There is a narrative for the beginning and the end of time, a story of how we came together as human beings, how we interact, what we think. There are written and unspoken words about the infinite possibilities of life and they all converge at one point in the space-time: here and now. Speculative Fiction is a group show that plays with this concept: fictional worlds are never limited to any kind of physical boundary, and speculative fiction by definition is a genre that goes beyond the real world and welcomes abstract realities, utopias, dystopian or alternate universes.
Six artists, six interpretations of the world beyond reality, six different sensibilities that have in common this shared theme of narrative possibilities, and one specific medium that is that of drawing.
Michael Henley, detail of ‘A Swan Dive by a Crow (Falling in Disarray)’, graphite & ink on tracing paper presented in custom backlit frame
The first artist I met was Gordon Glyn Jones (@gordonglynjones). Gordon’s work is very much non-representational, but it’s not entirely abstract either. It is deliciously evocative of forms, suggestions, hints at other worlds and living creatures, and interesting and imaginative responses from the audience are a definite way of engaging with his artworks. Nothing is definite and wonderfully so, and in the end everything is possible.
After Gordon, I met Delphine Lebourgeois (@delphinelebourgeois). Her artworks are a contemporary tale of war, feminism and power, of inner sense and protection. There are illustrations of contemporary amazons, warrior women constantly fight to protect someone—their inner child, Delphine tells me, or their right to rest and be safe at times. In the end, there's always something worth protecting. There are illustrations of princesses from the traditional fairy tales who come back in new form, empowered and ready to control their own narrative. Hide & Seek The Prince / Hide & Seek The Princess are particularly telling: two illustrations that draw from the characters of Sleeping Beauty, telling a story that is centuries old but that, through manipulation and re-elaboration, is now new and ready to be told.
A Crowd by Delphine Lebourgeois
Peter Mammes (@petermammes) is up next, with a varied body of work: Mammes dips into both noir paintings while also venturing into work with bright, warm hues. In these artworks there is a story of punishment and redemption, of violence and salvation. There are elements—in particular sequences of soldiers marching in line—whose distress and harsh lines remind me of Van Gogh’s Prisoners Exercising. Something in the patterns and geometrical lines makes me think of of Indian influences and mandala drawings. No matter how ugly or gruesome, there is always something harmonious in the way Peter Mammes represents the world.
Georgia Kitty Harris (@georgiakittyharris) is an artist whose medium is more traditional, compared to the others in the room. Her portraits are timeless: endless faces that look at the audience straight in the eye from the confines of their frames. It is a study in humanity and humaneness, unspoken words and echoes left behind by the unfathomable looks of these nameless men and women.
Patient by Georgia Kitty Harris
Jenny Timmer (@jennytimmer33) was the only artist to occupying the space in the centre of the room, the only one of the six that went beyond two—dimensional mediums. Her installation is a collection of oddities, a voodoo altar of sorts that gathers objects of diverse origins, from fruits and vegetables to masks of Aboriginal resonance and Qatar riyals. It’s a tale that does not need to be represented any further because it represents itself, it’s the idea that objects have a voice and the confirmation that different media can still have a powerful impact.
Finally, while I head back towards the exit, I discover Michael Henley’s art and I am blown away from the start. Henley is unapologetically raw, his medium a combination of graphite on tracing paper and gold leaf. His artworks are suspended in a realm where things are not dead nor alive. There is a resonance of natural elements, long-clawed birds, skulls and bones all embedded in geometrical structures and layered in the composition itself. It’s art that never entirely meets the eye, there is always something else going on underneath, something deeper. I talked to Henley and we ended up in between two freestanding frames: a new artwork titled In the Darkness the Birds Send the Silence to the Tree’s, that he is exhibiting for the first time in the UK. All his subjects appear like phantoms to me, masses of smoke and dark matter, a constant tension between death and life, light and darkness. Even the titles of these works are very peculiar: ‘A Swan Dive by a Crow (Falling in Disarray)’, ‘Gold Thorns / Jealous Breath’ they are very evocative and equally poetic.Henley tells me that these titles are in fact manipulations and re-elaborations of phrases, quotes, verses from anything he read and liked. It is very dystopian and calming at the same time.
What stays with me after this exhibition is a resonance of ideas, imaginative responses, differences in perspective and sensitivity, and yet the absolute certainty that in our dissimilarities we all just want to tell a story, and be in charge of our own narratives: in this world or in the one beyond, what truly is important is willingness to listen, and courage to share.
Edited by Charlee Kieser, Deputy Digital Editor