Land / Sea Mike Perry
Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Ceredigion SY23 3DE
22 September-17 November 2018
Panel Discussion and Opening- October 18th 6 – 8.30pm
Mike Perry is an artist whose work engages with significant and pressing environmental issues, in particular the tension between human activity and interventions in the natural environment, and the fragility of the planet’s ecosystems. Land/Sea is a major new Ffotogallery exhibition, which brings together recent bodies of work addressing how the natural biodiversity of landscapes and marine environments is undermined and made toxic by human neglect, agricultural mismanagement and the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of long-term sustainability.
Using a large format analogue camera and combining painterly aesthetics with a hard-edged environmental narrative, the photographic images in Wet Deserts shed a very different light on the health of the upland landscape than one is accustomed to seeing in tourist brochures or romantic paintings and landscape photography. Perry focuses his gaze on mundane and typically overlooked locations here in Wales, often in places commonly referred to as areas of natural beauty, our national parks. He does not offer us dramatic aerial vistas of oil-polluted landscapes, but low-angle, near distance images of charred scrubland and landscapes left barren from tree-felling or over intensive sheep farming.
Môr Plastig (Welsh for ‘plastic sea’) is an ongoing body of work that classifies objects washed up by the sea into groupings. It is an open series of photographs ordered into Bottles, Shoes, Grids, Abstracts, and others. Perry photographs the found objects individually, straight on to camera with a flat neutral light avoiding the emotionally charged atmosphere often associated with environmental photography. By using a high-resolution camera to capture the surface detail, the artist allows the viewer to ‘read’ markings and scars etched into the objects by the ocean over months, and in some cases years. He wants the viewer to be intrigued and challenged by how a polluting object can be so aesthetically appealing. In his own words:
“in addition to seeing these pieces as symbols of over-consumption and disregard for the environment, I also see them as evidence of the beauty and power of nature to sculpt our world, whatever we humans decide to throw at it”
Perry’s work resists easy categorisation. Photography is central to his practice, yet always in its multifaceted relationship to and dialogue with painting and drawing, sculpture and installation art. The influence of Minimalism is strong with serial arrangements, grids, and an interest in form, surface detail and abstraction. Repetition of visual motifs in specific bodies of work is deployed as an artistic strategy that is cumulative and greater than its parts, teasing out subtle differences whilst alerting us to the dystopian consequences of waste proliferation and environmental mismanagement.
Land/Sea is a Ffotogallery Touring Exhibition, originally curated by David Drake, Ffotogallery, and Ben Borthwick, Plymouth Arts Centre. It was adapted for Aberystwyth Arts Centre by Ffion Rhys and Mike Perry. It includes a sonic work exploring the exhibition themes made by the artist and composer Matthew Lovett. The accompanying Ffotogallery publication includes contributions from the writers George Monbiot and Skye Sherwin.
56th Venice Biennale 2015
Presented by IDEA (International Dialogue For Enviromental Action)
Curated by Artwise (Susie Allen, Laura Culpan and Dea Vanagan)
Commissioned by Heydar Aliyev Foundation
Azerbaijan 2nd Pavillion
Calle Del Tragheto o Garzoni
San Marco 3416 30124
Official Opening 6th May 2015
Open to public 9th May – 22nd November 2015
Edward Burtynsky, Mircea Cantor, Loris Cecchini, Gordon Cheung, Khalil Christee, Tony Cragg, Laura Ford, Noemie Gougal, Siobhan Hapaska, Paul Huxley, IDEA laboratory and Leyla Aliyeva, Chris Jordan with Rebecca Clark and Helen S.Eitel, Tania Kovats, Aida Mahmudova, Sayyora Muin, Jacco Olivier, Julian Opie, Julian Perry, Mike Perry, Bas Princen, Stephanie Quayle, Ugo Rondinone, Graham Stevens, Diana Thater, Bill Woodrow, Erwin Wurm, Andy Warhol and Rose Wylie.
Mike Perry, Flip Flops and Shoes grid x 14, Môr Plastig, 2015
Mike Perry – Môr Plastig
Vita Vitale reflects on the delicate balance of our planet’s ecosystem and man’s destructive footprint within it. Môr Plastig, Welsh for ‘Plastic Sea’, captures the impact of both plastic objects upon the living world, and the erosive power of nature. Photographing flip flops and shoes washed up on the coasts of West Wales, Cuba, Tanzania and Sri Lanka, Perry documents plastic pollution in unexpectedly poetic images that detail the objects degradation and transformation by sun, sea and sand. He presents each shoe simply, accentuating and inviting us to contemplate the aesthetic qualities of its erosion, the environmental danger it represents, and the moral of consumerism it embodies.
