“My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” -Stephen Hawking
Many have been humbled simply standing in a darkened field and looking to the stars. Indeed the great thinkers of the many generations that have come and gone are regarded as giants when in fact they were merely humans dropped to their knees by the wonder that is the universe all around us. There is as much wonder in a blade of grass as there is in a cosmic nebula, as much mystery in a drop of water as in the dark matter we yet fail to comprehend.
James Hart Dyke is based in Brighton, England nestled between the water and the south downs. In his studio he works largely on commissions. Last November Hart Dyke traveled to Patagonia and is now painting mountain landscapes from this trip for an exhibition in London at the end of the year. Landscapes are his life’s work and his love for the art form has infused his life and career with adventure and physicality as he climbs and hikes the places he later paints. “Enduring the landscape in some way, I find that combination of painting and physicality very exciting…it’s what my painting is about, really,” he says. Hart Dyke has been embedded with British forces in war zones on commission from the UK military. In Baghdad he painted while two soldiers stood guard. This tradition of bringing artists along to paint is long standing and important to the regiments of the UK. The work created is kept in the collections of the individual regiments and displayed in the mess hall, documenting the history of each for the soldiers to witness. The tradition dates back before photography when artists were the only window to a visual representation of the action of the battlefield. Artists’ representations of war convey more than just the actual imagery of what is going on before them. The emotions of the situation are infused into the work, as well. Hart Dyke has had an unusual career. His work has led him to a position as artist in residence for the British Secret Intelligence Service as well as to work for the Royal Family. For the British Secret Intelligence Service, Hart Dyke helped to commemorate the centenary by documenting things in paint. As an artist he was able to venture where photographers could not go due to the highly sensitive nature of the work done there. His paintings from this series are quite surreal, a nod to the rather unusual nature of the work the British Secret Intelligence Service does. Hart Dyke studied architecture which he is still passionate about despite eventually moving to painting. His entrance into the painting world began with commissioned paintings of buildings. In reality, Hart Dyke began painting at the age of eight and despite his foray into architecture he never truly gave it up. There was inevitability to his career as a painter. Because of the physical nature of his process, art has become in a very real sense James Hart Dyke’s sport. To hear more about this, James Hart Dyke’s unusual career, and about the tradition of artists on the battlefield, listen to the complete interview.
Kambui Olujimi recently he exhibited work titled Red Shift. The title refers to celestial bodies in space that cannot be seen because of shifts in the spectrum of light. Through this lens, Olujimi contemplated the mythology of whiteness as an unseen force. Olujimi describes how the mythological space of whiteness plays out in the physical world through policy, allocation of resources, and myriad other ways. He references descriptions of mass shooters as “lone shooters” in a way that removes them from the space of violence pervasive in the US. Presidential assassins are another example. These two groups of predominantly white men are somehow isolated, removed from the larger conversation about violence in the US creating a Red Shift that in a sense conceals them from the rest of the data. For the exhibition, Olujimi created collages from news imagery of the alt-right coupled with drawings. Olujimi’s current project centers on fragmentation of identity. His love of films informs this work. In particular he references the accidental announcement of La La Land for Best Picture in 2017 when in fact the film Moonlight claimed that title. His concept deconstructs and reassembles that moment, elongating it and examining the feeling of elation followed by crushing deflation. “A lot of my work is around these things that I call inevitabilities…I’m interested in bringing those inevitabilities out of the space of the implicit. Once you give them shape and weight and gravity and start to manifest them in some way, the incongruities and absurdities, the surreal aspects all become very evident and we are able to become more critical of them in that space.” It is these gaps, these “moments of silence” that inform Olujimi’s work. To hear more about this powerful art, listen to the complete interview.
A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:
The very best any of us can do is to allow ourselves to be repeatedly humbled by the vastness, the incomprehensible nature of the universe. And to love each other in the knowledge that we are all in this together.
Books to Read
The Coal Prize 2018 is currently accepting submissions from artists around the world. The winner receives 5,000 euros in prize money as well as a residency in Europe. For more details and application/eligibility requirements, visit their website. Deadline for submissions is July 31.
Weekly Edited Grant and Residency Deadlines – review the list here.