SARAH BALL 'BERTILLON'
2/8 - 4/9
‘Bertillon’ is a continuation of Sarah Ball’s quest to reveal the human truth of her anonymous protagonists. In this new collection of paintings, which vary in scale from small studies to larger-than-life portraits, Ball asserts but also tests the notion that we all somehow ‘fit' together, bound by a kindred connection that makes us human. In this case, the viewer is required to consider this problematic idea more closely as Ball has shifted the goal posts, reaching further towards the suspicion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and how prejudice leads to assumption about people, through assessing appearance.
“We carry the genes and the culture of our ancestors, and what we think about them shapes what we think of ourselves, and how we make sense of our time and place. Are these good times, bad times, interesting times? We rely on history to tell us. History and science too, help us put our lives in context. But if we want to meet the dead looking alive, we turn to art… in imagination we chase the dead, shouting, “Come back!”... we sense that the dead have a vital force still – they have something to tell us... I don’t claim we can hear the past or see it. But we can listen and look.This is how we live in the world: romancing... For many years we have been concerned with de-centering the grand narrative. We have become romantic about the rootless, the broken, those without a voice and sceptical about great men, dismissive of heroes. That’s how our enquiry into human drama has evolved: first the gods go, and then the heroes, and then we are left with our grubby, compromised selves.” 1
I am an introvert. At least, I am according to the American journalist who interviewed me prior to a recent solo exhibition in Dallas. Confronted by a deadline and under pressure to deliver insightful column inches for an audience, she opted to write a portrait of a recognisable and well-understood type – a quiet and solitary English female artist. The word introvert is derived from the Latin ‘introvertere’ (intro ‘to the inside’ and vertere ‘to turn’) and in the article I am portrayed as a driven loner, who walks the ancient landscapes of West Penwith, eats soups in winter, salads in summer: the solitary artist in her Cornish studio. As with all clichés – it holds some truth I understand this need to catergorize, because it underscores the inquiry that has been driving my work for the last few years: the grouping of people and the naming and identification of types.
Echoing the immersive qualities of Chiesa di San Gallo; low-lit, contemplative spaces at Anima-Mundi will give visitors who can’t make it to Venice a chance to consider Benney’s extraordinary work alongside the artists' assertion that "art can promote an understanding between disparate ideologies and engagement in a shared spiritual dialogue.”
‘Speaking in Tongues’ (the original painting and holophonic sound installation) has been acquired as part of a public collection in the USA, so this release of archival quality silver prints gives collectors an opportunity to invest in this prominent exhibition, as highlighted by Catherine Milner in the Financial Times 'How To Spend It' feature in her noteworthy picks from the Biennale: In a church just off St Mark’s, British artist Paul Benney has created remarkable painting-cum-audio-installation 'Speaking in Tongues', which depicts twelve of the artists contemporaries describing significant spiritual moments in their lives. He seeks to demonstrate that a singular piece of art can promote an understanding between disparate ideologies and engagement in a shared spiritual dialogue. At first and from afar the viewer encounters a quiet murmuring reminiscent of prayer or confession. As the visitor moves around the exhibition space the murmuring is interrupted; through the use of holophonic sound focusing technology, by the clearly discernible monologue of each subject; the effect being as though the individual voices are uncannily experienced as aural hallucinations.
The ‘Reliquary’ series, consisting of two tryptics, will appear alongside ‘Speaking In Tongues’ and form an important part of this installation. They re-emphasize the spiritual metaphor of the flame as a representation of the human spirit.