The methods, applied in creating NEW WORK, enact two distinct logics of encrypting, mastered by Powell-Williams and Yeomans – in a spiritual proximity to one another, enabled by their long-term friendship. The first logic, developed by Powell-Williams, recognises meanings in echoes and repetitions. It enables the artist to identify recurring symbols in the familiar systems of codes, move them around in a meditative pace and juxtapose them anew – gently yet firmly reprogramming the original narratives they belong to. Approaching art practice primarily from a philosophical angle, the artist is interested in confronting the history of our attempts to navigate the absurdity of the world with the help of mysticism and myth-making: in the past, as much as in the present. It is the humankind's disharmony with the Universe – the recurring conflicts and contradictions; the reproduction of comforting yet fake dualities (such as order/chaos, meaning/nonsense, control and power) – that Powell-Williams interrogates and makes visible through her work. The second logic – advanced by Yeomans – manifests itself in a vivid language of undercover persuasion. It operates as the multiplicity of hidden invocation threads – alike those found in advertisement, political campaigns and sport. The agency of invocations here relies on the particular grouping of symbols, images and words that affect human-beings on extra-conscious levels. While these can be effectively used for a “good” or “evil” cause, as enactments of white or black magic – they appear as neutral in principle: it is therefore up to the one who authors to decide how to “charge” them. This essentially dualistic nature of invocations is critical to Yeomans, who himself chooses to approach magic as a good positive force – that is capable of “rewriting” the world into a happier place.
Once the crypto-logics utilised by Powell-Williams and Yeomans are applied simultaneously, the unprecedented system of meanings comes into being. The outcome of this amalgamation, NEW WORK operates as a magical offering that enacts the new readings of ancient all-too-familiar symbols, conducted by Yeomans and Powell-Williams. Through exercising these readings the artists tackled the symbolism, mythologies and specific world-views, encrypted in a deck of Tarot cards.
The works by Candida Powell-Williams, collected together in this context, focus on the relationship between sharing knowledge and secrecy. Her own twenty-two major arcana Tarot cards, once created through a live performance, now recur in an animation. In their reappearance, the symbols in the animation start to act as both a memory and a catalyst. The symbols repeat and are rearticulated back into sculptural form where they shift in size and material: some are enlarged to human scale and appear like disneyfied relics or ruins; others are shrunken down and embroidered or painted onto clay. Fabricated in sweet gradients of yellow, pinks and greens, they play with a positive and negative landscape. The landscape itself – even though it mimics the digitally pixilated – is rendered into real space and time. The objects created by Powell-Williams oscillate between conduits for practicing meditative rituals (such as a clay bell idol or prayer cushion) and ciphers (such as the floral wreath). By mimicking historical cryptography the artist shares her interest in the development of ciphers in the West which coincided with popularisation of the printing press: so that sharing information, paradoxically, became more open and more secret at the same time. This coupled with the esoteric sculptural lexicon offer a collision of power and mysticism.
In Jupiter Upside Down, Thomas Yeomans takes a symbol of the planet Jupiter, recreates it as a CGI and turns it upside down – both allegorically and literally. Jupiter acts a Roman equivalent of Zeus, the ancient Greek god – so that by turning it upside down Yeomans changes its original capacities and powers. The rocky mountains on the background recall the backdrop of ‘The Tower’ tarot card, in which drastic upheaval and change are represented by people falling from a tower over perilous terrain. By bringing the two narrations together in his artwork, Yeomans constructs a new space on the overlap of the two systems of belief, with its unpresented logic and laws of being. Following the same principle, his Medullary Rays presents a symbol of ‘the tree of life” – or Earth Mother – against a backdrop of a barren desert. The desert is lifted from the Tarot card ‘The Three of Wands', which features a young man about to embark on a long journey of discovery across an expanse. Finally, his Leviathan takes the Hebrew letters found on the points of an inverted pentagram that symbolises Baphomet and is used as a logo for Satanism. The letters spell 'Leviathan', a beast of the sea. Brought together as a sigel over a body of water, the letters are illuminated and made translucent according to instructions in a tutorial for how to imitate crystals found in Minecraft. As the juxtaposition of disconnected systems of coding takes place, the initial meanings dissolve – so that the familiar symbols start to act as empty vessels, waiting to be loaded with new invocations and sense: by the authors, who are yet to come.
[ text: Sasha Burkhanova-Khabadze, 2018 ]
Candida Powell-Williams graduated from the Royal College of Art, London in 2011 and the Slade School of Fine Art London in 2009. Her sculptural and performance works are a response to researching the slippage that occurs between primary and secondary source material, exploring the consequences of retelling history and how we construct identity through objects and memory. She is currently Artist in Residence at The Warburg Institute London. Selected exhibitions include: Lessness, still quorum, performance, Serpentine Galleries, London (2018); Boredom and its Acid Touch, Frieze Live, London (2017); Tongue Town, Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo (2017); Cache, Art Night Associate Programme, London (2017); Vernacular History of the Golden Rhubarb, Bosse and Baum Gallery, London (2017); PIC performance festival, Melbourne, Australia (2016); Coade’s Elixir-an occupation, Hayward Gallery, London (2014). In 2013 Powell-Williams was awarded the Sainsbury Scholarship at the British School at Rome.
Thomas Yeomans is a London-based artist working in video and CGI animation. Since graduating the RCA in 2012 he has exhibited extensively across the UK and Europe with recent exhibitions including:Intel Inside, Centre for Investigative Journalism, Goldsmiths University, London (2018);Coronation, Horse and Pony Fine Arts, Berlin (2017); This is about you, Project Native Informant, London (2017); Artists' Moving Image Screening, Exeter Contemporary Open, Exeter Phoenix, Exeter (2016); Art Herning, Galleri KANT, Herning (2015); 30 years of the future, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2014). His research looks at online communities and the way in which visual culture is produced, consumed and shared. Recent research has drawn a focus on the co-opting and appropriation of occultism amongst extreme right wing groups and looking into how a defiantly queer and leftist retaliation can be put forward.