Artist’s Statement

Felicity Spear Visual Artist

The making of my work is motivated by a consideration of the way meaning unfolds through a field of relations both historical and contemporary. This includes an awareness of the historical precedents of art production, both proximate and more distant. Historical precedents which are found in the exploration of the Baroque sensibility, and in Dutch painting of the seventeenth century, (a period commonly referred to as the age of observation). These precedents, and their engagement with more recent practices, work with the ambiguities which exist between the world we see (and construct), and the world as seen (and recorded through the optical system of the eye), between the conceptual, the experiential and the transitory.

Coupled with this I’m interested in the way in which various systems of knowledge interact to reflect relationships between the natural and constructed worlds and the human and non-human worlds. Worlds in which paradoxically, we see ourselves becoming both attached and detached from other living things through a machine produced visibility and understanding.  I’m interested in raising awareness of the connections to be found between scientific and technological knowledge and innovation, and how these might be disseminated through or inform other disciplines or fields of endeavour such as the arts and humanities.

I make work in a range of media: painting, pin-hole photography, digital prints, artist’s books, sound, light, mirrors and three dimensional objects including industrial strength cardboard columns. These works can reference the architecture of site, light and optical phenomena, instruments for seeing, (such as the camera obscura, the lens, the telescope, the mirror), and the impulse to map. They are speculations on our engagements with space and light, both physically and psychologically, and how these things can be experienced, constructed, seen, pictured, remembered, mapped, abstracted, reproduced, re-inscribed, exposed, read or decoded. Paintings and other works emerge from the play of light, abstracted and more innovative ideas around the mapping of space, time-lapse photography and the noisy patterns of image capture. They refer to vision and memory, time and space, art and science, psychology and history.

When we lay culture over nature like a map we raise questions about the way we observe, speculate and imagine the natural world and our relationship with it. The depths of the night sky are associated with the awe and mystery of nature. My more recent work has emerged from speculations about relationships between our Earth-bound selves and sky-situated knowledge where our grasp of natural phenomena is beyond the full range of our senses. These works reference observational technologies associated with light and image capture, multi-wavelength radiations and remote sensing, data, digital manipulation and photography.

Today we see our horizon expanding exponentially. Increasingly technological sophistication is enabling us to survey and appreciate the structure of the Universe. Cosmic space is no longer understood as a clockwork mechanism and a quantity of discrete objects. Now it is thought of as a set of interacting processes and relational fields which also present different scales and durations from our own. In the development of the recent series of exhibitions which I have curated generically titled Sky Lab, I have brought together groups of artists who create speculative works referencing various systems of knowledge, as well as relationships between the natural and constructed worlds and those of the human and non-human worlds . They reference the history and properties of the lens and telescope, physics, the shared ground between abstraction, mathematics and science, the virtual world of technology which gives access to an unseen sky, the possibilities for alternative or fictional worlds, the mapping of space, solargraphy, and the reciprocity between earth and sky and between humanity and the natural world.

Felicity Spear (2015)