Before you even take the first step to ascend to the top floor gallery, Julie F Hill’s Dark River II arrestingly assaults the senses, a celestial curtain spilling down the length of the atrium and crumpling at its base, the spiral of the staircase in a comradely conspiratorial conversation with its cosmological surface, the arithmetic of its canvas of nebulae and stars. Using an archival astronomical print (a section from the largest photograph ever taken of the Milky Way, staggeringly measuring 108,200 by 81,500 pixels, containing close to 9 billion pixels overall), a viewer stands transfixed, vision guided heavenward, lost in the infinity of its upwards sprawl. Upstairs, Hill’s Dark River I, seemingly more restrained, neatly situated at a point of egress to the roof, sits atop a mirror, a straightforward reflection of object and also endless elongation of its central mystery, each crease and fold containing any multitude of latent, gestating universes. Hill’s video installation, Through Machine and Darkness, harnesses a revolutionary algorithmic class of AI called DCGAN-Deep Convolutional Generative Adversarial Network to be precise, and quite a mouthful-trained on over 45,000 images from cameras onboard the Hubble Telescope. From darkness, the piece incrementally wakes to full screen, until a viewer is enmeshed in a floating, geometrical rhapsody of pure pattern and shape, undefinable and elusive, a not-necessarily terrifying encounter with an environment devoid of recognisable conventional spatial signifiers such as borders or horizons-it’s a meditative fall through the conscripts of time and meaning, pleasantly detached from the need for a beginning or end.
In their eschewment of all visual fuss, Hannah Luxton’s sublime works are left to concentrate entirely on the elemental-they have the absolute expressive simplicity of cave paintings, communing with the ancestral. Luxton allows the viewer a very generously portioned space to contemplate and interrogate her natural images as they shimmer and spill and creep across the linen canvas, suggesting slightly anxious inner states that are nevertheless held in a warm earthen embrace of negative space (I was reminded of the otherworldly environments as seen in photos of Namibia). A gossamer wash of celestial light gently troubles the frame in Star Spill; a black cellular blot (malignantly?) drifts unfixed through a nebulous landscape, whispering chaos; a dark, blue-edged stain thrusts up from the canvas bottom in Moon Mountain, its spread ratio undetermined; ovular pools (one of pure white, another flecked with bloodied-red coils) are set beneath mercilessly rich, dark skies possibly redolent of approaching storm or apocalypse; a soot-coloured cloud prepares to unleash upon a fragile slip of sky-blue optimism in A Storm is Coming, You Should Stay Home. Elsewhere, lunar objects reflect delicately in clear pools of water and shine harmoniously over mountaintops. In some alchemical way, the works seem to brighten and soften the physical space in which they are exhibited, despite the occasional surface tension. Present is a grave knowledge older, deeper than language, surmounting any small personal crisis, implying an empyreal endurance .
Mapping both inward and outward perspective, the vast realms and panoramas contained within each, Hill and Luxton engage with the imagination’s power to burst boundlessly through reason to a more instinctive and primal intelligence, a majesty of fancy , wielding forces from the primordial to the very latest technological advancements. Of Stars and Chasms closed on 24 February