Sunday, 3 October 2010

To The Buddha - St Davids Hall Cardiff, Sept 3 - Oct 2

installation photograph by Nigel Williams

Dark Matters
The Art of Peter Finnemore and Johnathan Anderson

To the Buddha: Veils and Voids offers an alternative encounter with some of the ideas and motifs associated with Buddhist thought. Finnemore and Anderson share similar preoccupations with the material world and its perceived spiritual dimensions. Their work revolves around the visceral and poetic properties of things and the ways that they (both themselves and their material surroundings) are transformed – by light, by touch, by time, by consciousness, by belief. Both artists’ find in the familiar and everyday a space where experience of art as a process and as an object, connects with deeper personal and collective truths.
Anderson’s use of materials such as soil, sand, stone and perhaps most significantly coal, has vital associations with the social and political landscape of South Wales. Yet, by coating ordinary objects with a fine layer of coal dust, he combines a key reference to modernity with a greater sense of a substance forged by extraordinary and often violent forces; aligning geological change with the human condition. Anderson’s art carries with it associations of suffering and denial, these seemingly nihilistic tendencies are echoed in his treatment of clocks and watches where the measurement of time is made redundant and replaced with the weight of the material world. The raw, matter of fact quality of these artworks with their collision of the ordinary with an unsettling beauty with their coating of coal, belies Anderson’s fascination with the art object as mandala, a threshold to other ways of being where in this instance dark materials are a means to a more liberated (and illuminated) understanding.
Paradoxically, Finnemore’s work shows a preoccupation with darkness through photography, a medium of light. The dark in this instance is used literally and metaphorically in relation to the artist’s home – Gwendraeth House, the family home for several generations. This is a work in progress that began in the 90s and for this episode in the life of the house, Finnemore looks to reveal something of its inner world, a collaborative gesture where the artist is attentive to the rhythms and spiritual qualities of the home as if it had its own consciousness. These are photographs that carry a certain reverence, acknowledging traces determined by the vitality between people and place. They are pictures shaped by strong emotional threads that extend to animals too as embodiments of Buddhist values. Here photography, similar to his video work shown here, is a meditative act in itself, attuned to the resonances of a specific environment, always mindful of the appearance of things but ultimately seeking to reveal what lies beyond.
Both Finnemore and Anderson offer subtle and thoughtful accounts around fundamental questions of belief and what emotional tools might be used in order to navigate the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of our lives. To the Buddha: Veils and Voids is a fascinating example of the power of art to take us somewhere else, not necessarily to a better place, but a place where we might find something of value.

Russell Roberts Cardiff 2010

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