Visions of bleakness and dismay

Britain becomes savannah. Government is toxic, ignorant and self-serving. Love Island not only exists but thrives. It is unsurprising that artists mine such ‘interesting times’ and respond accordingly. One such is Kelly Richardson whose Pillars of Dawn (2015-18) and Orion Tide (2013-14) are in Southampton’s City Gallery May to Oct 2018. The first evokes sparse, dark landscapes, lifeless beyond possibly petrified trees, the whole glittering with crystals as if frozen in contact with the vacuum of space. The second shows unidentified launches into space – are they missiles hastening the end, or the last humans escaping a ravaged planet? Whatever the viewer imagines them to be, both pieces are set in desert-like landscapes, suggesting they might be the same place at different times.

Though the ideas of a dead and abandoned world are far from uplifting, I found these pieces inspiring as both skillfully produced images and examples of how an artist might respond to troubling themes. The exhibition also opened around the same time that I was exploring related ideas, albeit on a much smaller scale, and not-at-all-famously. Two pieces I produced during this period were The Last Human (Alien Archaeology) and Staring From The Ashes, Waiting To Be Entertained. These are mixed media on board and use a variety of materials, some of which have been burned or melted with a blowtorch, and most of which are reused. Human remains have been suggested using solidified chunks of PVA, the loss of culture indicated by burnt, fragmentary piano components. They are on display in The Art House and the response has been positive as far as I am aware, with ‘interesting, a bit disturbing’ being a common theme. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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