Saturday, 20 July 2013

237. Ascension (nothing/Something Good) by MARK DEAN

Man&Eve Gallery, Lower Marsh, SE1 7AE until 27.7.13
Works by Mark Dean, Anna Sikorska, Aliki Braine. 
And Dom Sylvester Houedard (1924 - 1992)
Dom Sylvester Houedard - 'Ken Kox Memorial', 1968, Letterpress print
I think Mark Dean's work in this show is best approached obliquely.  His piece Ascension (nothing/Something Good) (below) bears a striking visual resemblance to this print by Dom Sylvester Houedard, an artist who died in 1992 and spent his last 20 years as a Benedictine monk.

'dsh' often dealt with absence.  This work is a memorial to Ken Cox, an illustrator, poet and musician. All the lettters of the alphabet - except those from the name 'Ken Cox' - cascade out into a design which spreads like a mandala. Cox is absent, through an untimely death: answers are absent too.  Instead dhs offers us an opportunity for the  visual celebration of the good that is left,  and an opportunity to reflect.
Ascension (nothing/Something Good) by Mark Dean
Mark Dean was ordained as a priest in the Church of England in 2009. He and dhs are united by a priestly and artistic vocation to ask questions with impossible answers by interacting with contemporary life and culture. This is a still image from a video where the seven spokes of type stream out of a void (which is also the 'Play' button) , each one spelling out the word 'nothing', only to disappear in a never ending loop. The soundtrack is also looped: a brief sample of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer endlessly singing the title of 'Something Good'  from the  spectacularly successful film The Sound of Music (1965). 

Perhaps I had a wicked childhood 
Perhaps I had a miserable youth 
But somwhere in my wicked, miserable past  
There must have been a moment of truth
For here you are, standing there, loving me 
Whether or not you should  
So somewhere in my youth or childhood 
 I must have done something good
Nothing comes from nothing 
Nothing ever could 
So somewhere in my youth or childhood  
I must have done something good
The exhibition leaflet also  references Lucretius, a Roman poet from the first century. He wrote De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), challenging the prevailing way of seeing what happened in the natural world as 'the will of the gods'.  His robustly materialistic  world view is put alongside the romantic cause and effect implied in the lyric. We're challenged to hold contrasting ideas close enough to allow each to interrupt and refine the other.
So is this work a hymn of praise to nihilism? Or another set of  an Emperor's new clothes? Or perhaps it is a shy and subtle allusion to redemption through the intervention of faith.

On the way back from the Gallery I met an artist friend and mentioned the exhibition. The words 'Dada' and 'Concrete Photography' may have crept in because her response was something along the lines of deciding such work was a treat she was lining up until after her death. If so, that's a pity.

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