Drawing : Horizons
14 October to 10 November 2011
“The horizon is a living line that is perceived as still and absolute. It is this perception of stillness that allows the senses to depart."1
James Geurts is interested in the relationship between inner and outer horizons, expressed most simply : the outer horizon line between land or sea and sky ; and the inner horizon of perception. Of course, as the artist points out above, the outer is a product of the inner, as no physical horizon line actually exists, rather it is an imaginary line, interpreted by the eye. This statement takes nothing away from the reality of horizons, when we acknowledge that we live, in great part, through that combination of sensing and thinking that we call the imagination.
Beyond the tangible nature of our immaterial imagination, when we pursue a journey into the ways in which the inner is drawn through and from the outer, we arrive at a threshold space where the bounds of metaphysics and physicality themselves are blurred. Here, we encounter a deep belonging, where metaphor and phenomenon emerge from the same source: the alchemy of perception and materiality. Through this threshold space there emerges a sense of the dynamic flow of all things.
The experience of flow emerging through a threshold space manifests most strongly for Geurts in relationships between the movement, and materiality, of light, water and the human, and so it is with these forces and forms that the artist works. The central horizon work in the exhibition Drawing: Wave Continuum consists of a series of fluorescent tubes radiating through the main body of the space. The glow of each seems to hold our eye, our line of thought. At the same time, the light of the tubes pulsing from length to length across the space, and wall to wall in the depth of the gallery, creates a two-way momentum, just as a wave has horizontal movement along its length and forward movement to the shore. I mention a wave, and the reality of this form expresses as well as all others the phenomenon that is always distinct and yet dynamic, forming in movement. Here the artist’s experience as a surfer is of great significance to the exhibition, for the act of surfing demands an intertwining of sensing and thinking. This intertwining is fundamental to the body interacting with the force of the ocean, and fundamental to the dynamic of this exhibition.
The experience of both a holding sensation and momentum draws us into the body of the light installation, and as we move amongst the lights, so we feel the frequencies and relative height of the glowing tubes interacting with the body’s centre of gravity. On a wall across the space, the fluxing colours in the photographic print Ocean’s Passage accentuate another aspect of the horizon at sea: it is tidal, defined by the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the moon, sun and the rotation of the Earth. In this work, Geurts has created an in-camera composite of textures and colors found on an old shipping container that has come to rest. The vertical presentation realigns the now-still container with the shifting ocean tides on which it once rode.
Returning to the artist’s opening observation, concerning the stillness that allows movement, and mindful of perception that is sensory, and the line that is living, all so key to this exhibition. And so I arrive at the writings of the American physician and philosopher William James, who pictures well the reality of what is at stake :
‘’The stream of consciousness is far more complex than the states or forms with which we name it […] it involves a contextual penumbra of transitive states, feelings of relations, a vague halo of surrounding experience that is crucial and nameless...Every definite form in the mind is steeped and coloured in the free water that flows around it, a sense of its relations..a remote and dying echo of where it came, a dawning sense of where it will lead."2
Geurts’ work – exploring alignments of water, light and the body – draws our sensing and thinking into threshold spaces, William James’ “contextual penumbra of transitive states.”3 There, they become dynamic in ways that prompt precisely the experience of an echoing and dawning : as the line of the wave that you have met dissipates gradually into the whole along its length, riding on to the shore, as the next gathers in the swell behind you. Geurts, like William James, envisages deep correspondences between consciousness and phenomena as emerging through colour fields and the flow of forms of light. The video work in the back area of the gallery exemplifies this Drawing: Wave Continuum, and draws together the fibrous texture of the page, the fluxing frequency of the screen and the breaking and gathering form of the wave in a mesmerising ebb and flow.
Words that seek to communicate a sense of the immensity, and simplicity, of collective flow can be dizzying, perhaps because language is reaching towards its own dissolution, in embodiment. This dizziness may also arise from a form of vertigo that occurs at the precipice, or threshold, of a release from habitual ways of speaking and seeing. We naturally keep our bearings and equilibrium. However, when these bearings can become open to an experience of both poise and flux – as in the art works of Drawing Horizons, in their immediation of circulation and pulse, and yet their meditation on horizon lines – then rather than being thrown, we can simply inhabit a threshold space of possibility for a time, and orient ourselves there as we will.
This brings me to another correspondence between inner and outer horizons, existing in the beautiful biology of three semi-circular canals in the inner ear. These organic forms contain a fluid whose level is adjusted by the body when the head tilts or moves (again the surfer’s experience comes to the fore). As our orientation changes, the horizon lines of seascape or landscape alters, and so our inner equilibrium, this tidal horizon, adjusts. In still another simultaneous echoing and dawning, just as in Geurts’ work line always means circulation – a reality rendered so exquisitely in the series of works on paper, interacting with the central light installation – so it is through semi-circles that our body’s line of vision is maintained. The combination of circulating energy and pulsing line is further amplified by the photograph of Geurts’ creation of an ephemeral horizon line through a fluorescent tube light installation, powered by solar energy, and activated across sunset on a beach in The Hague. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics pops into my thoughts: ‘Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed.’
Given the processes and materials with which the artist works, it is clear that the Drawing Horizons in question refer also to the scope of the contemporary medium of drawing itself, and to its capacity to go beyond representation, and conventional forms of abstraction. In Geurts’ ‘expanded drawing practice’, drawing is freely understood as an intervention in a video circuit, a sculptural process with light, a photograph of a site-specific action using solar light to dialogue with a sunset, the hand’s dispersal of graphite on paper, and so on. This concluding note signals, once again, Geurts’ moves to draw out the space of form in movement, that alchemy of perception and materiality experienced in the living horizon line, whether out at sea, or in art.
Dr Julie Louise Bacon 2011
1. James Geurts, in interview with the author, 7th July 2011.
2. William James, The Principles of Psychology, (1890).
3. The threshold is two-fold: in the sense of a transition from one space to another (as a doorway) and the point at which a phennomen breaks through into our consciousness. Therfore, the threshold spaces in Geurts’ work have both a horizonal and vertical dynamic.
James Geurts (Australia/Netherlands) has developed an ‘expanded drawing practice’ that involves drawing with traditional materials, as well as with light, sound, photography, Land-Art, kinetic sculpture and video. Working in sites ranging from the equatorial lines, fault lines, tides, and various water bodies, his events and installations amplify the relationship between form and flux in nature and the built environment, and the experience of the senses and perception in the human body.
Dr. Julie Louise Bacon (Canada/UK) is an artist, curator and writer, whose research interests include aesthetics and politics, art-philosophy relations, mythologies, the interplay of technology and consciousness, and archiving.
Dr. Julie Louise Bacon is a guest of RMIT University through the School of Art international Artist in Residence Program—iAIR. The School acknowledges and welcomes Julie as a professional artist within the School community. iAIR is global in attitude, action and presence—connecting people through art and generating opportunities for creative experimentation, cross-cultural dialogue and international mobility.
RMIT iAIR - http://www.rmit.edu.au/art/iair