Mike Perry, Keep Box Fragment, Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2015
Curated by experimental architect Professor Rachel Armstrong, and drawing inspiration from Venice’s ecological concerns, the IDEA laboratory convenes scientists, artists and designers to spark dialogue about synthesising our technological capabilities and our living realm.
Artist Mike Perry installed a cabinet of plastiglomerates – stones comprising intermingled melted plastic, sand, shells and other beach sediment – which collected along the Welsh coast, including the realisation that we are not only littering the world’s surfaces with plastic, but also geologically inscribing into the Earth’s history our role in its proliferation. He lays bare the impact on the living world of contemporary society’s dependence on disposable plastic.
Mike Perry, Plastigomerate samples, Idea Laboratory, Vita Vitale 2015
“Mike Perry provokes a different relationship with nature. He collects and documents the plastics washed up on our beaches in forensic detail, which are crafted so exquisitely that they appear seamlessly integrated with our marine ecosystems. Perry’s work invites us to consider the new materiality of our living realm and its technological capacities.”
National Museum Wales
Oriel y Parc, St Davids, Wales
24th September 2016 – 5th March 2017
The Colour of the Earth: Art and the Material Landscape
Reading the Rocks: The Remarkable Maps of William Smith
Reading the Rocks: the Remarkable Maps of William Smith explores the life and work of William Smith (1769 – 1839), who is credited with creating the first nationwide geological map. Smith’s beautifully hand-coloured maps are icons in the world of geology. Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum of Wales holds more original versions of these spectacular maps than any other public institution in the world. Two different editions will be displayed, along with unique documents and smaller maps, all depicting the story of Smith’s life and work.
This exhibition was originally shown at National Museum Cardiff in 2015, as part of the William Smith Bicentennial celebrations. The Learning activities are funded with thanks to SRK Consulting.
To coincide with Reading the Rocks, Oriel y Parc will also be showing The Colour of the Earth: Art and the Material Landscape. In 2015, as part of a residency at the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol, artist Rodney Harris re-created William Smith’s map of 1815 using geological pigments made from corresponding ground-up rock samples from each area of the UK. The resulting full-scale map is a unique and surprising overview of the true colours of the British landscape.
Harris’s map will be on display at Oriel y Parc, alongside work by four artists for whom the material or geological nature of the Pembrokeshire coast has been a starting point for their practice – Adam Buick, Brendan Stuart Burns, Mike Perry and Graham Sutherland.
Mike Perry’s Abereiddi series explores the relationship between landscape photography and abstract painting. Here, Abereiddi is shown as an arrangement of form and colour, with Perry’s interest being the material nature of the location rather than the location itself. Purposely avoiding dramatic lighting, Perry shoots in overcast daytime conditions which allow him to capture the soft, monochromatic tones of rock strata and sea.
Extracts from Abereiddi, review by Craig Burnett
NextLevel Magazine, No 7, Edition 01, Vol 4, 2005
Mike Perry looks down upon the Abereiddi shoreline with humility and awe. The beauty he finds there is so unaware of its audience, so self-contained, that it almost punishes the vanity of the pleasure we find in it. Yet, where exactly, is the artist? The position of the camera is difficult to identify or measure; the photographs seem to be taken as if the camera were hovering, impossibly, above the rocks. We don’t experience the landscape as if from the perspective of an artist seeking a picturesque composition, but rather as if from the casual glance of a seagull, stone or tuft of grass. This denial of a dramatic or picturesque composition grants the landscape a fierce independence.
Perry’s ongoing interest in abstract art and its relation to Modernist photography remains a powerful stimulus at Abereiddi. The flattened space and vertiginous perspective allow abstraction to overtake depiction. The combination of dark, intractable blocks of stone and scribbles of white foam suggests the alternating spaces of order and turmoil in a Jonathan Lasker abstract.
The Stoics thought nature, God and reason were one and that peace of mind was achievable only by obeying their laws. Baudelaire, on the other hand, saw nature as a filthy inevitability, the origin of all vulgarity and vice. “Good”, he said, “is always the product of some art”. Perry’s photographs set out to find a whiff of both goodness and art. The goodness is in the pursuit of objectivity, which is also an implied ethics of looking at the natural world; the art is in the pleasure he finds, and captures for us, in it’s surfaces. A photograph will always fall short of capturing this ideal, but for Perry, photography is a method to carry on and a ritual to placate a few angry gods. And all gods, William Blake reminds us, reside in the human breast. Mike Perry’s photographs reveal that nature’s dreadfulness, and its indifference, is ours, too. It’s beauty is its own.