Nottingham Trent University Degree Show
East Midlands

Descending the flight of steps to the artist’s studio and the venue of the Fine Art Degree Show, the first piece of work I came across was a circular projection nestled in a dark corner by the stairwell. The black and white moving animation was meticulously crafted from one thousand still frame drawings of faces submerged within an otherworldly landscape of jagged rocks and canyons. Entitled Fiction Bound, I was initially captivated by this piece as the round shape of the projection and the dark, simplistic mood to the animation bared an uncanny relevance to the ideas around my own work at the time. I had been creating semi-static video work within a circular frame, which had then been projected against a flat white wall. This piece, however, was projected against a table like structure involving a pivoted round platform on which the projection fell. The artist, Sophie Myers, explains her work as a disassembly of conventional restrictions associated with the age-old process of drawing. In Fiction Bound she pushes far beyond the boundaries of two-dimensional, static drawing to create a moving image with three-dimensional elements. By using a circular shaped projection she is getting away from the standard “frame” format whilst playing with the illusion of scale, space and time.

Myers’ method of exploiting a still, two dimensional discipline to create moving installation art-work, reminds me of two pieces of work I saw recently. Tom Phillips portrait Susan Adele Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield at the National Portrait Gallery extends the concept of portraiture, with a constantly changing computer image made from 169 progressive drawings on paper, merged with short video sections. The result is 22,500 frames, attentively examining both the face of the sitter and the scrupulous process of drawing it. Like wise, Nick and Sheila Pye’s video work, Anti-Portraits, utilizes the concept of portraiture to deal with bigger issues. When I first sat in front of the piece I assumed the dual portrait was a still photographic image placed within a light box. After a while the forms started subtly changing; the eyes blinking and coming to life whilst fixed upon the viewers gaze. For me, this tenuous play between video and still imagery creates a hesitative tension and an unsettling ambience and I think that’s why I was so drawn to Myer’s Fiction Bound.

I her piece, the faces rise and sink into the rocky terrain, as if being consumed by this strange, almost post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Like waves riding up and down in a hypnotic rhythm. There is something very barren and haunting about the imagery. The heads and faces appear hairless and identical and one cannot help but be reminded of films such as The Matrix, whereby newly formed humans are clinically cloned and created. The figures lay horizontal against the earth, in a state of sleep, and, every so often a pair of eyes may flicker and momentarily awaken. Like the mountains beyond, the faces are chizzled and carved with a sculptured beauty. Framing the work in this circular projection creates a sense of looking through a telescope. This telescope sucks you into the scene as if you’re trespassing on someone else’s surreal unconscious. The mood created is that of a dream and this is enhanced by the constant, sleepy shift of focus. It is this contrast of dreamlike discomfort and the floating mental lull of the film that really attracts the viewer to come and experience this unearthly atmosphere under the stairs. My understanding of this work as a surreal dream is reinforced by the dull echoing sounds, which join the visuals. In all honesty I almost forgot there was an audio element to Fiction Bound when it came to writing this. I think this only reinstates the atmospheric quality the work relies on, as all the elements involved appear to evolve and exist together seamlessly: almost inadvertently cancelling each other out.

My interpretation of this work as a dreamscape may be due partly to my own affiliation with the psyche and its conscious and unconscious counter parts, which, my own artwork often refers to. The imagery in the drawings conjurers up a sense of being in another world; not in a kitsch, sci-fi way, but on a deeper level, which, to me, hints at Jungian psychology and cosmology. Carl Jung describes how the psyche exists as an objective part of nature and is subject to the same laws that govern the universe. It is predominantly through the unconscious that this parallel exists and therefore it is only in dreams where such mysteries are played out. Here in Fiction Bound I got a sense of looking through a telescope upon a different world; a world that wasn’t particularly physical but more psychological. A place where images from the depths of the unconscious are awakened and revived. The multiple figures, indistinguishable from one another, I read as the collective unconscious: the part universal to every human. The landscape’s alien prowess, enhanced by the circular telescopic framing, I interpret as the unconscious realm which we are all attached to: a place that holds a lingering familiarity, whilst, at the same time, being vastly distant from our own reality. It was around the same time I saw this exhibition that I was researching and becoming interested in Jung’s theology and the relationship between the unconscious and the cosmos, and, it is probably for this reason, that I drew such a strong association between the two.

When I read more into Myers’ explanation of the themes around her work, it became clear that her main focus was the concept of drawing itself. Initially I was frustrated with this description as I felt it oversimplified and devalued the content of the work. How can a piece of art-work so psychologically, spiritually and emotionally charged be about something as “easy” as the boundaries of the drawing process? It was only after, as I read on, that I realised that keeping this focus of “drawing” central and deliberately downplaying the ambiguous imagery in her account, had been a very clever and intentional tactic. In her words I am interested in how each viewer can perceive the piece differently, drawing their own associations from the suggestive imagery and trying to locate a narrative. Experiencing the work myself, had lead me on a tangent into psychological cosmology and dreams. If this particular theme had been the artist’s initial intention, I doubt the same air of authenticity would have come across. Myers’ own bias, intent and beliefs may have contaminated the viewer’s perception. It is the works deliberate ambiguity that makes it so accessible and intriguing.