I open up with a paraphrase of recent research:
Like so many artworks, the brain is largely an object of mystery. One secret yet to be discovered is how the fragile folds of matter locked inside our skulls can not only conceive art, create it and contemplate it, but can also experience being transported by it, out of the head, out of the body, out of space and time and reality itself. The general wisdom has it that visual art activates visual centres of the brain and taps into survival responses. (see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/your-brain-on-art/… IS YOUR BRAIN ON ART By Sarah L. Kaufman, Dani Player, Jayne Orenstein, May-Ying Lam, Elizabeth Hart and Shelly Tan Published Sept. 18, 2017)
Alistair Wilson offers a chance to contemplate that re-cycling, isolating one issue(material) at the time, contrasting distinct edges(cut-outs) and flat flowing surfaces, and unveiling links between unrelated elements can do that. And yes, this sounds dry, and powerless to forge an aesthetic experience. Yet, Wilson’s strategies replace both the possible failures with visual thoughts/ art that can relax the viewer to play.
Hung systemically in neat rows, these uniformly sized cut outs from used and marked desks, initially suggest repetition, but closer inspection reveals a refreshing multiplicity of different spatial configurations that a single structure can generate. I use the noun “structure” for what is substantially a drawing on board. It is suggestive of Alastair Wilson thinking as a sculptor, whether with three-dimensional or two-dimensional material. This ability is shared also by architects and designers . In its classical form it embodied mathematics, geometry and proportion in statues of human figure, e.g. Praxiteles.
And there is a lot of geometry here…
Curves and rectangles on the walls, on floor, floating in air, standing in corners, are equally confident as their biomorphic neighbours. The precision of the cut outs from stone, mirror, wood, board or carpet advocates aesthetics of machine made, of the exact, of the reliable. As if thinking of the prisoners outside the cave in full light (viz Plato, Republic, the myth of the cave, wonderfully worked through by Iris Murdoch in her The Fire and the sun, 1977) – these objects are disrobed to the minimum.
The other artery of this exhibition is lighter in definition and heavier in impact. Wilson striped it of mystery by placing a landscape painting bought on E-bay at the entry, opposite the metal stand with the sculpted mountain calling it Twin Peaks. He modelled the shape it has in the anonymous painting. Appropriation by translation. Invitation to compare the two there and then.
This intoxication with honesty goes on throughout. The cloth mountain covers a gardening tools, including an upside down wheelbarrow, fully visible from the opposite view.
Mountain on wooden legs… the clumsy support is cherished as well as the lovely drapery that in certain light from certain distance achieves transformatory conviction.
The rude awaking ,when seeing what the dorso is, provokes on of two sets of responses: either seeing it as a contemporary grotesque or questioning why so numerous objects were necessary to evoke the illusion of white mountain range?
Video, installations, floor sculpture and drawings complete the variations on the two themes: precisely new (shiny and smooth) and recycled.
Painting ? Drawing? Both? I sense different kind of freedom in these – less of a responsibility to be an artist in an art world, more being maker in the privacy of inventive play feeling unadulterated joy of being.
These images keep their secrets placed in the multitude of irrational touches and constructs – some perhaps starting off from the marks on the inherited surfaces.
They are spaces of imprisonment of matter in layers and repetitions meshing some disparate perceptions in a single mass. Indeed, it is akin the starry night offering both sense of disorientation and the heighten anxiety of never knowing it all.
Serenity, silence, intimacy – usher the viewer inside the seen, insisting that the mute poetry, Leonardo thought about, is still possible, and that the task set by Italo Calvino in his “memo” on saving visibility, is achievable.
The exhibition has been accompanied by a catalogue with interesting texts that refuse to be just of one kind. It contains images of his output not present at GTG. The catalogue Alistair Wilson, Signs and Ciphers,2017, copyright the artist, is meant to accompany the part II, planned for the Millennium Court Arts Centre at Portadown later this year.
Images courtesy the GTG