Presence

‘He who sits/stands in front of the fire sees more than the flames. He feels the heat! Too often from a distance others observe the flames only as a source of light.’
Lennox D. Lampkin 

The title of this exhibition arises from the increasingly disappointing experience of exhibiting beautiful and emotive artworks to an audience with five limbs, the fifth being the ubiquitous smart phone. On a fully extended arm, filtering the experience of the physical work for the benefit of an egotistical interface with the unidentified ‘other’, the smart phone can be seen as that which prevents the viewer from ‘feeling the heat’.

I would suggest ‘passion’, ‘excitement’, ‘ spirituality’, ‘transcendence’, ‘awe’, ‘inspiration’, ‘contemplation’, ’challenge’, as alternatives for ‘heat’. There is in the presence of the physical object the potential to experience something that is not available from the cursory focus of a photo app before moving on to the next ‘pitstop’ on the art track. With an historical object there is the intangible presence of decades, centuries, of accumulated energies. With contemporary works of art there is the visceral presence of the artist’s energy and creativity, an encounter with what I have called the ‘x factor’ that elicits ‘wow’ from us and yes, somewhat reluctantly admitted, is also probably that which encourages us to share the image. But the image is the light not the heat: ‘The tradition of contemplating the fine art object has been threatened by the deadening effect of image-bombs.’ (Computerkunst 98An essay on the art object in cyberspace culture)

The traditional Shinto religion of Japan ascribes ‘kami’ to, usually natural, phenomena: ‘Shinto regards the universe as Heavenly Divine spirit coming forth into material form…’ (– J.W.T. Mason The Meaning of Shinto); ‘The term kami refers to anything that is above, high, special, unusual or auspicious in any way. It refers to the essence, or internal quality, of many phenomena that Shinto believers consider an aura of divinity… Also in the category of kami are things that inspire a sense of wonder or awe in the beholder in a way that testifies to its special nature or the divinity of its origin.’

So we might also suggest ‘kami’ as another alternative for ‘heat’. Do we experience ‘divinity’ in works of art? Is it the ‘divine’, whatever that may mean to each of us, that we experience in the transcendent world of the creative? It is certainly the ‘other-worldly’ of art that takes us out of the mundane into the extraordinary and reminds us of the best of humanity…a not unimportant function in our current circumstances: ‘The touch or feel of the texture and presence of objects, the caressing sounds of nature, the voices of human presence, or the movement of bodies in physical space ­have been the spiritual triggers so celebrated in our great art and literature.’ (ibid. Computerkunst)

‘Presence’ has a dignity and graceful authority don’t you think?  We look forward to your presence, to sharing experiences with you. So we won’t be sending out a digital catalogue, (perhaps something to our international clients), and we encourage you to leave your smart phone at home, or at least out of hand, and bask in the physical and sensual world of art. You can take home and further explore the experience in the form of the physical object, or if not, cherish the experiential memory of what contemporary screen artist Maio Motoko describes as ‘ the fleeting moment and the sound of it disappearing’.

Lesley Kehoe
November 16 2015

Presence
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Lesley Kehoe