The concept for this exhibition came from imagining a prism from which to view abstraction - imagining that any abstract artwork is the annihilation of landscape, body, object or any kind of form. In this sense abstraction would be viewed as the breaking down of any image into its constituent parts, or to a greater intensity the annihilation of everything into its molecular structure; allowing humanity to examine the depths of the universe, in order to rebuild and create.
In the work of Lucienne O’Mara, Matt Antoniak and Kes Richardson, whose monumental work confronts the viewer as they enter our upstairs space, this is starkly exemplified – in these works there is a sense that the artist has broken down their practice to focus on colour, to the point where their work is rebuilt in the form of an artist’s colour palette. Kes Richardson’s large-scale paintings appear to be impulsive and expressionist in execution but are in fact carefully planned. Working with small marker pen drawings, paint palettes, an iphone, laptop and projector, he scales-up, samples and manipulates his own imagery in a conversation between real and virtual worlds.
This interrogation of colour and the creation of a colour palette is a theme that resonates throughout the show and reflects the concept of an artwork which inspired the exhibition: Pamela Rosenkranz’s presentation in the Swiss Pavilion for the 56th Biennale di Venezia (2015) confronted the historically, religiously, and commercially transmitted image of what it means to be human with its biological genesis, through the use of technology. Pamela filled the pavilion with a monochrome mass of liquid whose colour was rendered to match a standardized Northern European skin-tone. This work essentially broke down Pamela’s culture into the colour palette of its flesh.
In Luke Skiffington’s work, he uses technology to break down the human face into ethereal imagery - he adopts stills from an early CGI facial animation (made in 1974 by Frederic Parke) to create the compositions for the painted panels of his work, later combining these with bodily additions to form abbreviated figures. Alla Malova also applies digital processes in order to create her work, which uses contemporary art practice to lend body to the invisible processes underlying the construction and deconstruction of consciousness, self and mind-body connectedness.
From another perspective, the work of Philip Frankland, Bijanka Bacic and Bianca Baradun seems to deconstruct the landscape and rebuild it into an original form, both in painting and mixed media sculpture. In the work of Callum Green and Maj-Gret Gaupås there is a sense that the colours and forms have been broken down, excavated and renewed into a new, unique form. Conversely, Anna Blom’s work suggests an exploration of life within a petri-dish, but in a magnified scale – ‘Despite Your Odds’ pulls the viewer in to explore the canvas to find their own anchor point.
Focussing in on the figure, or the self – Mengxi Zhang presents ‘Self Portrait’, the artists first exploration into sculpture from a practice focussed on abstract painting. Mengxi has deconstructed her form no doubt infusing the work with learnings from abstraction. In a similar manner Juliet Baker and Juliet Ferguson-Rose’s sculptures hint at the suggestion of the bodily form whilst rejecting any specific form or structure. For Juliet Baker physical elements from the world, gestures and marks become embedded in surfaces, tracing connections between her body and an imagined environment or landscape, whilst Juliet Ferguson-Rose makes sculptures that assemble personal, prehistorical and topographical sources, collaging space, time and objects and paralleling the exhilaration of the archaeologist excavating, with the process of an artist who mines concepts from the recesses of their mind, both seeking to stumble upon the unknown.
Maria Koshenkova’s blown glass sculpture, which is the last piece the viewer will discover in ANNIHILATION returns us to our origin with the suggestion of an umbilical cord whilst being inspired by our creation – the traditional Japanese sexual practice of Shibari, the use of rope to bind yourself or partner. For Maria, her work is the embodiment of the human struggle between our outer poles: the primitive and the civilized - freedom and the control. Maria’s work also returns us to one of the original inspirations for the exhibition: the Venice Biennale, as she created the glass works for The Danish Pavilion ‘We Walked The Earth’ exhibition at the 59th Biennale di Venezia (2022). The exhibition explored our current ever-changing reality, introducing organisms that embodied a state of turmoil between despair and hope, reflecting the profound ambiguity of today’s world.