Linear Metaphysics: Contemporary Mark-Making and Time-Based Art Works
April 13 – May 12, 2013
Atrium Gallery and Maribeth Collins Lobby
The stratification or layering of time is of particular interest to me as a contemporary artist. The pieces in this series inherently reflect their origins as both, part of the time-honored ancient tradition or continuum of mark-making by human beings and the original form of time-based media. My creative agenda incorporates the history and prehistory of the unique culture of the people of ancient Scotland and Britain as an investigation of the larger scholarly and creative themes regarding a sense of identity, place, time and purpose. I explore the artistic process in relation to this creative dialogue at the intersection of art and archaeology where examination of these overarching themes helps contextualize our present relationship to the landscape and our place in it as human beings.
I considered the successive waves of persecution suffered by these ancient tribal people whose spirituality, identity and shared humanity were so immersed in the land, sea and cosmos. Because of their connection to and reverence for the natural world, the alteration and devastation of their landscape during occupation and subsequent invasion was a form of annihilation. These early people either aligned themselves with neighboring tribes who shared similar languages or belief systems, were occupied and oppressed by others, or were subsumed by conquering peoples. The titles for most of the art in this exhibition are some of the known recorded names used to identify just a portion of these Celtic and Iron Age tribes in early Scotland and Britain by Greek and Roman historians in antiquity. We do not even know what they called themselves nor do we know what specific elements of humanity have made their way in the continuum from these ancient people as they evolved into our present, but evidence of their culture remains in fragments and the landscape. I examined connections these ancient objects, structures and earthworks have with their immediate surroundings to better understand the people who revered and worked with them as a sophisticated testament to their shared cultural humanity and interrelationship with the landscape.
To paraphrase Neal Ascherson in Stone Voices: The Search for Scotland, the notion of ‘cultural landscape’ is being rediscovered among present day historians, archaeologists and anthropologists as they depart from a Western anthropocentric perspective to consider the vision of Neolithic people who may have understood themselves and their imaginations as integrated components of the larger natural world. The traditional Western scientific notion of dividing people, places and objects into separate segments first in order to study them runs counter to my professional training as an artist which prepares me to approach things in their entirety and as a whole before breaking them down into parts since I also view and understand my perceptions, imagination and sense of identity as components of the natural world. My experience of most things begins with a general comprehension and develops into a much more specific understanding as my focus intensifies over time. Creatively, I employ applicative and reductive processes to formally progress from the general to the specific in much the same manner so that overlapping linear elements, marks, paint and ink create stratification or layering indicative of the passage of time. It is over time that humanity, weather and our relationship to the natural world leave their marks on seemingly impermeable stone and the cultural landscape.
James B. Thompson