A Tiny Bubble of Complexity
The South London Gallery is a little bit off the beaten track. Emerging blinking from the Oval tube you are confronted with a mosaic montage of cricket players in various poses, batting, bowling, catching, in green and white... then, outside, the Oval itself, imposing and slightly careworn. The number 36 bus runs on a busy line, bustling, always full, stopping and starting down the busy Peckham road.
But stepping into Keith Tyson's show is like stepping through the looking glass. The space is quiet despite its proximity to the busy street. It hums with the sound of show's centrepiece, a visually striking kinetic sculpture that spins twelve defined points through the space of the gallery/galaxy, constantly shifting, random but rhythmic and systematic, exploring a defined space but suggesting an vast amount of possibilities. "Field of Heaven Longshot Magnet" embodies a dichotomy that runs through many of the works in the exhibition and more than once brings to mind the noise and organised chaos of the city outside. And beyond - the moon turning around the earth turning around the sun, or the deep inner space rush of corpuscles and haemoglobin through our veins. There is a tension in this work in terms of scale and subject, systems and rules set against a backdrop of inconceivable disorder and perceptual limits. "Field of Heaven..." spins through a finite amount of space, and therefore must explore a finite amount of positions and correlation. But trying to follow these positions as they move is a mind bending experience that quickly becomes dizzying in scope.
On the far wall of the gallery lies a massive painting constructed of black, white and gray polygonal forms. The size and shape of the piece is echoed on the right wall by a similarly huge painting of the stars against the blackness of space, and to the left by the painting "Supercollider". Each is an exploration, or a conception, or an expression, or projection (?), each written it a recognisable language, each bending and twisting that language to illustrate it's potential limitations. The painting of the stars, entitled "A Night in a Billion", is accompanied in the catalogue by and equation. This equation begins by explaining that the painting consists of 12 panels that can be arranged in any order, and each panel turned to face any direction. It continues to work out the amount of possible permutations that this must entail (11,771,943,000,000 approx.). "How close an approximation of this view exists or has existed from some position out there?".
"Supercollider" consists of textual fragments written in a variety of sizes, fonts and colours, small images under and overlapping the text, splashes and drips of paint, all set against a bright yellow backdrop. The text is seemingly grasped out of thin air, memory, imagination, books, dreams, thought. "high blood pressure problems", "an exquisitely fashioned coronet", "repairing a dry stone wall", "the heat fluctuations inside a frying sausage", "the strokes", "33.07%". It soon becomes apparent that you will never be able to hold them all in your memory, or even read them all. And also that some all or none of them are probably happening while you stand there. It's been attempted before, but rarely so successfully as here... combined with the other pieces in the room, "Supercollider" shrinks and implodes the viewer with it's conceptual landscape of possibility and incompehendable mass.
There is, of course, much more I could say about this show. Tyson would probably say an infinite number of things. But suffice to say that it is a must see exhibition of very contemporary art.
© John Brainlove 2002
Keith Tyson at South London Gallery Jan 16th - Mar 17th 2002
South London Gallery, 65 Peckham Road, London SE5 8UH
T: +44 (0)20 7703 6120