchange. Form simultaneously emerges and recedes from view.
There is symbolism here: the outline of Plato's cave in pigmented relief; a golden monolith draw from Stanley Kubrick seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey c. 1968. Both mark shifts in consciousness, evolutionary progression and iterative change. Hair orchids stand in as thought forms that drift just beyond apprehension. An enigmatic ellipse optically dissolves space as it negates the architecture which houses it and manifests in the mind of the viewer. Though precise in their references these symbols and proxy icons are presented as open signifiers which do not push the viewer toward any forgone interpretation. Instead they are presented in a universalised field of equivalent relation which does not privilege any specific reading and seeks instead a rhizomatic connectedness.
To perceive the work is to enter into a state of embodied perception. We experience a change of consciousness, a detachment from the concerns of ego and identity. Here the art objects call us to become immersed in light and attend thoughtfully to the material characteristics of what we see. To hold within our minds a space; a parenthetical reprieve from the urgent desire to inscribe fixed meaning. Through abstraction the artist calls us to dissolve the artificial separation and categorisation which limits the scope of the conscious mind. We are drawn to see the self evident truth that all is connected and change is all.
Press release courtesy SMAC Gallery.
1st Floor, De Wet Centre
+27 (0)21 887 3607
The gallery is open by appointment only until further notice.
Open by appointment only