Thursday, 23 April 2009

Article: Viral Chains: Recent Works by Clair Rushton

Images from top: Viral Chain. Installation view. 09.
Untitled. Installation view. 09.
Connections. Paper. 09.
Sequential Logic. Photograph.09

Looking to the recent body of work (2009) by visual artist Clair Rushton, a variety of interests and dialogues emerge. Within her studio lies an array of paper- based sculpture and photographs’, revealing that image making has become important in her practice. Looking around it becomes clear that there is an element of the obsessive in the way she works: in creating patterns through paper carving, that capture natural phenomena and ephemera, and in the repeating and reordering them into sculptural forms. There is clearly an influence from eastern paper cutting and culture in particular; the manipulated large paper works suggest origami, however she claims to have not been able to “get origami” but instead plunders some of its folding ideas and aesthetics.

The problem with an artist like Rushton is tying down her true interests as when she talks she skips from ideas about Neuroaesthetics, structure and intuition, to art therapy and rural living and then to thoughts about the state of art criticism within a Globalised context. Yet this eagerness for looking to different influences and themes within her work can be explored in the context of her thoughts: “Everything in the world seems to be linked by an intrinsic structure” seen in all the repetition of structures both as a pattern and physically represented through

the sculptures. The installation Viral Chain explores intrinsic structures of neurons using patterns on paper, while playing on thoughts of a scientific gaze “ looking at sequences, hybridisation of systems and thoughts on the void in between painting and sculpture”. The works also suggest the eastern influence of pattern and filigree giving the work a variety of cultural perspectives. An interest in the scientific gaze and image making is expressed and pointed out through referencing microscopic zoom and petri dishes arguably a little cliché, however the work seems to escape this with its use of UV light as another scientific process.

Rushton uses pseudo-science to create works that can only be revealed under certain conditions:” I believe in honesty and truth in my work. I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not. I want to engage with people.” The UV light element allowing different levels of engagement with the viewer and representing a sense of honesty with UV blacklight often used for revealing identities and within cleansing and sterilising applications. Seen in the installations of her recent body of work using UV light to reveal the intrinsic patterns, with a UV glow.

Her interest with structures and systems harks back to a nostalgia for aesthetics and content from works in the 1960’s and 70s’ that looked at systems theories as reconstructed in the exhibition: Open Systems by the Tate in 2005. Taking note of artists’ interests at the time such as ‘Warhol, insisting that the artist become the machine that makes the art’. (Glimcher.p20.2005) Which is a place where Rushton seems be taking off from in the way she makes her works: “Using technology as a way of escaping process, undermining the human element. I think its fundamental within art. The physicality of working through process allows you to creatively explore and make mistakes” Eva Hesse worked in the same way with repetition ‘this act was at the heart of her creative process’ (Barger, M. 2007).

Rushton often mentions an interest in the “void between painting and sculpture” almost a historical interest which arguably isn’t particularly a relevant one.

She has faced disagreements about following such thoughts when artists such as Rauschenberg have tackled this void in his "Combine" paintings. Painting is seen as less relevant and exhausted in visual arts particularly with Rauschenberg and Neo Dada exploration of the subject however Rushton’s response is evident in pattern making, and the physicality of patterns in sculptural work. With Rushton she has little interest in the everyday or combining through collage, assemblage and creates work that look to contemporary philosophies and technology. Rushton creates works that bring into focus the complex but unseen that which can only be seen under certain conditions, she believes that there is still space to explore the “void” with technology where neo-dada aesthetics couldn’t.

Rushton identifies the work and research of Semir Zeki as being the galvanising force for clarifying her interests “ in thoughts around structure, intuition and how everything in the world seems to be linked together by an intrinsic structure” and introducing her to Neuroaesthetics. With thoughts that artwork is often created through intuition which is merely a fundamental construct by the brain using experience and learning as a basis for thought and decision-making. Artists are after all closet neuroscientists who unconsciously understand what titillates the brain. Their ability to abstract the essentials of an image and discard the redundant information mirrors which the brain has evolved over millions of years. (Highfield, R 2007)

Landscape and process resonates with Rushton in her image making as seen in the photographic series Sequential Logic. The influence of living in a rural setting sees Rushton using it as a setting for works, to provoke insecurities about the influence of nature on technology. Rushton is interested in the way she can explore this relationship through image making and sculpture, with the sculptural elements in the work being physical manifestations of sequences found throughout the natural world and in turn found throughout technology.

Rushton expressed a desire for her work to develop further in its sophistication - with regards to an interest in fictionalised narrative building, as seen in the epic work of Charles Avery, perhaps Rushton sees this as method to “draw the links together of my interests”. The idea of creating a fictionalised world for Rushton’s work links with the obsessive nature of both her and Avery through the attention to detail that enables a fictionalised world to emerge. She has talked about the possibilities of her work becoming a fictionalised laboratory of experimentation and acting as an artistic manifestation of scientific experimentation. An interesting systematic approach like this will no doubt appeal to Rushton, however its success will depend on how well she can translate and link her interests into such an ambitious fantasy.

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