Nip the Bud

Scott Donovan Gallery

April 4 – 27  2002


Philipa Veitch, The Recession Velocity of Fossil Light, Polychromosphere I & II, coloured pencil on paper, installation view (detail), 2002


Philipa Veitch, The Recession Velocity of Fossil Light, coloured pencil on paper, 1500mm x 1800mm, 2002


Philipa Veitch, Polychromosphere III, coloured pencil on paper, 900mm x 1500mm, 2002


Philipa Veitch, Cerro Torres, Duratran, Lightbox, Acrylic, Installation view, 2002


Philipa Veitch, Cerro Torres, Duratran, 2002



The works in this exhibition are hard to place or to easily identify. For instance are they drawings or laboriously calculated designs; are they a form of pattern making or an improvised hallucinatory outpouring? Certainly they are extreme in terms of their imagery and the creative process underscoring them. On the one hand these works fall into a traditional landscape category. Yet here the landscape tradition has been usurped and literally over turned. Respect for continuity has been replaced by the seeming arbitrary displacements in which multiple landscape ‘views’ are presented together. This creates a rift rendering each separate section at once complementary and deeply discordant. Similarly the perceived gap for example between the treatment of sky and earth proposes each as interrelated though distinct entities. The resulting tension disallows images from simply reclining within easy genre definitions. Also crucial to this sense of partial chaos is the more covert recognition of the considerable accumulation of time that has brought each drawing into being. The apparent obsessiveness of the artist’s approach suggests an other-worldly state in tune with the cosmic fulgurations of the depicted imagery. This state of mind returns to landscape a peripheral albeit wryly tempered mysticism.

Of course mysticism was a favoured staple for the 19th Century Romantics. Turner’s vast centrifugal seascapes and biblical deluges rid the landscape of the human figure. At the same time they (dis)locate the picture as perpetually animated surface completely resistant to repose. However Veitch’s works conjure further alternative genres. Science fiction is one. The art associated with ‘Sci-Fi’ is generally poorly regarded as representing the proscriptive fantasies of a degenerate cousin. Importantly Science Fiction represents a shift from high to popular culture. At the same time it inadvertently acknowledges and mirrors certain aspects of ‘high art’ movements like Romanticism. Both share themes of alienation and utopian fulfillment in terms of the individual’s relationship to the greater universe. Reminiscent also is the way in which both elaborate the perceived extent of time whether past or future. Both temporal dimensions are recalled in Veitch’s work. The extremely distant past is conjured through graphic recourse to geological imagery. Such forms appear variously in either molten or solidified states. They indicate a pseudo scientific consideration of a time billions of years prior to human intervention. The imagination of such a time in lieu of the limits of human consciousness is obviously not only impossible but in fact ecstatically ambitious. Alternately the tortured technicolour clash of celestial debris in these works suggests some future apocalypse of unknown perhaps nuclear origin that reduce human society once again to palls of poisonous gas and anonymously ricocheting matter. This final result might actually be the absolute ‘gesammstkunstwerk’ arising in the utter absence of culture of any kind.

In the total absence of human thought the material universe once again acquires total supremacy. Human existence then becomes a kind of retrospective surplus prodigiously unessential to the cosmological events continuously shaping its physical and chemical make-up. Such a thought is liable to elicit the dread so enamoured and so feared by the Romantics. For us this cosmic maelstrom might be compared to the quixotically unstable and interchangeable flux of images described by the philosopher Jean Baudrillard. We are constantly bombarded by images. Baudrillard suggests that such images circulate around a void thoroughly superseding humanist faith in the groundedness of human culture. Re-combinations of ideas and images provoke uncertainty and possibilities that are actually merely simulations. If there is a remedy to this prognosis it is in humour as a form of knowledge; a knowledge founded in its simultaneous debunking. Like the LSD aficionado’s who helped create the Psychedelic movement Veitch takes a trip into unknown territory. The familiarity of this adventure far from being absolute is occasioned by unexpected juxtapositions and genre bending. It is the product of both an intense and playful premeditation. Ultimately the woks in this show articulate the precariousness of the imaginary line separating stasis and chaos, faith and doubt, the earth and Cosmos.

Alex Gawronski, 2002