The flashpoint of twilight
The notion of the sublime has often been quoted to reference Casper David Friedrich, a 19th Century romanticist who’s “melancholy and symbolic compositions were singular expressions of the significance of landscape …typically project his mystical and pantheistic attitude toward nature”. His Wanderer above a Sea of Fog (1818) hanging in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg is often said to represent that feeling of vastness, and to some extend a sense of loss when encountering a force larger than one’s comprehension. In this age of digital media and seemingly infinite inter-net, that sense of loss could be understood, even if we did not have a tall mountain to stand on, and to look across a sea of fog. Or so it seems.
That same vastness is neatly represented in this exhibition for grey projects, a new art space in town, in the works by 4 artists Li Cassidy-Peet, Donna Ong, Jack Youngblood and Issei Yoshida. Works by the artists serve up sublimity with digital images using digital means, provoking the sensations awe and emptiness through the works.
While the works would mean different things in other contexts, here that vastness suggested by the distant horizon (Issei Yoshida’s photographs), pictures of the universe/clouds/stars slowly zooming like a computer screensaver (Li Cassidy-Peet), the blurry, ambiguous dark grey background (Jack Youngblood) will tickle your imagination. To lift from Edmund Burke’s often referenced A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757), “the sublime is dynamic, immense, and fearful”.
Here, Issei Yoshida’s Poseidon is drowning in the perfect storm, his endless crowd stares at an apocalyptic flashpoint of possible nuclear proportions; Li Cassidy’s stills of the universe, calming and infinite draws us nearer but swallows the viewer up; Jack Youngblood’s young male protagonist stares uncannily proudly at the viewer; Donna Ong’s miniature projection of possibly windows, shed our understanding of space and proportion, almost revealing another dimension – light-space-time.
While the exhibition is all coherent, what remains slightly baffling are the sculptures that are part of Cassidy’s work. They unwittingly seem out of the context of twilight, other than the rude thought of being affiliated to the defunct television series ‘the twilight zone’, have little visual symmetry with the rest of the works.
As much as the conception and condition of the sublime has been applied to much contemporary art, and in some cases as a polemic to notions of beauty, here they meet in the flashpoint of twilight, tripping expectations in a visual feast and technical distinction.
(images with the kind permission of the curator)
7.0 of 10 stars
ORIGIN: Old English glōmung, from glōm ‘twilight,’ of Germanic origin; related to glow
exhibition from 4/4 – 4/5/08,
curated by guo liang tan for Grey Projects,
40 Zion Road, 247774, contact:greyprojects ( a ) gmail.com