DEEP SKY SURVEY. An exhibition by Lyndi Sales. At WHATIFTHEWORLD, until Saturday. SUZY BELL reviews
NO, you have not stepped into a giant star field or the art design chambers of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. This is not sci-fi territory, but it is science. Artist Lyndi Sales has created beautifully mesmerising conceptual astrophysical installations that explore cosmic life, the heightened imagination, and sheer radiance.
These architectural cosmic poems made from radiant perspex are familiar, yet not. “Often these images seem to parallel or appear similar to forms that we see with the naked eye. Micrology of body tissue could resemble a spider’s web, a scientific computer-generated image of dark matter may resemble the organic net of a dried out gooseberry shell or an image of a nebula similar to a human iris,” says the artist.
What she most likes about working with the radiant perspex as a material is how it reflects the viewer and at the same time reveals the colour spectrum as the viewer moves around it. “I’m always trying to imagine what Aldous Huxley refers to as ‘praeternatural light’ or where George Herbert’s poems reflect the transience of beauty. In Virtue, he presents a vision of an eternal world beyond the one available to sense perception. Huxley talks about Russell’s ‘intolerable lustre of light’ – and I think the material qualities of perspex are somewhat evocative of the kind of otherworldliness that he ascribes to this kind of light,” says Sales.
She explains that as technology develops we are exposed visually to macroscopic and microscopic images of the previously unseen.
“Infrared images of the Earth from outer space; images of the universe from the Hubble telescope; images harnessed from micro-electro-optical tomography, devices that permit ophthalmologists to see the eye’s retina at a cellular level; computer rendered topographical landscapes or high-tech scans of the interior of the body allow us to view an invisible landscape.”
How would she then describe these artworks to a child of about 10? “To a 10-year-old child I would probably say the work can be about how we see ourselves in this world and the universe at large – about how that changes when we move around the works as well as how we all see differently through our unique filters/eyes. I made the work because I am interested in things we can’t always see without the help of satellites or microscopes, but also about the things we don’t want to see.”
Sales has been interested in geometric cosmic shapes for several years because she finds it, as we all do, simply astounding trying to imagine the scale of our universe and our place in it. It was the Iziko Planetarium in Cape Town’s SA Museum that got her thinking. “The work followed on from a desire to treat these ideas visually, perhaps to some degree to try to comprehend a kind of space that is actually somewhat beyond ordinary perception,” she explains.
For Sales it is elements within cosmology and astronomy that act as “nice metaphors” for looking at the unseen.
“Invisible dark matter, only detected through gravitational lensing and which constitutes 84 percent of the matter in the universe, is interesting as it’s the unseen unidentified subatomic matrix of the universe. And the notion of a holographic universe of parallel dimensions is a theory that both fascinates and terrifies me.”
Sales is interested in the phenomenological theory of philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty that is also linked to Heidegger’s notion of human reality as Being-in-the-World. Also Sartre, Husserl, Henry and their ideas on phenomenology resonate. She is interested in looking at the invisible, as “that’s what the imagination is for”, insists Sales, who was diagnosed with the astigmatic condition called “ghosting”. From this she became aware of the interpersonal aspect of not having clear sight, of overlooking things in yourself or in others. “I developed an astigmatism, which got worse rather rapidly. It lasted for about three years but recently improved dramatically and without explanation from my ophthalmologist. My interest in looking beyond habitual perceptions began as a result of my personal experience with my own vision.”
Her artwork reflects her interest in the links and fusions between realities while acknowledging that duality is part of the opposites at play. “I would rather use ‘parallel reality’. However, parallel reality can also be understood as an alternative reality. My work is about reminding us of the connectivity between things.”
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