The rough concrete floor of PM/AM gallery’s evocative premises - a low-ceilinged, former underground car park, replete with yellow painted parking bays - wonderfully heightens the majesty of the monochromatic curvilinear sculptures at the heart of Mat Chivers’ latest exhibiton, Harmonic Distortion. Even from afar the exhibition’s four titular pieces look enticingly smooth and tactile, one immediately wants to touch them. Through the works, the shape and geometric patterns of which have been informed by digital data on the cycle of breaking waves and the formation and disintegration of clouds, Chivers examines our relationship with the natural world in the digital age.
In parallel to which the works, which are made of blocks of black and white marble, explore ideas of hand-made and man-made,in that they were first robotically milled and the final forming and polishing was done by hand. The particular marble that Chivers has used for the sculptures has a rich artistic pedigree as it has been fabriacted in collaboration with Henraux, at their famous quarry in Tuscany, who over the years have worked with such renowned artists as, Henry Moore, Hans Jean Arp, Joan Miró, Antoine Poncet, and Isamu Noguchi.
Along one wall of the gallery are six wall-based works, (It’s Not) Black & White, which are also informed by wave and cloud data but their patterns are far more linear than the free-standing sculptures. Three of the panels are slabs cast from sea salt which has been recylced from desalination plants, into which have been milled yearly graphs of ocean wave heights. The other three panels are digital visualisations of cyanotype prints, created by layering graphs which articulate the presence or absence of cloud cover for various locations over light-sensitive paper, and exposing them to sunlight. Each panel has a different geographical location, including Brazil and the Galapagos Islands, both of which have threatened eco systems. Wave height and cloud cover are both used as markers in studying and understanding climate change.
The six panels are arranged along one wall in PM/AM and create a powerful and surreal sense of six windows. Albeit six windows which play with one’s sense of balance and perception as the three salt panels feel like a view looking straight down to lines carved in the sea bed and the cyanotype prints straight up to a blue sky above as opposed to the horizontal on which one actually views them. Within this juxtaposition of the perceived and the actual is a theme that could be extapolated to the exhibition as a whole: our own sensory perception of waves and clouds and other natural phenomena and the actuality recorded and presented by digital data.
In these cultural times, it is all too easy to get submerged between one’s own thoughts and the sheer weight of communication and information available digitally, something which the performance centre piece of Chivers’ exhibition successfully and compellingly illustrates. The work, Circle Drawing, is influenced by a traditional form of Japanese erotic bondage called Shibari, in which a power exhange is enacted by the person being bound and the one binding. Traditionally jute rope is used, but in Chivers’ work he has replaced the rope with fibre optic cable so the person being bound is being tied in knots by data and digital communication, or at least the means of transmitting it!
In an exclusive statement for Widewalls, Mat Chivers explains the significance of the exhibition’s title, Harmonic Distortion, his inspirations behind the themes explored in the works, and what he would like visitors to take from the exhibition.
“I’ve always been attracted to processes and phenomenon that have an inherent ambiguity. I like the way that the title, Harmonic Distortion, can be interpreted in different ways, like Janus, the double-faced deity of time and new beginnings - one face looks forward into the past and one looks back into the future. There’s an ambiguity in the title that relates to the motivation behind the work - is there a distortion of something that was harmonic going on, or a harmonisation of something that has become distorted? I think it’s particularly important right now to remain equanimous and not get tied into value judgements and the title alludes to this line of thought.
Rather than making work about the environment and climate change per-se, I’m more interested in how our entanglements with non-human life-stories tells us something about our own nature. Like many others, I feel we’re moving into complete immersion in a new moment in terms of our relationship with technology. Technology has always been central to our evolution right from the start, but the exponential flow of advances happening now are taking us into uncharted territory - into the extraordinary position of being aware of evolutionary process acting through us. As a result of the possibilities provided to us by new data capture and transmission technologies, we’re beginning to be able to see how we’re implicated in the wider picture, and of how our species is really impacting on the complex network of planetary ecologies. Technology is changing our relationship to the world and the works presented here are in a sense about the price we pay to see.
I make things primarily in order to understand something for myself. The act of making has an inherent sensuality that functions as a coping mechanism for me - a way for me to engage with the world of which I am part - ultimately opening up a different type of conversation. I am interested in the questions that arise when ideas are collided with materials in new or unexpected ways, so an ideal outcome for me is when the things that I make also resonate with viewers on some level and they come away asking questions themselves - continuing the conversation really ...”
Mat Chivers, Harmonic Distortion, runs until 28th February 2017 at PM/AM Gallery, 259-269 Old Marylebone Road, London NW1 5RA.
Featured images: Mat Chivers - Circle Drawing, 2016. Photographer: Jonah Wyn-Pugh. ©Mat Chivers, by courtesy of PM/AM; Mat Chivers, Harmonic Distortion, (It’s Not) Black and White installation view. Photographer: David Brooke. ©Mat Chivers, by courtesy of PM/AM