As part of an ongoing series of works on paper collectively entitled Perceptual Ecology, Mat Chivers has been making drawings that result from the mirroring and combination of self-made and found photographic images, film and CAD renderings. A seasoned participant of the Venice Biennale, Chivers develops an intricate narrative and intriguing process to create complex and compelling works of art.
“Syzygy” is an ancient alchemical term for the conjunction of opposites. A recurring theme in my work is to bring together traditional production methods and contemporary digital tools envisioning and fabrication technologies. I started by hand carving a form based on my own subjective idea of what a cumulus cloud looks like. I like the paradox, the nature of stone being the opposite of the clouds gravity defying insubstantiality. I am interested in how cloud formation appears to happen on close to a 1:1 ratio with our own thought processes. As soon as we can perceive a clouds formation it has already changed and become something else. The carving was digitally scanned resulting in a CAD ‘mesh’ comprising over 2.5 million triangles. I then reduced the number of triangles down to fifty four which, was the point when the form was on the brink of abstraction but still bore a relationship to the original form. The resulting CAD geometry was built using a five axis robotic milling machine in granite. The two objects create one work, the mirrored twins are placed in a horizontal position to allude to the spatio temporal opposite, deep geological time. Syzygy was featured in a group show at the 54th Venice Biennale, transporting a combined weight of nearly three tonnes by barge and narrow cobbled alleyways and fragile bridges was one of the most challenging but ultimately satisfying installations I have undertaken to date.
Drawing has always been a fundamental part of my practice both as means to develop ideas and as works in their own right. Perceptual Ecology is selected from a large body of over forty works in pencil on paper that explore what happens when an image is mirrored. The subjects of the two drawings that compose this piece are the fruit laden bough of a black dabinett English apple tree and an anonymously authored classical carving of a hermaphrodite in the collection of the Louvre. The drawings are made without any measuring involved, simply by eye. As a consequence they appear to exhibit precise symmetry but upon closer examination can be seen to have minute variations that bear testament to their handmade nature.
I have for some time been accumulating a collection of vintage glass magic lantern slides, exquisite objects in their own right. The passage of time as well as the materials and technologies used in their production is evident in their decaying surfaces. Illuminati is a drawing that I made from a found lantern slide that was later chemically etched into stainless steel. The image shows a party of bearers heavily laden with equipment and provisions laboring over rocks towards a body of water with mountains beyond. A shaft of light enters from one corner of the image and links the sky with water. The etched marks in the steel have been filled with a black pigment that allows the drawing to read at the same time as the reflection of the works surroundings are reflected back out from the image surface. The etching is framed using a formal pictorial device that is intended to allude to sacred historical paintings, depicting miraculous events that would have been placed over altars or in architectural niches. I am interested in the ambiguity of this image. In mirroring the image the two halves become greater than the sum of their parts.
Overlay presents a portrait of the extraordinary geology exposed in the cliff face near Dancing Ledge – a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site at Purbeck, UK. The film was shot in the gauzy light of a summer dawn from a boat on the sea below the cliffs. Animated by the ebb and flow of the waves, the camera tracks the cliff face as the vessel is lifted and turned by the ocean. About 20 million years ago the African tectonic plate began to collide with the Eurasian tectonic plate causing stress fractures to oscillate out into the wider geology beyond the zone of impact. Exposed and eroded over the millennia by the repeated action of wind, rain, sea and sun, the 90 degree faulting that gives the Portland limestone its distinctive appearance is the northernmost manifestation of this momentous event that occurred in the deep geological past. A vintage recording of West African percussionists was played on the boat at the same time as the film was being captured. Shot in slow motion the soundtrack and the film exist in symbiosis with each other, the deep base rhythm of the music slowed to a grinding pulse, subtly alluding to the African source of the physical phenomenon we see in the film. The film’s moving image is mirrored along a vertical axis and is located within a distinctive framing device that derives from a combination of hand drawn and computer generated layers of geometry that refer to the fundamental patterns and processes that underlie the formation of the geology. The compelling phenomenon of symmetry in flux employed in the film has the potential to induce a state of ambiguity – a space where archetypal images surface and play across the viewers awareness.
Glass is a material that I have always been attracted to and M is my first exploration of this exciting medium. Developed for the group show, Glasstress: White Light/White Heat, exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale, M is a lost wax cast opaline lead crystal glass object generated by mirroring the CAD geometry derived from the digital scan of a hand carved alabaster form. I am interested in the dynamic quality with which symmetry and a seemingly chaotic process can exist in symbiosis within the same form. This work extends the complex inter-layering of analogue and digital approaches that characterize my approach to making, resulting in an object that has an intentionally ambiguous and unnameable quality open to the projection of multiple readings through the action of heat on water, a vessel for light, the cloud exists as a liminal zone between elements, an ambiguous mirror, a surface for the projection of our own shifting internal states.
I was on the point of buying a paraglider and learning to fly so that I could literally get into the clouds when my partner became pregnant with our first child. I felt like maybe I should take a more tempered approach to understanding cloud formation. I approached a team of research scientists at Bristol University with the challenge of documenting the invisible turbulence trail created as I exhale. Wearing a black lycra body suit, the only openings were for my mouth and nostrils to reduce extraneous visual information. I sat in front of three synchronized high speed digital cameras with a small pellet of solid Carbon dioxide in the well underneath my tongue and continued to breathe naturally. As the Carbon dioxide sublimated and became a gas, lights that had been carefully located studio illuminated the turbulence trail as I exhaled. Editing down from approximately 100,000 frames, then drawing on film stills from each of the three perspectives I defined what I perceived to be the surface of this event. Using CAD software, the drawings were transcribed into three dimensions to create a geometry that was then built as a rapid prototyped object. The sculpture was positioned on a wall at a level that corresponded to the height of my mouth from the floor when standing. As a result of the processes employed in its production this work can be seen as a kind of hybrid that conflates a traditional method of understanding the world such as drawing with contemporary digital envisioning. In this work, drawing is the medium of mediation between data captured and the resulting artifact. My interest is focused at the location between data capture and its consequent interpretation. It is at this boundary that ambiguity often resides, potentially conflicting notions of fact and fiction.
Featured video: © Mat Chivers