JAMES TURRELL, Spread, 2003. Installation view, Henry Art Gallery. Fluorescent and neon light. Photo: Adam L. Weintraub Photography
The success of any work of art depends, at least in part, on the attitude of the person looking at it. What we bring to a painting, sculpture or installation will profoundly effect what we get from it. In the recent history of contemporary art much has been made of the almost religious quality suggested by a certain kind of artwork. Words like "spiritual" and "transcandental" are bandied about by lazy critics in an attempt to harness these rather intangible ideas. This exhibition deliberately detours from the nonsense that often surrounds this area of art by setting out a very simple premise: some art makes us look and think more closely at the world around us; some art makes us look beyond the here and now to something somewhere else, even if we can't quite work out what it is.
From Here to Eternity plots a path from planet earth out into the bigger picture, from the microcosm to the macrocosm, through the work of five internationally celebrated artists whose work is positioned at different points along the journey.
We start with earthly things: a Richard Long sculpture - 49 Somerset willow sticks laid across the gallery floor - and Garry Fabian Miller's fragile leaf prints - camera less photographs made by sending light directly through the delicate structure of plants and leaves. >From these most tangible of artworks we come to Susan Derges' Starfield series; also made without a camera by sending light through darkness and plant life onto photographic paper, but set beneath water and against a back drop of the moon or the milky way. The work of Vija Celmins also looks up at the stars, recorded here in a set of recent and deeply unsettling series of photo-etchings of the night sky. Celmins received early international attention for her renditions of natural scenes, often copied from photographs that lack a point of reference, horizon, or discernable depth of field. Celmins renders these limitless spacesóseascapes, night skies, and the barren desert floorówith an uncanny accuracy, working for months on a single image. Ultimately all these works are about the human condition, about the smallness of mankind and what it means to be here at all. This tightrope between being and thinking and feeling is nowhere more evident than in the work of James Turrell whose extraordinary light installations simultaneously seduce and confound our senses. "I want to create an atmosphere that can be consciously plumbed with seeing," says Turrell, "like the wordless thought that comes from looking in a fire." Turrell's work allows us to see ourselves "seeing", placing viewers in a realm of pure experience. His fascination with the phenomena of light is ultimately connected to a very personal, inward search for mankind's place in the universe. This exhibition will be the first ever showing in Scotland of a work by James Turrell in a private gallery.
We are grateful to Michael Hue-Williams Fine Art and Anthony D'Offay for their help in organising this exhibition.