This work is part of a joint exhibition of paintings by Barbara Penrose, Sally Cox and myself at the Metcalfe Gallery, Brisbane Institute of Art on show from 31st October to 11th November 2020.
These paintings were made near a creek and river confluence where water and light eddy and refract; they were made during the recent epidemic when the city roads and bridges that usually flow faster than the water and isolate some reaches of the creek as islands, went quiet.
In this light the upside-down vision of the world reflected under a moored boat appears more real than the spoiled world above it, and indicative of fragile tensions.
Up until a light beam was bent through a lens and the spectrum made visible, seeing the light was an interior metaphor, a light from God.
The ability to split light was discovered at the time of huge social and cultural splintering with civil war marking the times.
Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan was an attempt to develop ideas of social order. I became interested in the way light as optics is forced into play with light of a religious nature in the illustration for the famous frontispiece of Leviathan.
In the image, the figure of the Sovereign/Leviathan looms over a landscape and township, his body is made up of countless tiny figures from the emptied town – it was a new form for an ancient idea of co-opting the many into one.
Hobbes based his idea for the image of the leviathan on an optical device, a kaleidoscope in which fragments of a group of faces drawn on a paper and representing a range of citizenry, crystallize into the single image of the sovereign. The optical instrument presented images of things unable to be seen by the naked eye, and at the time in the mid 1600s, a new way of processing mystery and contradictions at play in the world.
Hobbes’ frontispiece presents to me an image in which esoteric symbolism and physical representation are tightly entwined. The ‘artificial’ figure of the Leviathan is a trick of the light, seen through a window cautiously opened and quickly closed for fear of a storm.