Stone Hole is a new collaborative exhibition of large digital photographs by Crispin Hughes and a timelapse film by Susi Arnott, made in tidal sea-caves along the shoreline of North Cornwall.
In 2006, Hughes exhibited ‘Unquiet Thames’ at the Museum of London in Docklands, which scrutinised enclosed tidal spaces along the London shoreline. Digital photographs stitched into large-scale panoramas were complemented by a soundtrack to re-create the sensation of hiding from the light and from the world above/outside; of seeking calmness and ‘safety’ in what are in reality threatening environments.
Stone Hole is a direct development, both technically and thematically; stitching stills to re-make and distort time as well as space, involving film as well as composite photographs, and with the two artists working closely together on location. Challenging conventions in art that link landscape with beauty, the sublime and moral uplift, the work’s concern is with human and geological flux and dissolution.
Hughes’ interest initially began as a response to the work of Patinir and the Quattrocento religious painters who depicted caves as small domestic stages for the personal dramas of the saints, their demons and mortifications. They show rock surfaces and textures in great naturalistic detail, but the
gross morphologies and landscapes are improbable artifices.
So Hughes and Arnott set about working in real sea-caves, only accessible at certain times of the tide. Being in these environments coincided with a series of medical crises for Hughes, increasingly reflected in the work. Similarly, Arnott’s history of idiopathic epilepsy began to be reflected in moving images: the final film expresses the subjective experience of seizure and release.
Working in sea-caves during periods of medical anxiety transformed an academically investigative project about landscape, geomorphology and art history into a more intense reflection on bodily states, the mind and our perceptions of the world and ourselves.
Hughes says, “During the making of the work, I experienced incidents of transient global amnesia, including an episode inside one of the caves. I also abruptly lost part of the sight in one eye leading to a hole in my vision and other anomalies. These photographs are partly a search for a metaphor for this disruption of contact with the world.
“Also during this period I had a number of surgical procedures, further blurring the boundary between the inside and outside of the body. Bizarrely, one of these actually involved filling wounds in my body with processed seaweed every day for two months. I began to feel an increasing kinship with these liquid filled wounds in the earth’s surface – the parallels between bodily trauma and a distressing of the earth’s surfaces and interiors; geological fracturing and human ageing.”
Arnott says, “Timelapse photography and film carry the expectation of a fixed or at least predictable camera position. My first works along this part of the Cornish coast were simple, very controlled observations of tides and the moon. Spending extended periods in sea-caves I realized that the seductive danger of the rising tide did not have to be a limiting factor – it was actually my subject. And that surrendering control was part of the point.”
The Stone Hole exhibition runs from 25th September to 5th November, at the Photofusion Gallery, 17a Electric Lane, London, SW9 8LA. For further information about the exhibition, sales and gallery talks, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 020 7738 5774.