Location: Aicon Gallery, New York, USA
Date: 21 September – 04 November 2017
This exhibition is comprised of three entirely new bodies of work conceived specially for the Aicon Gallery in New York, and centred around the Quranic story of a miracle performed by the founder of Islam, the Prophet Mohammed. When called on by the inhabitants of Mecca to show them a sign to justify his faith, he caused the moon to split in two halves, sowing wonder and horror among all who witnessed the event.
I had long been fascinated by the drama and mystery of this fable, how it harnesses the power of the moon in the service of belief, but also by the sheer visual spectacle it presents to the imagination. From the very earliest civilisations, human beings have stood on the earth and looked upward at the night sky, to see the moon lit up by the sun. They have weaved the planet into their mythologies and archetypes, investing it with symbolism, and looking to it for meaning. These earliest legends, often told to us in stories and religious texts in childhood, take intimate root in our imagination and follow us through life.
For Aicon Gallery, I realised a sculpture of the moon in two parts, bringing its distant spectacle down to earth and suspending it in the middle of the gallery space. The work orchestrates a confrontation between the heavenly body and the human body, firing the imagination and reawakening the age-old sense of wonder we associate with the planets and the infinity of space. As well as evoking this original story, it confronts us with the purely secular frissons more commonly associated with science fiction and Hollywood films.
When the Moon Split re-enacts the nightly confrontation of the viewer with this heavenly body: beguiling, awesome, yet momentarily tangible, and playful.
Surrounding it in the main gallery, six monumental drawings on wood beckoned visitors deeper into the planetary atmospherics, presenting a series of imagined landscapes. Gleaning their geological features from the vast, barren, mountainous magnificence of recollected landscapes, they are mapped against a lunar surface of craters and reflected light. The drawings explore my fascination with the magical quality of moonlight, the way that it burnishes the certainties of daytime with a fleeting, poetic magnetism.
For the entrance gallery, I developed my recent experiments with the soldering iron as a drawing tool. Starting with handmade heavy-duty watercolour paper and layering it with successive washes of iron oxide pigment, I burned onto the blackened surface, pinprick by pinprick. At first hard to distinguish, and echoing the experience of night vision, the eyes adjusting to the conditions of darkness, the image comes gradually into focus: an impression of the surface of the moon, pitted with craters, sculpted by millennia of crashing meteors.