Interstices

tesseractweb
Diagram of a tesseract

This week I have returned to my favourite topic of research – the interstice between art and science. This small space or interstice is a mysterious overlap, a Venn diagram where two parts overlap, collide, create a new entity.

Once again I have returned to the book which most influenced me as a nine year old  – Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. In it the children need to travel through time and space to find their missing scientist father who has been experimenting with ‘tessering’ a fifth dimensional method of time travel. The title of the book refers to the Einstein’s space-time continuem, the ripple or wrinkle in time which makes time travel accessible and instantaneous.

These ideas will inform the creation of my next artist book, folding the pages to create multiple narratives which demonstrate that the shortest distance between two or more concepts is a ripple, a wrinkle, a fold in space and time.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

Meg sighed. ‘Just explain it to me.’

‘Okay,’ Charles said. ‘What is the first dimension?’

‘Well – a line: –‘

‘Okay. And the second dimension?’

‘Well, you’d square the line. A flat square would be in the second dimension.’

‘And the third?’

‘Well, you’d square the second dimension. Then the square wouldn’t be flat any more. It would have a bottom and sides, and a top.’

“And the fourth?’

‘Well, I guess if you want to put it into mathematical terms you’d square the square. But you can’t take a pencil and draw it the way you can the first three. I know it’s got something to do with Einstein and time. I guess maybe you could call the fourth dimension Time.’

‘That’s right,’ Charles said. ‘Good girl. Okay, then, for the fifth dimension you’d square the fourth, wouldn’t you?’

‘I guess so.’

‘Well the fifth dimension’s a tesseract. You add that to the other four dimensions and you can travel through space without ever having to go the long way round. In other words, to put it into Euclid, or old fashioned plane geometry, a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.’

For a brief, illuminating second meg’s face had the listening, probing expression that was so often seen on Charles’s. ‘I see!’ she cried. ‘I got it! For just a moment I got it! I can’t possibly explain it now, but there for a second I saw it!’

Text sourced from Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time. Puffin, 1995 p 76-77.

 

Soundscapes

birdsong
morning birdsong

After a hiatus of several months, I am back in the studio starting my next project. This extended pause has given me time to regroup, take on some small projects for exhibitions and begin to garden again.

The delight of listening to birdsong in the garden never leaves me. Nor do I take it for granted, knowing that my brief times living in the city were devoid of this signature soundscape. When we lived in country Victoria the dawn chorus of birdsong in spring was a reminder of the changing seasons; birdsong waking the earth from its slumber, bulbs  bursting into flower, eggs hatching.

In Secrets of the Soil, philosopher Rudolf Steiner writes that birdsong has a powerful effect on plants flowering and fruiting. Similarly, birdsong has inspired poets, scientists philosophers and musicians through the ages. It is one of the most studied soundscapes, inspiring French composer and ornithologist Olivier Messiaen to create a suite of bird song inspired pieces including Réveil des oiseaux, (Awakening of the birds) in 1953 for piano and orchestra.

The language and songs of birds were originally a footnote to my research on sound and light waves. However in 2016, I embarked on my honours research project focused on recording the sounds of making paper and reinterpreting these images as songlines and fractal mandalas. Birdsong featured as small nodes on the sound line as I rested my paper outside to dry. It sparked a renewed interest in creating a body of work responding to an immersion in birdsong. In the musical mythology of Persian culture, bird song was considered a form of zikr or remembrance of God, praising creation.

Sonograms of the musical notation of bird song feature in the work of John Wolseley. As I embark upon my new body of work I continue to be inspired by birdsong.  How it will be visually translated is my research challenge.

Caesura

 

pebbles1
Split  2011 ~ Photograph by Heather Matthew

Artist/composer John Cage talks about the “caesura”, the pauses which are important in both music and poetry.[1] Caesuras or caesurae are from the Latin for “cutting”,  indicating a break in a verse where one phrase ends and the following phrase begins. This rhythmical pause is often in the middle of a poetic line creating dramatic tension and/or additional ways to access meaning. I see it as a site of emptiness and possibility, the yogic pauses at the end of each outgoing and incoming breaths.

For the past month of December, I have been visiting this state of pause. Allowing emptiness to fill me without fear. I know that next year I will begin new and exciting work, following on from the insights I have gleaned from undertaking my Bachelor of Visual Arts Honours project. Already I have new ideas fermenting, ones which involve further study of cymatics, fractal images and portals. Sound, vibration and silence.

John Cage was most famous for his work 4’33”[2], a musical score the title of which indicates the length of silence in minutes and seconds. Cage believed that silence was a way in which people could enter “audibility”, the “undiscovered field which lies outside the direction of our attention”.[3]

There are many fields of audibility, vibrations which are heard or unheard yet sensed. Environmental sounds, domestic and external. The resonant echo of a feeling or thought somehow sensed, an animal or primal audibility we call a ‘sixth sense’.

This moment of cutting, this caesura, is where I listen to my inner sounds of silence and enjoy the emptiness. It is where I tune in to all my senses with confidence, knowing that I will return to this blog in 2017 ready to share afresh my adventures in art.

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[1] Musicage: Cage Muses on Words, Art, Music., ed. Joan Retallack. (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1996), 154.

[2] John Cage, “4’33”,” (1952).

[3] Musicage: Cage Muses on Words, Art, Music., xxviii.

Week 40: the last post

fractals-closeup-crop
The Poetry of Water (detail) Heather Matthew 2016

Many artists feels that their art is like a child, conceived, nurtured then born through hard labour. From gestation to birth is anywhere between 37 to 40 weeks. It seems fitting, that at week 37 my exhibition was installed and now at 40 weeks it is packed up, the sold artworks delivered and the birth is over. The baby is out and ready to breathe on her own.

