Paradise Lost, Paradox Found:
Fran Bull Riddles with Dark Matter.
“What you know you cannot see,
… but you can feel it.
You’ve felt it your entire life,
… like a splinter in your brain
Do you know what it is? … “
It is the Matrix.
It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”
(Wachowski Bro Film The Matrix, 1992) .
The Matrix …is Dark Matter
In the Al-Kemi of Khemet (The magic art of Ancient-Egypt) Dark Matter was the Black Materia-Prima of the Nile from which all life came and went. Later forms of Alchemy, including Jungian, say it is the first-matter in the Magnum-Opus, the experiential creation of the philosopher’s stone wherein full consciousness is co-opted into absolute knowing. Throughout history it has been the physical basis of all mysticism and the occult. Out of its darkened void The God of Christians and Jews created the Genesis; and a myriad of other Gods and Goddesses did as well. Modern theories of psyche and mind pay homage to its’ fertile depths. Post Modern Movements from Pop-Goth to Punk, Retro-Sage to New-Age, extol its creative virtues. Finally Science itself whether high-tech or low-brow dares not ignore its’ dark principles.
Presently cosmic-physics theorizes at least 80% of the known universe consists of Dark Matter. Invisible and undetectable in and of itself, scientists postulate its existence using measurable and observable phenomena such as the rotational speed and distribution of galaxies, speed and trajectory of light, cosmic radiation background and affects of gravitational lensing, all of which are completely contrary to predictions of dominant Big Bang and Gravitation based theories that fail by their own methods to posit sufficient energy to explain them. Dark Matter, the unseen yet powerfully eminent force is thus believed responsible. As it is now, so it ever was... Dark Matter is the...ultimate paradox to explain paradox, matrix supreme to cosmos extreme, universal womb-tomb for all existence and consciousness. It is a grave riddle Fran Bull knows and explores in her recent 'hybrid' paintings: “Dark Matter”, of which she wrote: its’ "...intriguing presence / absence, with all of its fertile implications and metaphorical possibilities, inspired the title of this series of works on canvas"
Dark Matter, the series is large, some thirty plus pieces, and offers ample insight into Bull's astute and deviously elegant methods of metaphor, as well as her preoccupation with dynamics of figure and ground which she herein extends to a deeper dimension; one tacitly expressive of the dark interface between the cloak of culture and the obscurity of soul. The pieces, mostly square in format, range in size from 12” x 12” to 30” x 30” to 50” x 55” and consist of monochromatically painted muslin fabric that has been dipped in Italian Plaster and laid over none to few small simple forms set atop stretched canvas frames. While at first glance they function as spare low-relief abstractions worthy of minimalism in their reductive quality of parts and matter of fact resistance to content and detail; they are quickly perplexed by a theatrical tension duplicitously entangled in a simultaneously gauche and glamorous play of figure and ground, ground and surface. By this strategy Bull radicalizes her stated influences of Ancient Classical and Renaissance/Baroque painting and sculpture from which in her own words she sees: "the human body.. portrayed as lying hidden beneath ...swaths of fabric...sacred garments of the divine ...whose folds tell their cryptic stories of what lies beneath, and in some cases, of what has transpired as with volcanic ash ...capable of burying whole civilizations."
In Bull‘s hands, Greek edicts of how drapery should by movement and distortion reveal the form are revamped, and Romanesque preferences for divine costuming, Platonic Revival and low relief representation are redressed to a contemporary level of craftiness inclusive of consumer ready-mades, cultural commentary and postmodern inside-trading. Under the histrionic, exquisitely painted surfaces of satin white, shimmering rose, metallic bronze, glimmering gold, blood red, creosote black, paste peach and primer matt crenellations of fabric, lay odd objects, eerily inert and disturbingly recognizable as lowly craft items, whose associations with home-spun kitsch subvert presuppositions of high-born art and tasteful understatement. Bull’s collusion of mundane and urbane value systems debases signification in a lubricious currency of skepticism and pleasure that operates as darkly and perniciously above the ground as it does below. Presence begets absence and the viewer seeking solace in definitive meaning finds only a retrograde sensation of ambiguity cast upon a timeless ground of inertia as cold and blind as the contents within. The result is unsettling.
The dyadic tensions between conceptual and formal oppositions where-in material and metaphysical dissolution and resolution of figure vs. ground are affectively crucified in surface relations of ego-self, culture-soul, day-night, micro-macro, intra-extra create a tension which Carl Jung believed was prerequisite to the emergence of meaning and James Hollis claimed was the terrible embodiment of the divine. Saying one thing through two that are violently opposed is a necessary way of seeing through to reality, James Hillman noted. He conferred with Heraclitus‘s thoughts that ‘the real constitution of each thing is accustomed to hide itself and that to arrive at the basic structure of things we must go into their darkness‘. Thus by separating one thing from another and pitting them even against themselves in a process of phenomenological “bracketing”, Bull ascertains essence through transcendental reduction while her use of an extreme metaphor is a clear sign that hard answers do not exist. And it is only Plato’s forms that remain firm beneath the covers when reality shifts as readily as the greatest concepts forever elude. Stanley Kubrick once said: “No matter how vast the darkness, we must supply our own light”. Ultimately it is through Bull’s lucid eye that we see Dark Matter is not so much a riddle to be solved but a mystery to be lived.
Dark Matter, the paintings and more may be seen at Fran Bull's Site: