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Works from the Hallucinated Archive (Bonington Gallery, 27 Sept – 16 Nov, 2019)

3 Sep

‘Works from the Hallucinated Archive’ has been comissioned for the foyer and vitrines at Nottingham Trent University’s Bonington Gallery, running from Sep 27 until Nov 16 alongside the final iteration of Legion Projects‘ touring exhibition ‘Waking the Witch‘.

Robert Holcombe -Telekinesis Series (The Golden Dawn) (c.1956)

Artists:

Aslı Anık

Arianne Churchman

Maryam Hashemi

Robert Holcombe

Chloe Langlois

Z.K. Oloruntoba

Works from the Hallucinated Archive brings together material by six artists (five real, one fictional) working across a range of media, approaches, traditions and degrees of initial scepticism. They all share an interest in ideas around folklore, spiritual(ist) belief and art as psychic manifestation or transmission.

The vitrines and foyer are occupied by works from the fabricated archive of an entirely fictional British artist, Robert Holcombe (1923 – 2003). Gathered into an exhibition that might be read as a scholarly contribution to a previously unknown (and wilfully esoteric) chapter in the story of Post-War British Art. Or perhaps a fiction exploring ideas of authenticity, class and cultural identity by ‘restoring’ to our attention a figure who might plausibly have existed but failed or refused to fit the standard narratives and frameworks of his time.

This archival fiction is further layered and complicated by its deployment as a framing device for a group of works by five other artists, mostly contemporary, sometimes hallucinatory in effect, and all real. Their shared fascinations with altered states, fringe beliefs, folklore and ritual, play against their own (and our) ingrained sceptical instincts with humour and a strong awareness of absurdity.

After all, whatever the precise nature of any particular psychic or paranormal phenomenon might be, such subjective experiences plainly share conceptual ground with the transformative, healing and wish-fulfilling objectives of art itself. Just as a fiction is a very literal kind of alternate reality, a song a form of spell-casting or invocation, and any film or photograph in existence a very literal kind of ghost.

The artworks and fictional ephemera featured in Works from the Hallucinated Archive should work together as something that exists between a curated group show and a single installation to generate a kind of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ rabbit-hole: a Holcombe-style collage portal into a parallel world that may already exist within the familiar yet often nightmarish one we currently inhabit.

Artists:

Asli Anik - unfucking your head is a delicate game that involves a lot of squid (2017)

Aslı Anık is a therapist by profession and her richly detailed ink and felt-tip drawings seem designed to transform psychological and emotional states into miniature visual universes densely populated with natural and architectural forms, organic and geometric patterns, and such symbols as birds, squid, candles, DNA strands, foxes, mice, brains, foetuses, towers and masks. Simultaneously decorative and cartoonish, absurdly humorous and intense, Anık’s drawings consciously reference a wide range of conventions associated with Outsider art, folk painting, psychedelic animation, traditional pattern and Tarot design, while continually opening into their own imaginary and psychic spaces.

Arianne Churchman - We Entered Through the Chime Line - Green Vibrations (2019)

Arianne Churchman draws on British folk traditions and customs to create hybrid works incorporating performance, sound, costume, film and sculpture to explore themes of magic, invocation and ritually induced altered states, staging her artworks in forms and contexts that evoke the humour and amateur inventiveness of both real and imaginary vernacular folk cultures. The work included here, ‘We Entered Through the Chime Line’ (2019), creates a quasi-medieval contemporary ritual out of songs and subjects adapted from the work of Ruth Lyndall Tongue (1898 – 1981), an English folklorist who claimed the special status of ‘chime child’ and gained notoriety for crossing boundaries between authenticity and outright fabrication in such notable contributions to the field as her 1968 book ‘The Chime Child, Or Somerset Singers’.

Maryam Hashemi - The Oracle I (2018)

Maryam Hashemi’s work is rooted in her wartime childhood in Iran and the imagery of her paintings often layers the everyday with dream-like and absurd events, figures and symbols. She studied Graphic Design at Azad University in Tehran, held her first solo exhibition in 2001 at Haft Samar Gallery and was selected for a group show of Iranian female painters in Brussels the same year. She returned to the UK in 2002 and has since exhibited widely. She discussed some of her working methods in a BBC 2 documentary, ‘Making Art’, during 2014, and has recently worked more consistently with improvised live-painting, dance and storytelling, while also practising as a Tarot reader and psychic, sometimes in the performative identity of The Oracle, sometimes under her own professional identity.

Robert Holcombe is an entirely fictional British artist (b. Leeds 1923, d. Exeter 2003) whose fascination with collage was first discovered in 1944 during convalescence from injuries sustained while serving as a naval radio engineer in Malaya. He attended the Slade between 1948 and 1951 and until his retirement in 1988 worked as a planning officer in the city of Leeds. Although he did not exhibit publicly during his lifetime, he frequently worked in series, creating variations on an array of industrial, mythic and biological themes. The current exhibition focuses on works presenting evidence of altered states and fabricated paranormal, folkloric and archaeological phenomena, including works from ‘Telekinesis’ (1953 – 1967) and ‘The Tarot Series’ (1971 – 75).

Chloe Langlois - Here Goes Literally Nothing (Telepathy Channeling Performance, 2018)

Chloe Langlois has a background in painting but currently works mainly in performance and video, making work centred on mysticism, fringe belief and the invocation of visionary figures. Using her own props and costumes she gleefully engineers situations that incorporate mistakes and radical deviations from approximate scripts to, in her own words: “embrace the joyful chaos of working without rehearsal, live, in one take.” Influenced by comedy, medievalism and religious art, interested in the energy that comes from devotional intent or altered states of consciousness, her most recent works have taken the form of green-screen psychodramas like ‘Messages from the M11’ (2019) and the improvised participatory telepathy demonstration of ‘Here Goes Literally Nothing’ (2018), from which the ‘channelling devices’ featuring portraits of Jerry Garcia, Pauline Oliveros and Austin Osman Spare included here are drawn.

ZK Oloruntoba - Ink on fabric image from Esther Warner Dendel, African Fabric Craft (1974)

Z.K. Oloruntoba [aka Chief Zacheus Olowonubi Oloruntoba (1934 – 2014)] was a Nigerian artist, herbalist and healer noted for using dreams to channel communications and healing energies between the world of the living and both the traditionally conceived and personally imagined Yoruba spirit realms so often portrayed in his paintings. He studied in the early 1960s with leading Osogbo School artist Twins Seven Seven (1944 – 2011) but the two later had a public disagreement and Oloruntoba moved on to work independently from his studio in Ibadan. In the 1970s he travelled to New York and worked extensively with Jazz musician Ornette Coleman, designing record covers and artwork for a range of releases on Coleman’s own Artists’ House label. ‘The Kernel Breaker’ (1974) dates from this phase of his career – an image painted in vegetable dyes on cloth representing a dreamed spirit that manifests and exists somewhere between traditional Yoruba iconography and Oloruntoba’s own imagination.

Wayne Burrows: Works from the Hallucinated Archive (Bonington Gallery Vitrines, Sept 27 – Nov 16, 2019). PV on Sep 26, 5.30 – 7.30pm: free, all welcome.

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