Project Thin Air
8 May – 14 June 2015
Private View Thursday 7th May, 7PM – 9:30PM
First Thursday’s Evening View: 4th June, 6PM – 8PM
Hours: Wed. – Sat. 11AM – 6PM, Sun. 12 – 5PM
THE RESIDENCE GALLERY, 22 Victoria Park Road, London, E9 7HD
www.residence-gallery.com / 02089850321
In October 2014 Alexander Heaton set out to climb Baruntse in Nepal. His artwork is heavily influenced by his experiences on expeditions. Baruntse – 7162m (23,497 ft), is a peak in the Khumbu region and is the highest he has climbed to date on any mountain.
Whilst climbing Baruntse, Heaton participated in a self-driven project to explore the limits of creativity at high altitude. He has made a series of art works in response to this trying and difficult environment. For example, drawing (except in a tent) becomes impossible above 5000m due to the numbing exposure of cold to fingertips. Even cameras become difficult to use and seise up when so high. The constant pressure of time is also a factor when one is exposed and tied to others on a rope. Baggage must be stripped down to bare essentials. Hence, basic existence is a struggle above 6500m. How to make art about such experiences when one cannot readily record or react directly?
For this exhibition at The Residence Gallery, the pieces Heaton made and wrote about in his journal have been developed into a series of larger scale works. Ideas stem from conversations made during the long interludes from climbing whilst sitting out weather in tents, or perhaps moments of respite from the cold and dark-like sunlight, striking the outline of nearby peaks, raising the temperature just enough to make oneself comfortable again. Poetic narrative and deep philosophical reaction to theses places is often negated due to overriding concerns of safety and comfort. This economising of mental capacity is in part due to the lack of oxygen in the brain. The simplification of concern for the everyday is perhaps one of the main reasons Heaton chooses to climb. In not having the ability to think beyond what is directly at hand, comes liberation and form of meditation. Importance of action is reduced down to steps and breaths.
This exhibition is an attempt to represent a fantastic, yet real place, as truthfully and as unelaborated as possible. All colours have been matched as closely as possible. No revelation was attained at the summit. The work does aspire to see the miraculousness in the minute, but only for what it actually is; “Warm light on snow bringing respite from the unknown darkness and cold, easier breathing and the chance to see where one is going.” Perhaps the only metaphysical lesson one can draw from such experience is that one can go as far away as is humanly possible from the womb and yet feel closer and more in need of its protection than ever before. Colours become emotions and memories in these jagged heights, and serve to remind the explorer of people and the need to return.
The painting in this exhibition is not only the largest single artwork Alexander has ever made to date, but it is also a whole encompassing environment of the Himalayas, transporting the viewer to this other hostile world. Heaton’s work is deeply concerned with a love for nature and all things wild. Heaton uses glaze media such as oil, and specifically for this show he has manufactured his own paints to achieve a more accurate colour spectrum of the subtleties of light bouncing off the surface of glacial ice.
The Himalaya as subject matter represents a natural progression in Heaton’s work starting from the highland hills of his youth through to the Alps and now the region of Chomolungma, (‘Everest’ or ‘mother goddess of the earth’ in Tibetan). These are the first places he returns for creative nourishment. They represent struggle and the overcoming of obstacles through following their unique lines. Mountains are also in the mind and appear to be like natural cathedrals unchanging and permanent. To climb them is a communion with nature and to walk through their wooded slopes a kind of poetry of movement. They are oblivious to the fads of the world yet constantly keep the viewer fascinated by there unique geology and the changing nature of light on their snow aretês and glaciers.
“It’s important to me that the mountains and forests in my paintings are places I have actually visited and experienced.” The paintings act like a record of these journeys and reflect Heaton’s feelings towards the landscapes in which he journeyed and dwelt within.
This is the first time Alexander Heaton will present his painting in a panoramic installation. This solo show is the third in a series of exhibitions curated by Director Ingrid Z to celebrate The Residence Gallery’s 10th year anniversary.