Darren Almond. Life line. White Cube Mason’s Yard


Time has always been a basic notion when approaching the works, pictorial or photographic, of Darren Almond: he approaches it from its double condition of theoretical abstraction and concrete reality within the framework of human culture, and also alludes to numbers as signs that serve to make the invisible visible, because they not only quantify seconds, they also make up the language of economics, computer coding or astrology.

Six years ago, White Cube, its regular gallery, exhibited at its headquarters in Bermondsey grids made up of rectangular panels representing fragmented digits, similar to those we see every day in the urban landscape: in transport hubs, in timetables, signs and watches. They generated a field of partial forms that seemed to float across the surface of the paintings, emerging and disappearing, allowing the viewer's perception to move between the figurative presence of those numbers and a space open to the unconscious.

These figures continue to be valid in the new exhibition of Almond projects that this same firm shows us, now in Mason's Yard: the “Life Line” exhibition brings together pieces that refer to the instability of time, memory and our gaze. to places, linked to each other, because this artist understands that the variability of the first affects our relationship with the natural world, in the form of contemplation or memory.

The starting point of this exhibition are, precisely, evocations of the author's childhood: Almond used to go fishing next to a willow tree, in a flooded mining pit on the outskirts of Wigan; a place halfway between the echoes of past industrial activity and present tranquility. His fascination with the reflections of light on that water tank underlies the diptychs with which the exhibition begins, paintings that together give rise to a luminescent frieze, a peculiar line of the horizon drawn on four walls. . Intentionally shaped like windows, they refer to seasonal changes through the tones of the leaves that cover each gold, copper or palladium panel; In turn, these leaves are represented in different stages of their development: from the iridescent freshness of the spring specimens on gold to the naked and hanging branches of winter, on palladium. It is worth remembering that Almond came to painting from the “flaws” or unpredictability of photography, that is, the mutability of light and its multiplicity of sources, so it is no coincidence that the incorporation of these metals here serves to display time phases. He warned that, due to their natural properties, these materials They go in search of light; They attract it, reflect it physically, alter it and move beneath it.

In the center of some of his compositions we will appreciate the repeated outline of a zero, engraved in a barely visible way and joining its halves: the impression of that digit affects them spatially and optically, because otherwise they would be flat. Furthermore, by suggesting a vain or a lens, each zero implies a point of focused reflectivity; We can interpret it, not so much as an integer and random number, but as the representation of an idea, by encapsulating associative chronologies. For the British artist, zero is “the nothingness that holds everything together.”

Darren Almond.  Aki–Willow, 2024
Darren Almond.  Fuyu–Willow, 2024

Despite being nourished, as we advance, by memory, these panels also allude to traditional Japanese art forms, from the Rinpa school of painting of the 17th century, which made use of gold to capture areas of water, creating dazzling pools of light, to the landscapes and ink drawings of master draftsman Hasegawa Tōhaku. It is worth remembering at this point Junichiro Tanizaki and his Praise of the shadow– Described how a single candle could provide enough clarity to illuminate an entire room due to the flecks of gold in the lacquer of the furniture and objects present in the space, which collectively distribute their brilliance.

In other vertical panels, installed on facing walls, we will notice how willow branches swing forming elegant lines on the surface of the metals that constitute their support. They refer to the byōbu by Hasegawa: folding screens that recreated resplendent natural atmospheres; the geometric pattern of those leaves and the sequence of the individual panels articulate a representation of nature that seems both narrative and systematized.

But his use of metals is also worth drawing attention to. Almond is interested in life and the past in industrial regions, and knows in particular the city of Norilsk, in a Siberian mining area located on the edge of the Arctic Circle; He himself has explained that he tried to find in these works the same type of space that he experienced in Russia, to open planes that seemed endless, that we could imagine continuing beyond the limits of painting.

Darren Almond.  Lifeline.  White Cube Mason's Yard
Darren Almond.  Lifeline.  White Cube Mason's Yard

Another group exhibited at the White Cube consists of six eight-panel paintings, each titled Inari Chimera (2024), which give rise to a unique and extended composition. This installation consists of an array of digits in Helvetica font, each symbol and number fragmented as if it were a cascade of digitized, glitchy time. Running horizontally through its center, six zeros appear as weak and waning moons of thin strips of gold; That number, captured recurrently, symbolizes infinity, in reference to the chimera of the title. We can interpret this series as the manifestation of a dating system, and although its tones suggest those of autumn, they are equally inspired by the Fushimi Inari Taisha temple in Kyoto, where a sequence of vermilion torii gates offers a framework of color and light through from which you can see the landscape beyond.

Two paintings also await us, suspended in the center of a room: Hatsuyuki (2024), a Japanese word meaning “first snow,” with fragmented numbers intertwining with white rectangular axes on an aluminum background, and Murasame (2024), which translates as “town rain,” a work of rich indigo that recalls the impenetrable darkness of the night. Its silver and gold sparkles suggest a diaphanous rain illuminated by the moon or the astral traces of a meteor shower.

Speaking of the satellite, in White Cube we can finally see photographs belonging to the series fullmoon, which Almond started in 1998 and continues to work on. They are taken precisely under the light of the moon and after long exposures, because only by allowing time to pass, as he noted, could imperceptible details become visible. For the artist, furthermore, the moon contains symbolic value: it marks both an end and a beginning and is a wonderful and distant object through which we can trace, again, time. One of the images, Fullmoon@Wall (In Memoriam), involves a tribute to a Northumberland sycamore felled in an act of vandalism; a hymn to a destroyed landscape.

Darren Almond.  Lifeline.  White Cube Mason's Yard

Darren Almond. “Lifeline”


25 – 26 Mason's Yard


From March 20 to May 4, 2024

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