Curiosity is the desire to uncover what lies beyond our present understanding of the world. Alongside wonder, which was traditionally considered the origin of philosophy, curiosity is valued because it leads us into new territories.”—Brian Dillon.
Wunderkammern (image above)
Wunderkammern, or cabinets of curiosities, arose in mid-16th-century Europe as repositories for an array of wondrous and exotic objects. These collections can be seen as precursors to museums. Drawing on natural, manmade, and artificial worlds, these collections combined a juxtaposition of specimens, diagrams, and illustrations from many disciplines; marking the intersection of science, objects and superstition.
Drawing from the ideas of the Wunderkammern my blog posts will function as an assemblage of influences, ideas and experiences that come together to make up my body of work. Their collection and weaving together aim to build routes through the scientific and historical space my work emerges from through to the imaginative and creative space in which it belongs.
I will start with my own history and how I came to be in Hawai‘i in the first place. Even though I was born and raised in New Zealand, my mum is from here and I came to visit my Grandma four years ago after a series of destructive earthquakes disrupted my studies and work in New Zealand. Somehow, I never left and I am still here…
…Above left is a crack one of the earthquakes ripped in the ground and on the right is the building I was working in at the time of the most damaging quake.
… This is all that was left of the block of shops where my favorite antique book store was located
…This is Namazu. In Japanese mythology, the Namazu is a giant catfish who causes earthquakes. He is guarded by the god Kashima who restrains the catfish with a stone. When Kashima lets his guard fall, Namazu thrashes about, causing violent earthquakes. Namazu is featured on one of the prints I have been working on, however, the prints that will appear in the show has not been finalized.
…My Grandma here is Japanese. She is quite superstitious and is really into horoscopes and fortunes. Above is her chart from this year.
…Astrology charts are based on the premise that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world. Many cultures have attached importance to astronomical events, many cultures throughout history have developed elaborate systems to help understand the universe and for predicting terrestrial events from celestial observations. Horoscopes are used to explain aspects of a person’s personality and predict future events in their life based on the positions of the sun, moon and other celestial objects at the time of their birth.
…A star map from Andreas Cellarius’ Harmonia Macrocosmica (1660). Andreas Celarius was a Dutch-German cartographer, I found this amazing star atlas in the rare section in the University of Hawai‘i library. The book contains original plates and is so fragile I had to wear special gloves and go through special procedures to handle the book.
…The oldest printed European star charts, illustrated by Albrecht Dürer, published in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1515. (The very first printed star charts were printed in China 400 years ago.) This chart features constellation figures as they were visualized by the Greeks and Romans. Although these maps contained mythical beings they also had utilitarian, scientific and navigational intentions. Prior to 1515, all European and Arab star charts were individually hand drawn, and hence restricted to single copies. With the advent of printing, large numbers of identical copies could be produced at will.
…Leonardo Da Vinci has long been recognised as one of the great artists of the Renaissance, but he was also a pioneer in the understanding of human anatomy. These drawings are thought to have been created in the early 1500s around the same time as Dürer’s chart.
…The copy of Gray’s Anatomy that I studied while creating some of my prints. This book was a scientific and artistic triumph containing detailed descriptions of the human body along with more than 500 clinical drawings by H.V. Carter. There have been many editions since the first in 1858. I remember being fascinated by drawings like these whenever I went to hospitals and doctors offices when I was growing up.
…Before photography was used widely to document scientific discoveries, illustrators and printmakers produced them. These were not limited to the human anatomy, but also alchemy, astronomy, botany and animal anatomy documentation.
…Audobon was an American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter known for his expansive studies documenting and illustrating American birds. His major work, the color-plate book The Birds of America (1827–1839), is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed in which he identified 25 new species.
Science, art and fiction
…Walton Ford is a contemporary painter known for his large-scale paintings, drawings and prints that emulate and reference natural history and anthropological imagery. He draws on obscure texts of European explorers, naturalists, and colonialists to make flamboyantly detailed allegorical paintings reflecting larger themes of ecology.
…Joan Fontcuberta is a conceptual artist whose best-known works, such as Fauna and Sputnik, examine the truthfulness of photography. He fabricated and catalogued evidence of a number of unusual composite animals, claiming he had discovered long-lost archives from a German zoologist, Dr. Peter Ameisenhaufen. Ameisenhaufen was born in 1895 and disappeared mysteriously in 1955.
…Hannah Hoch was a well-known member of the Berlin Dada movement, and was among the first prominent artists to work with photo-montage techniques. Dadaists rejected “logic” in favor of chaos, nonsense, and irrationality. Hoch often fused body parts from different races and genders, to convey political messages about humanity.
…Vladimir Kush is a contemporary surrealist artist. He uses metaphors, juxtaposition of form and the power of the imagination to create his surreal paintings and sculptures.
Symbolism and metaphors: Breath
…The book I used to figure out meanings for my metaphorical, composite drawings and myth creation/story telling.
…A spread on the symbolism of breath. Breath is the essence of air, wind, spirit, and sound. Everything that is alive breathes and is therefore essential for human survival and creation…
Stay tuned for my next post about the creation stage of my process…
Artists of Hawai‘i 2015 opens July 2.