|Friday 15 August - 27 September 2003
Nine new bodies of work by artists exploring imaginary places and the Romantic landscape.
'I want! I want!' takes its title from a William Blake etching of 1793 - an iconic image of the flight of the imagination into the unknown - where an anonymous everyman sets foot on a ladder stretching to the moon. The exhibition brings together nine artists who explore a Romantic yearning for other places, blending fantasy, longing and wilful escapism. They seem to echo Phillip Larkin's view of our place in the world, that "elsewhere underwrites my existence." The artists use a panoply of different media to explore the otherness of imaginary 'elsewheres', including computer-generated imagery, text, sculpture, drawing, video, and wall painting. Creating both dream-like and fantasy realms beyond our quotidian experience, the artists seem to place us in the position of an 'armchair traveller'.
Antas works in a variety of media, which feature an unnerving sense of place and where uncanny incidents occur. His delicate pencil drawings of isolated figures in impenetrable, but fecund English landscapes, which we can only struggle to unravel. In the video, ‘The Middle and…’ a figure takes us on a tragi-comic and never-ending journey – where the Sisyphean travelling, rather than the destination, is the point. In ‘The Blue Hour’, he recreated a vast, sublime wintry landscape by photographing a hyper-real and carefully constructed model of a Nordic snowscape.
Axel Antas, 'Shelter' 2002
Dee Ferris' work is primarily concerned with questions of romance and escapism. Her shimmering oil paintings evoke both the idealised visions of 1970s advertising and the Arcadian landscapes of Turner and Fragonard. These fantasy rococo landscapes explore untenable models of love and friendship, offering faraway adventures in settings of country bliss. Ferris’s seductive images glisten with oil and shimmer with glitter. Her images are ‘views’, depicting ostentatious country houses, glamorous sea-view hotels and nightclubs. Mannequin-like figures sit uncomfortably in lush dripping greenery, flowing turquoise waterfalls and iridescent shores. The exaggerated artificiality and intense hues seem to suggest anxiety as much as relaxed leisure. These are places of unattainable bliss which play upon our collective desires and fantasies.
Dee Ferris, 'Suburban Light' 2002
A giant circle of words, overhead, constructed from thousands of dried flowers, forces us to gaze to the heavens. The text spirals endlessly round-and-round, mimicking the continual cycle of the seasons.
The artist creates a space charged with Romantic longing, which we can step inside and immerse ourselves. The artist encourages us to dwell upon the unstoppable passing of time, marked out by nature’s bounty springing into bud then rusting in the ‘fall’. Our thoughts also turn to who could enjoy the life of both the country and the city. Birt’s choice of flowers echoes the brilliant, fiery red leaves of New England in the autumn.
Dan Howard-Birt, 'All of Your Skies' 2003
Jackson creates images of waterfalls and blissful rural idylls, metaphors for a paradisical nature untouched by human hand. When broken up into ASCII characters, and re-presented as monochrome prints, our focus oscillates between the image and the information-saturated, brittle, mechanical rhythms between characters. In Jackson’s hands, depictions of nature as a timeless, sublime wilderness are transformed into fractured, synthetic images, and become metaphors for an ever-evolving environment in continual flux.
Clive Jackson, 'Flow' 2003
McDevitt produces obsessive, hypnotic drawings of distant galaxies and unnaturally fecund landscapes overburdened with flora and fauna. In ‘Sculpture in Landscape’, a voluptuous Henry Moore sculpture is overpowered by millennial fireworks. ’22,000 Years’ is how long it takes light to travel from the furthest reaches of the galaxy to earth, whilst travelling at the speed of light). ‘260,100 seconds’ is the length of time it took the artist to make the work (just over 72 hours in total). McDevitt draws attention to the difference between the unimaginable distances of space and the leap of imagination required to conceive of the speed of light or the scale of the universe, and the idea of the artist’s interminable labour to represent the idea.
Paul McDevitt, 'Sculpture in landscape' 2002
In Nadeem’s intricate photocollages, tourist images of natural wildernesses become fragmented into ornate Islamic patterns, carved into or reversed out of the image with a scalpel. The artist renders picturesque images of remote places into fragmented, culturally loaded constructions. As our eyes can never rest upon either of the images, instead, we continuously seek refuge between the one place and the other.
Henna Nadeem, 'Orange Lake' 2000
Orr’s brooding, miniature paintings blend Romantic imagery, science fiction and computer games to create visionary, apocalyptic landscapes. Humans are depicted in the midst of strange rituals, or at distorted scales, surrounded by vacant and foreboding environments. A sense of unease is created by the
Presence of a sublime and hostile nature.
Chris Orr, 'Steam In His Soul' 2003
Pointer’s digital ‘Metascapes’ evoke a melancholic beauty, where in derelict over-run fringes of the city, organic life rises up against the concrete jungle. Pointer finds a wistful, elegaic poetry at the edges of the city, where on the periphery of the metropolis, nature gently reclaims control.
Adam Pointer, 'Metascape' 2003
Samuels’ hyper-real model environments offer us miniature utopias. These are places which promise a blissful escape, lulling us into reverie. However, these idealised desert islands offer a double-edged paradise. They recall JG Ballard’s novel 'Rushing to Paradise', where environmental campaigners search for an unpopulated retreat, only to be driven mad by isolation.
Michael Samuels, 'Rescue Me' 2003