Several of my artworks will be hung in new homes, and will need to hold enough of their own resonance to speak with their own voices. The rest will perhaps be available for other exhibitions or be reconfigured into new objects d’art.

In their book Art & Fear: observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking, authors David Bayles & Ted Orland make the point that survival as an artist means “finding an environment where art is valued and art making encouraged”.[1] For many people this is a university environment which can be both stimulating and encouraging. But there does come a time when you, like your artworks, need to stand alone to breathe. The hard part is to find those environments where the breathing is easy so that you have space and oxygen in which to create anew.

Often after university or art college, artists establish group studios or join an artist run initiative so that there are venues in which to exhibit and/or collaborate on new projects. When I first moved to northern NSW I joined a printmaking cooperative which gave me access to equipment and helped forge long lasting friendships with many of its arts members. Now at the end of my university project, I am thinking about ways to stay motivated and connected.

Artists need other artists for support and stimulation. Little clusters of like minded people to gather regularly to talk about work in progress, inspiring exhibitions to visit and new opportunities. Like playgroup mums, we need to get together to allow our art babies to have space to play and interconnect.

Author Julia Cameron talks about the same thing at the finish of her book The Artist’s Way.[2] Forming artist’s way “clusters” helps people stay connected and creates a community of creativity in which successes (and failures) can be celebrated. It is a blueprint for connectivity and one I hope will guide me as I embark on the next stage of my journey. Wish me luck.

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[1] David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (Santa Cruz, CA: The Image Continuum, 1993), 46.

[2] Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way (New York: Jeremy P Tarcher / Penguin, 1997).

Week 39: the end, waiting

mandalaStone image, Mexico (photo: Heather Matthew 2011)

“in every beginning

there is the end, waiting”

~ Excerpt from the poem the end, waiting by  Heather Matthew, 2003

In every project the end waits with certainty. Yet in every ending are the seeds of new ideas, the development of concepts circled around time and again, repeating patterns of thoughts which won’t go away.

This week I have been reading about crop circles, vibrational fields of force formed by a combination of electromagnetic waves and sound vibrations.  These scientific precepts have been the basis for two of my most significant arts research projects. For my final Bachelor of Visual Arts project in 2012, I investigated Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism which proved that electricity and magnetism were both waves which together formed electromagnetic fields of force. Four years later I undertook my Honours research investigation into the vibrational patterns of sound in water to create images of chaotic nature fractals.

integral-differental
Integral & Differential – (detail) screenprint. Heather Matthew 2012

Rereading my visual arts diaries from the past six years, I can see my interest in sacred geometry. My travels have instinctively led me to sacred sites all over the world, where humans have constructed pyramids, mosques, churches and temples in an attempt to heighten and intensify the earth’s vibrational energy force. The spirals and mandala images reflect our need to encode information in buildings and images to remind us of our cosmic connection.

My art has always been about interconnection; between people, nature and the cosmic realm. I am drawn to the intersection of science and metaphysics, for as humankind’s thinking develops and awakens, what was once considered ‘magic’ is now everyday science  eg.  electricity, television and the internet. My art attempts to capture something of the magic of science, the unknown we can glimpse but not yet understand with our thinking.

Art touches the heart on an intuitive level which can  bypass thinking. It can provide a first point of connection, something which moves us but we don’t know why. As artists we strive for connection, between ourselves and our work, between our work and our concepts and if we’re lucky and all the stars align, we make connection with our audience, which in turn propels us to make more work. It may be different, but it comes from the seeds of the previous work we have done, each building upon the foundations already laid. In the end, the beginning, waiting.

 

Week 38: feedback

 

fractal-embroidery
Presence/Absence (detail) . Screenprint on wire mesh.

This week the examiners came to view our artwork installations and provide feedback. A valuable opportunity to have a critical analysis of the project and its resulting installation. What worked and why. What were the weaker points which needed clarification. How did the installation reflect the research and its outcome.

What I found particularly interesting was the comment that my installation could have been stronger if I had removed the handmade banana paper artworks from the walls and focused instead on the sound, video and the fractal screen which demonstrated the tools and process used.

It was a valid point and one that I had considered as an installation strategy using an overhead ‘sound dome’ and video projections onto the floor. For one reason or another this did not make it but these comments indicate possibilities for future exhibitions.

In many ways Presence/Absence achieved the result that I had been striving towards, a ‘watermark’ effect where light and shadows are created from the absence of matter – take away the paper and you are left with the lines on the wire mesh paper mound. The presence of light, an inspiration for my next project.

Week 37: exhibition

opening-night-group

The work is hung, the public arrive. It’s opening night and there is a quiet buzz in the gallery as people mill around looking at my work. I stand with it so that they can ask me questions. I explain the process, the prints, and the paper. There is much incredulity – banana paper? How did you get the image? Is this screen embroidered? What with? Look at the shadows it throws!

screen-fractal
Presence/Absence – screen print on wire mesh screen

This paper mould (screen) was used in my experiments when I was attempting to make a fractal watermark. I had not originally intended to hang it in the exhibition however it was seen, admired and considered to be as much a part of the research narrative as the other works.  It was hung away from the wall so that the lighting could throw shadows to create a double pattern.

In many ways, it achieved the effect I was hoping to get as a watermark in paper – the presence of an image through the absence of pulp. The shadows and lines have created a similar effect.

me-and-chritine-w
Heather Matthew & fellow artist Christine Willcocks

Exhibition openings give the artist an opportunity to discuss their work and share their artistic journey with others. Such an enthusiastic response to my work is a validation of the research it represents. To be surrounded by family, friends, colleagues and fellow artists at my exhibition opening is a great boost to my self confidence as an artist and a celebration of this honours project.  At  journey’s end, I would like to thank everyone who came for celebrating my Paper/Song.