Magic & Method: Frestonian Gallery, London
‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’
Arthur C. Clarke
The exhibition ‘Magic & Method’ is something of a confluence of three artists’ practices that are intrinsically linked to both the artistic and technological contexts of their time. Artistic enquiry, much like any other vital human endeavour, does not exist in isolation – and in the development of each ‘new’ moment in art countless shoulders are stood upon. In the cases of Hornby, Paolozzi and White however it is not only the sediment of art history that provides the platform for their expression, but the new tools – some industrial and generic, some improvised and unique, at their disposal at the point of making.
For both Paolozzi and Hornby the ‘tools’ concerned are both the ephemeral produce of Western civilisation and the material processes at hand with which to manipulate and reimagine them. Paolozzi, born in 1924, was material witness to the post-war flowering of both mass production and mass culture on a truly global scale for the first time in human history. An almost compulsive collagist, Paolozzi dissembled and re-purposed every element of this new global industrialism that he could lay his hands upon, and it was to truly game-changing individual figures that he turned when addressing sculpture, on a famously monumental scale. Alan Turing and Michael Faraday, both present in Paolozzian reconstruction in this exhibition, as well as other chosen subjects such as Newton and Wittgenstein, serve as markers for moments when mystery – magic even – became able to be wrought with human hands.
Hornby, born in 1980, inherited a more normalised sense of the global nature of mass-culture, though displays no less fascination with the essential and retrospectively inevitable-seeming moments of its advancement. In his practice the consciously ancient and decisively modern combine – cast bronze and marble dust meet modern resins and 3D modelling techniques as his ‘extrusions’ and ‘intersections’ redefine the iconic cultural material at hand in a manner sure, innovative and revelatory.
White, by contrast, looks to the fluid processes of nature as his initial source of imagery and inspiration – but, like Paolozzi and Hornby, projects this ‘collected material’ through the lens of very modern techniques and processes. The works in this exhibition – his ‘Lichtenburg Drawings’ – are drawn not with ink but with electrical current – burned into the surface of the panel as the current arcs and dissipates. The resultant images have about them an undeniable beauty that speaks to our fascination with the micro and macro – these could be neurons or river deltas. In their interplay with illusory scale they speak to Hornby’s elegantly reimagined assemblages, and in their subject and execution they speak clearly and directly to Paolozzi’s presiding figures here gathered – Turing and Faraday – of the potential within technology for both destruction and the creation of beauty.