You could lose yourself in the work of artist Elizabeth Thomson. Emerging from the slippery periphery between art and science, Thomson’s work continually shifts between macro and micro viewpoints, drawing on both aerial and cellular imagery of our physical world and surrounding environment. This oscillation in scale and perspective results in a sensation that is at once disconcerting, even dizzying, yet in the same breath highly cultivated and sublimely powerful.
The Pool of Mnemosyne sees Thomson delve into the disconcerting nature of memory —a landscape that is equally alluring and often unnerving—through a series of exquisite portents to potential and divine obliteration. While things may appear more orderly from a distance, up close various details begin to emerge, everything becoming vastly more complex, frustrating in its plurality. So it is when trying to focus on the specifics of memory; dates, times, faces, and names can remain stubbornly elusive, leaving only a vague outline or the lingering remnants of a feeling. Standing in front of these works patterns and surfaces play out both optically and psychologically, allowing space for the mind to wander, to explore its own far-reaching depths, to get lost in private reverie.
The title of this exhibition references the Greek Goddess of Memory, whose name is derived from the word ‘mnēmē’ for ‘remembrance’ or ‘memory’, and is the source of ‘mnemonic’, a pattern or device designed to act as a prompt to aid recollection. The large-scale work Pool of Memory extends across the long wall of the gallery. First created in 2006, reconfigured in 2015, and presented afresh here in 2023, having gathered its own memories along the way, the work appears irrevocably altered. A blue pool lies at the centre of a perspective grid composed of thousands of precisely placed, handmade leaves of varying sizes. Often, there is a profound comfort to be found in repetition— through the recurrent lines and shapes of a pattern or in the retelling of a particular story or reminiscence—and the act of this repetition in turn creates long-term memory through the strengthening of synaptic connections.
In the works Moneta and Mon Coeur est Rouge, the vibrancy of the palette imbues the forms with¬ a living, breathing quality. Srinagar and Amritsar bear traces of the artist’s experience travelling through India and Kashmir, vehicles for Thomson’s own memories. “In all those places that are geologically millions of years old I have the same sensation … Are we in the past, present, or future? There’s a discombobulating of your senses and the conscious / subconscious state,” she says.
While Thomson’s approach to making is grounded in an earthbound environment there is also something otherworldly at play, a connection to the celestial, the extra-terrestrial. A series of tondo-shaped works are the result of the artist’s research into ‘exoplanets’; orbiting other stars, outside our own solar system, much remains unknown about these planets, including whether they possess atmospheres, oceans, or glaciers. Here, we enter the field of Thomson’s objects, and find ourselves pulled, willingly or not, into their orbit.
Opening Event: Thursday 1 June, 5 – 7pm.
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