Memory is fascinating because there are so many unknowns – why do we remember what we do, and why do we forget? How accurate are our recollections? It’s not just scientists and psychologists exploring these questions, but artists too. For centuries the subject of memory has been interpreted, resulting in some of the most recognised artworks of our time such as Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory (1931). The visual arts lend well to the philosophical exploration of memory, providing it with a physical space for representation.
In this blog, we’ll look at three Gallery Artists who each explore the concept of memory in their work, focusing on different aspects of its nature.
Spectacular landscapes have the ability to make a lasting impression: the sun setting behind a mountain range, fog rolling in over the sea – even the skyline of a concrete city can stay with you. The evocative nature of landscapes make them the perfect subject matter for Matt Jukes, who is interested in exploring memory in relation to location, wanting to create a place in his work in which viewers can identify their own memories and emotions.
Using a technique of Monoprinting on an offset lithographic press allows Matt to build up different layers of ink, which he allows to run freely across the paper. Following, as opposed to controlling, the direction of the medium results in a unique landscape every time. For viewers to identify their own memories within a landscape, anonymity in the work is vital. The scenes tend toward the emotional, rather than physical, representation of a place. Shadowy forms of mountains rise up through layers of colours, ranging from bright yellows and oranges to intense blues, and hazy greens. It is through the layering of colour and form that the emotion of the artwork develops, like in Rambling Away, where the mix of soft and vivid blues simultaneously invigorate and sooth, reminiscent of brisk winds and bright skies.
Matt says that this work was inspired by unplanned days, the beginning of a journey with no set destination. In its title and in the expansive freedom of the rolling hills, Rambling Away is completely evocative of this and is a perfect example of the transformative nature of his works.
For Elliot Killick, it is not necessarily the recollection of memories that are important, but their ephemeralness and reliability. Using old photographs to find unknown subjects, Elliot distorts faces with swathes of paint and shrouds them in darkness. This faded, unclear representation mimics the sensation of uncertain memories and the difficulty of inaccurate recollections. It reflects Elliot’s own concern about his own memory; how much he will remember and whether or not what he has remembered is as it was. He explores the obsession of documenting experiences, using the format of Polaroid photographs to reference feelings of nostalgia and the passing of time and fading moments.
Commuting can be many things: expensive, time-consuming and boring, to name a few. However, this is not always the case. For Payam Beint, the daily bus commute from Edinburgh to Glasgow proved to be a source of inspiration. Payam, who explores how artwork can be used to record memory, peripheral vision and the ever changing landscapes of journeys, documented his commute with photographs and audio recordings.
Documenting not only the external vistas of the changing landscape but also the space within the bus, the internal vista, Payam created a comprehensive collection of memories, perspectives, and viewpoints which record one journey made several times. Payam then combines these experiences, layering viewpoints and colours, taking paint away and adding more to create a dynamic scene. The colours chosen are all those one might expect to see on a journey between Glasgow and Edinburgh: greys for the sky and the road and browns for the landscape. He also more joyful colours: orange, to perhaps indicating a blazing sunset; bright blues and light yellows, evocative of a morning sky. His work documents how something with negative memory association of boredom and monotony can actually be an opportunity for inspiration.
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