IONE PARKIN RWA
I am an abstract painter interested in creating an aesthetic synthesis from the diversity and interconnectedness of the wider universe.
This new body of work has been created through conversations with astronomers, cosmologists and planetary geologists. I am interested in how to translate and interpret the scientific ideas I have been exposed to into the instinctive language of abstract painting. Through this project I have become fascinated by ideas about the early formation of the universe; massive clouds of cosmic dust and gas; the filamentary structure of the vast webs of colour and shimmering light; luminous visions of immensity; scale and un-fathomable distance; the forces that drive the perpetual cycles of destruction and creation and how the raw beauty of astronomical entities can be produced by such violent and extreme reactions.
Luminosity and radiance are important to me in my work and I aim to create a sense of light being held within, and emanating from, the painting. There is a sense of each painting being part of a greater whole – a fragment of infinity – and that each image could continue way beyond the confines of the canvas itself. These paintings feel like an entry-zone into a deeper reality, of swirling turbulent movements, of vast distances, of nebulous cloud-like forms coalescing into dense accumulations of marks and concentrated energy. The observer has the sensation of becoming almost a weightless witness, looking from a suspended viewpoint. The act of looking interests me; of maintaining eye-contact with a painting as a prolonged experience and I believe profoundly in the transformational qualities of the sustained gaze. When I am working, I think about form and space, light and dark, certainty and uncertainty, substance and illusion. This kind of contemplation becomes embedded within each painting – my own blend of materiality and atmospherics.
In my mixed media works on paper, I am inspired by planetary surfaces and the underlying processes involved in creating those surfaces – from the inside out. This involves a multi-layered approach – including crumpled paper, raw pigments, graphite, powdered copper and other metals - to render, mimic and respond to those surfaces and generate a body of work that presents speculations on undiscovered planets – as if creating fragments of flayed planet-skin. These are restless images – a seething surface of tectonic tensions expressing the primal power of extreme environments.
My approach is intuitive, offering a physical, tactile experience rather than an explanation. I am seeking to embody through the elasticity of imagination and my own creative involvement with the raw elements of my discipline – pigment and surface - a sensation, a sample of that which is far beyond our reach.
Gillian McFarland’s artistic practice begins with the processes of creating and the subsequent investigation of seemingly random actions. For the past 18 months she has been working in collaboration with glass blower Graeme Hawes, exploring the material expansion and contraction of glass as enactments of the extreme conditions created post Big-Bang through heat, light, and rotation. The “Space Globes” are presented as forms and colours that have pushed through creational chaos into a form of order: each one marking its own evolutionary process. Fragments of materials such as sulphur, iron oxide and silver nitrate disperse across the surface, fracturing and a ecting colour, transparency and opacity. These orbs generate the desire for tactility, an urge to explore their structures through touch – as if to hold the universe in the palm of your hand – and through doing so, attain a level of understanding, be this through scale, the minuteness of humankind within the vast context of space or the fragility of substance.
Gillian also similarly explores the structural force of paper, playing with the varying aesthetics resulting from di ering applied pressures. In the punctured paper works, ideas of history and time wrap around a repeated action. The forces of this radiating outwards can be viewed from both sides of the paper, entering the sculptural, a squeeze in one dimension becoming a bulge in another. These works bring to mind orbits, tracking pathways across space or the features of dust grains in proto-planetary discs and o ering integral areas of intrigue.
Making art allows Gillian to be still with things in a reflective process, allowing connections to develop, disappear, reappear and strengthen. The repetition of process reassures and defines the investigation, with small actions building into a bigger picture. The’ doing’ becomes charged with potential, causing a sequence of disturbances or impacts, a pencil dent, pressed ink blots or blown glass. The archaeology of the mark or object, its material culture invites investigation and the desire to draw closer, to connect in understanding. Enquiry and process impacts in the art making and hopefully integrates the viewer and maker with the image.
This project ‘Curiosity and Creativity’, considers not only the excitement of the chaotic act of creation, but also the resulting stillness of the aftermath. The more time we give to the art of looking, the more clarity we can apply to the questions that open out in front of us. History and time move us back and forth in our understanding. We can only be where we are within the context of everything that has proceeded this moment.
Creation itself holds its own abstraction through purposeful will or from making sense of random events colliding. Working with both scientists and researchers in the astronomical field, Gillian’s work has gained a di erent perspective in understanding how things are defined by the very processes that bring them into existence.
This project spanning as it does, the arrival of Brexit and Trump brings into reflections the scales of turmoil, on our planet and within our universe, the fragility and strength of things and the tension between tolerance, understanding and acceptance. I wish all humanity could be made to look up to the heavens and contemplate. It is a heroic act.
Alison works with heat and the transformation of materials in the kiln and furnace and the alchemy of the process. The materials she uses are iron, clays, rocks, carbon, silicon, oxides, and different metals to name a few. Materials found throughout the universe.
Through exposing to heat; often up to 2,000 degrees centigrade; the materials have very different reactions to each other and to themselves. They transform, disappear, fuse and explode. They do not stay the same as they were before. The process is full of unknowns, mysterious, full of wonderment, excitement and the unexpected; and often to Alison; the unexplained. All adding to the stories the materials reveal about themselves through trauma and fire. This is what also draws Alison to expanding her conversations with astronomers and those working with the universe and all its unknowns.
The Creativity and Curiosity project is a wondrous challenge. The universe is so vast in every possible way, the physical, the intellectual, the science, the impossibility of the idea that there can be an ‘End of Time’ and ‘Edge of Space’, only to our ability to try and understand and engage - but in what, what is it?
The imagery from space is spectacular and it would be easy to try and replicate this, it is seductive and awesome. The textures and patterns of the images coming from the space can be seen in so many different things on earth. For example, the images of the layered iron sulphate deposits in the Valles Marineris of Mars are like the bark of a tree, a wing of a butterfly, an aerial view of a mud flat estuary. Other imagery from Mars has huge resonance with the prehistoric cup and ring markings on stone in Yorkshire. There are so many echoes across the universe.
To Alison there cannot be a beginning or an end, but constant change and movement of materials; each explosion, collision and resulting impact is unique and lays down its own story. These change again and again with each further explosion or collision. The universe is created through chaos, trauma, unpredictable happenings which are each unique in their process and the result is constant progressions and changing states; nothing is static. The process of the constantly changing universe is similar to the way a grain of sand is formed and changed. The ‘stuff’ which makes up the universe; the 5% we know about; is the same which is here.
Everything is connected; the micro and macro of creativity; yet we in this world insist on not recognising what connects us all. We tend to concentrate on differences and what disconnects and walk away from things which have ‘nothing to do with us’. If we would cast our eyes outwards then we may see how allied we all are and how easily we can destroy ourselves. Are the migrations of people across the earth echoing the migration of materials blasted out of their ‘homes’ in space?
Alison’s work will keep changing, evolving, and recreating itself in different forms depending on the processes she applies to the materials and continuing explorations into the mind boggling world of the universe. Extreme heat and transformation of matter is intrinsic in space. Through destruction emerges change and renewal; which is constantly happening.
Atsuko Tanaka ‘Suddenly see a broader horizon after pacing the same spot for a long time’
Kate Bernstein is a contemporary book artist and printmaker. Kate was invited by Creativity and Curiosity to collaborate with them in their research at the Royal Astronomical Society Library, London. Facilitated by the RAS Librarian, Sian Prosser, Kate has been exploring early printed books on astronomy, in which both astronomical discoveries and advances in print technology are evident. (Read more about Kate here)