Alternative Histories – Solo Exhibition – 8 May until 13 June 2018
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An exhibition of etchings and works on paper by Judy Woodborne
“…the universe doesn’t have just a single history, but every possible history, each with its own probability; and our observations of its current state affect its past and determine the different histories of the universe…”
Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow: The Grand Design.
This body of work comprises works created for an invitation exhibition in the Hohensalzburg Fortress for the Salzburg Festival 2015 and further works that have developed from this theme. I have taken Stephen Hawking’s statement above and added the idea that mythology, symbol and iconography can form my personal vision and artistic lexicon.
Jung says that “The most we can do is to dream the myth onward and give it a modern dress.”
[Pg 32, Art and Spiritual Transformation. Findlay Eversole].
I researched the history of Carnival and Traditional Folly for my Master of Fine Art’s dissertation with particular interest in rituals and traditions of different cultures. This inspired further reading about the creation mythologies of diverse cultures, mostly ancient Greek. This combined with an interest in science and the nature of matter – from the Platonic Solids of Sacred Geometry and “Parts of the Soul” from Timaeus to the writings of Protagoras (circa 490 – 420 BC), a pre-Socratic philosopher and sophist. I have used as a starting point; “Man is the measure of all things” by Protagoras which was interpreted by Plato to mean that there is no absolute truth, but that which individuals deem to be the truth. This later begs the question of existence where if something is not able to be known does it exist? In the mind and imagination of the artist, everything is simultaneously possible.
In the “Anatomy of the World” series I have taken from Plato’s Timaeus the “Parts of the Soul” where the body is divided into 7 areas – the crown, brain, neck/throat, heart and lungs, belly, gonads and sacrum which correspond to a particular chakra or part of the soul and translated these concepts into images. Working with pages from an old encyclopaedia, I have overprinted these texts and created a revised text containing my version of an alternative history. The idea of the anatomy comes not only from Plato, and using parts of our body to understand and illustrate a far greater universe and correlation between the two, but also from Andreas Vesalius (1514 – 1564) and his illustrated De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the fabric of the human body).
Continuing with the theme of illustrating our perception of the world through a correlation of anatomy, the 5 miniature glass cloche constructions illustrate the five senses.
The Sense of Taste contains 5 reconstructed teeth (not real teeth) which have the Latin words for the five senses of taste – dulcis (sweet), uvam (sour) salsuginis (salty), amarum (bitter) and inde pulmentum (savoury) written in gold leaf on each. A map from an old atlas forms the base for this work and is overprinted with a section of skull (and gold – leafed tooth).
The Sense of Smell cloche contains five dancing skeletons evoking the idea of the Day of the Dead, Dance Macabre and the scent of death. An illustration of the olfactory organs from an old encyclopaedia form the base of this work and the miniature marigold flowers, traditionally part of the Day of the Dead celebrations evoke the scent of blossoms.
The Sense of Sight displays a hand covered in small wiggle eyes holding peacock feathers with eye etchings. The idea is taken from the myth of the Argus, a creature whose skin was covered with eyes and who was tasked with the job of keeping guard over a goddess for her jealous husband. At any point in time, only two eyes were closed and when the Argus was killed, his eyes were strewn into the feathers of the peacock which is how the peacock received its eyes.
The Sense of Sound shows a paper construction with two ears covered with gold spirals separated by a spiral paper cut-out. The cut out is a sound wave emanating from a central source and the concentric gold leaf designs on the ears continues the pattern. The copper wire is bent into the shape of a two-dimensional model of a sound wave and there is the illustration of an ear with the internal structure (an etching) printed in red ink over encyclopaedia text which forms the base of the cloche.
The Sense of Touch is illustrated by fingers protruding through an image of the planet – “holding the world in the palm of your hand” and holding a feather constructed from the pages of an encyclopaedia – feather-light touch.
The three constructions, Alchemical Wedding, the Ties that Bind, Alchemical Diagram and the two large format lithographs capture the concept of duality as is expressed in eastern philosophy as yin and yang and our world which comprises many further polar opposites like male/female; light/dark; sun/moon and positive/negative. In alchemy, conjunctio, – the sacred marriage of the alchemical king and queen, is a joining of powerful opposite forces not only in the exterior world of heaven/earth, but the interior world of physical/spiritual. The human brain too is divided into two hemispheres – the left hemisphere, considered male is linear and time-bound; and the right hemisphere, female, is lateral and timeless.
The four elements of earth, air, fire and water are represented by the tetramorphs or four shapes which symbolically depict the elements. Earth is symbolised by the bull, the lion water, the bird air and the falling figure represents water. The four works depicting these elements have the corresponding geometric shapes woven into the paper, with the exception of the water element represent by a circular maze woven from text. These polyhedron shapes fit within the circumference of a circle and are known as the platonic solids.
The Labyrinth paper construction refers to the myth of Theseus and Ariadne from Greek mythology. Theseus was assisted by Ariadne who gave him a magical ball of thread which he unravelled as he entered the labyrinth allowing him to retrace his path and exit the subterranean cavern after he slayed the Minotaur. This myth is of particular interest to me and is repeated in other works through the exhibition, as it has many levels of symbolism and meaning. In Esoteric teachings the soul is represented as remaining “above” mankind during his earthly pilgrimages, yet linked to man via a “thread of life” – which is actually two threads, one of life and one of consciousness. (Art & Spirituality; Findlay Eversole) Briefly, the thread of life is thought to be anchored in the heart where the life principle is found and emanated throughout the body through the blood stream – blood is life. And the thread of consciousness is anchored in the head in the region of the pineal gland and orders and directs the physical plane activities through the medium of the brain and nervous system.