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Turn back now


    ´Art and Science, the twin engines of creativity in any dynamic culture, are commonly thought of as being as different as day and night.



    This is a critical error. The partitioning of curiosity, inquiry and knowledge into specialised compartments is a recipe for cultural stagnation´


    ( Wilson, S. (2010) ´Art and Science Now´, Thames and Hudson, London, p6)


    Tyson explores some of the most fundamental preoccupations of our shared human experience in his unmissable most recent exhibition, taking the universe and our place in it as his subject. His fascination with infinity, the nature of being and the origins of life serve to map the artists daily existence, to consider universal equations whilst reveal an at once acting as a space to consider universal questions whilst simultaneously presenting a kind of emotional headline of the day. Keith Tyson explains: ´there are lots of abstract ideas that I read about, or think about in science, or physics, that are impossible to visualise. I love the idea of trying to visualise ten dimensions, or an infinite number plane. So in this one (October, 2006; ´The shattered Integer Plane Repairs´) I imagine the whole number plane as a sheet of glass. So, between every number there is an infinite number of numbers, and if it was smashed and put back together and it didn´t quite fit, what would it be that was shining through? Working on that I end up with this form. The ´Pop´ element, its formal nature, happens by default. It just intuitively had to be that way´. (Grant, S. and Ruf, B (2008)´Keith Tyson: Studio Wall Drawings 1997-2007´, Haunch of Venison, p25)




    The title of the show at the Jerwood Space in Hastings, UK from 28th January till the 4th June 2017 is ´Turn back now´, inspired by a signatory work in the show, which consisted of the message written in stars. The artist describes how ´as a child in bed I used to have a game that I used to play, which was to try to think about the notion of infinity. I would imagine it went on, and on, and on, and I would get to a point where my brain would cut off and say enough, when I would have this, it never ends, it never ends. In this drawing it is represented as Turn back now´ in the stars, it is not about space but about the human mind and its limitations, and the way that it protects itself from the things it cannot understand.´( Keith Tyson at the Turner Prize Retrospective | TateShots downloaded on the 13.3.17 ). There are 365 artworks in the show, an obvious reference to the number of a days in a year, clearly connecting to the importance of numbers, science and a connection to the real, continuously displayed in the artists work. The works have been described as Studio Wall Drawings, but most consist of paintings on paper as an integral part of the artist´s process for the last 20 years. They started as a practical response to having a small studio at the time, and the artist would everyday would jot down ideas, his emotional state and world events, each marked with specific dates in order to locate the artworks in time and space. With a selection of artworks collated since 1987 something magical occurs that is more than the individual events themselves, a collective message that links issues, dates and a depth of understanding about the artists creative process. The collection becomes a record of the passing of time in a collection of moments, like the fluctuating climate record held in the analysis of ice cores, or the subtlety of scientific information held in the analysis of tree rings by dendrochronologists. The artist has described how he thinks of the artworks as big blocks of time, association, interesting things that connect to the subconscious, repeating patterns, occupying the free state between sketchbook, journal, a poem and painting. leading the viewer to confront the complexity and interconnections our modern lives as the mundane collides with the sublime. Things are linked in the world that affect everybody such as economics and politics yet the artists response is less to do with the actual details, the journalism, and much more to do with the emotional response, and the visual expression that comes out of it. The drawings themselves could be said to represent a potentially antiquated creative process, that has been superseded by instagram posts, but the artist describes how they predated such social media updates, but are essentially one and the same. The artists evolution of mind over the last 20 years has stayed relatively stable, but society has changed dramatically over the same time period, as now everyone is on social media, which allows them to create their own equivalents of the Studio Wall Drawings. The artist acknowledges that the artworks look rather old fashioned on paper, but to the artist the process of their creation is quite meditative. In a unique time in human history of information and image overload, rather than being distracted by all of the news items and images available on the internet, the artist focuses on what specifically emerges for creative exploration in the studio.


    The Studio Wall Drawings were split into three different sections within the exhibition, firstly the human scale: all of the events, relationships, deaths and births related to the artist. The other two rooms are to do with those different scales, that as humans we are in the middle of. The microcosmic room; all atoms and electrons, elements, microchips, everything that is smaller than us. Then the final room is the cosmological, everything that is out there.




    Tyson, K. (2017) 1.1.2017 Between and endless wait and and infinite sleep, mixed media on watercolour paper 471 x 378cm


    ´1.1.2017 Between and endless wait and and infinite sleep´is the final artwork in the show consisting of nine parts, every human event, all of history, all the events that have affected the artist and all of the marks that have been made, can all be surmised as a single dot on the huge scale of the image. As only one of a trillion galaxies. The entire image was painted with a toothbrush to get the impression of billions of stars.



    Details of Tyson, K. (2017) 1.1.2017 Between and endless wait and and infinite sleep, mixed media on watercolour paper 471 x 378cm.


    The actual work exceeds the domains of landscape, as it cuts its ties with the land and rises to the realm of the cosmos and is therefore more in the realm of the philosophical. Therefore this artwork can be said to contextualise the contemporaneity of the artists response to realtime, as the artwork itself is dated only 27 days prior to the opening of the show and brings the exhibition very much into the recent past, on the cusp of the moment, and certainly in the domain of the contemporary.




    I appreciate the inclusion of the artist in the depiction of himself in his artworks. In the above photographs he exhibits a sculpture imbeded with meteorites, and himself depicted taking a selfie within the reflection in one of his studio drawings.



    I find it incredible that the artist was able to create the final work in the show, have it framed and include it into the catalogue of the show, when produced merely days prior to the opening of the exhibition! An impressive feat of organisation, that demonstrates the organised and fundamentally scientific mind of the artist and the importance of concept to the creation of his artworks and their integral inclusion in the concept and final layout of exhibition. It can be concluded that Keith Tyson´s paintings to date may be described as the ultimate expression of the contemporary, and the artist himself as a diverse and multitalented artist.



    Jerwood Gallery
    Rock-a-Nore Road
    Hastings Old Town
    East Sussex
    TN34 3DW
    Tel: + 44 (0)1424 728377


    Tuesday - Sunday, 11am - 5pm
    Bank Holiday Mondays, 11am - 5pm
    (Last admission is at 4.30pm)