Penumbral Reflections

In 2018, I attended the opening of PAC Studios exhibition Penumbral reflections. The following three poems, entitled Penumbra I, Penumbra II and Penumbra III came out of the experience.

IMG_2702.JPG

Penumbra I

Consider first architecture as a penumbra;
as an act that casts a deep shadow upon art.

Consider then architecture a disciplinary experiment;
a blurring of simulated and physical.

Consider next the tools of projection;
the grid, the light, the curved surface reflecting.

Consider now the murky relationship
between translation and building.

Consider later a lucent procession,
or James Turrells articulate volumes of whiteness.

Consider architecture as the partial shadow that occurs between umbra,
the darkest part of a shadow, and its full illumination.


the murky relationship between translation and building - Robin Evans


 
James Turrell,  Arfum .

James Turrell, Arfum.

 

 Penumbra II

In it we see:
James Turrell's Arfum;
his sketches for it;
the night sky;
the insides of our eyes;
quick drawings we did in charcoal at school;
the magic near-impossibility of a total penumbral lunar eclipse;
that fine passage through the penumbral cone that the moon must make, not touching the umbra.



Penumbra III

In darkness, all the possibilities present themselves and become entangled.

We are immersed.

As lines become planes we to watch ourselves tip into three-dimensionality.

The room levitates.

The horizon shifts.

We are on a plane. We are rendered in continual movement.

This is drawing, you say quietly. This is all drawing.


FRANK STELLA

Frank Stella , New York, 1959  - Hollis Frampton

Frank Stella, New York, 1959 - Hollis Frampton

My first introduction to post-painterly abstract artist Frank Stella was when I was about 9 or 10. As part of one of those classic and formative childhood school projects, we were asked to research an artist and then to produce work 'in-the-style-of'. I can't remember why, or how I came across his work in that pre-internet era, but I chose Frank Stella.

There were paintings with titles like 'Zambesi', jarring colours, and minimalist geometries which folded over one another, turning the page into a three-dimensional surface. I thought it was wildly exciting. Until this stage in life, my favourite artist had been Claude Monet - so Stella was a revelation. 

Now, my favourite Stella works are all about the parallel lines, in particular those making the shift from the precise and colourful to the imprecise and tonal. In these large-scale works, Stella imparts a depth to the space between the lines, which in turn gives the lines a quality of hovering, or buzzing in space. The lines are journeying tail-lights, rays conceived by squinting at the stars, or the strangely orderly formations on the inside of my eyelids. Whatever they are, in these works Stella masterfully moves us from the minimal to the spatial - a transition with architectural overtones.

This October, the Whitney will present the most comprehensive retrospective of his work yet. If only I could get there.

Ileana Sonnabend ,   1963   Private collection 

Ileana Sonnabend1963
Private collection 

Zembesi  , 1959.

Zembesi, 1959.

SPLASHING

Splashing. Richard Serra, 1968.

Splashing. Richard Serra, 1968.

Richard Serra's 1968 work Splashing is one of those inherently evocative works which takes on new lives through the different media it engages. 

The process of creation is embodied in the work: hardened lead thrown against the base of a wall when molten. Once solidified, we are invited to reconstruct Serra's action in our mind. The violence of his throw is brought to life through the 'after-image' - his  performance embedded in the object.

POSTCARDS OF AMBIGUITY

In this 'Postcard' series, Whiteread uses a hole punch to cut out negative spaces in the rooms, capturing the three-dimensional concerns of her sculptural form in a two-dimensional manner. The well-known touristic images are obscured by the cluster of circular abscesses, and they become ambiguous.  More of Rachel Whitereads' drawings at the Tate Britain courtesy of the Guardian here, with accompanying article here

Alongside the postcards are a collection of pseudo-technical drawings, including the revealing 'Study for "House"'. In this work, Whiteread uses an everyday and meaning-laden medium - correction fluid, or 'twink' - to simultaneously create and erase. The house is 'corrected' into a 'pure' whiteness, it becomes absent, yet at the same time, we are more aware of the space the object occupies after the 'intervention'. White is at once pure and ghostly, the house in the images becomes both nothing and, oddly, sky. 

Study for "House", 1992

Study for "House", 1992

DESCENT INTO LIMBO

Anish Kapoor,  Descent into Limbo, 1992

Anish Kapoor, Descent into Limbo, 1992

...the void manifests itself as a force field in which materiality becomes immaterial, the solidity of objects is negated by recessive and vanishing spaces, and the finite is punctured with apertures indicating the infinite. Once inside the event horizon of each work, the viewer is invited to reflect closely on the micro-physics of viewing: this yields up a disturbingly intense self-awareness. Kapoor’s works oblige the viewer to become sensitive to the continuous processes of cognition and imagination, instinct and dream, sensation and inference, by which the mind constructs the world. Indeed in such an act of aesthetic response, the mind has a sudden and uncanny experience of looking at itself. 

- Nancy Adajania, The Mind Viewing Itself