Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Some more Michael Jackson

Jackson, #444, 2016

A year ago we introduced you to a fellow to watch named Michael Jackson.  We told you he was out in the UK's west country doing interesting things, photographing ripples in the sand, building paper constructions of mysterious hulking islands, and best of all, playing with light and shadow in the quiet of his darkroom.  He is a prolific artist, we even had trouble trying to calculate how many pieces he'd created - something like one per day was our best, not terribly well-informed, guess, a testimony to both the confidence he has gotten in his system of production and to his obstinate, unflagging energy and creativeness.  At anything near that rate a new Jackson show was a surefire necessity.  Earlier this summer London's MMX Gallery rose to the challenge and exhibited a batch of recent work.  It was a good moment to catch up with him to see how he's doing.

We're talking of course about that part of his output which he terms luminograms, as if to emphasize the primordial role of light in their making (another might call them photograms or skiagrams for similar reasons but let's not get into that discussion) and to distinguish them from the rest of his photographic corpus, which uses light as well, just not primordially.  A slip of theory underlies it: the idea that light, by bending and twisting and refracting, can so to speak show itself, that it can reveal to us something hidden about itself, its inner nature.  So there is a definite quest for knowledge, a search that will have no end because on this earth it seems we can never learn enough; and its waypoints must be intuited, as the knowledge to be found is more likely spiritual than scientific.   

This is very like Mike, his inquisitive frame of mind turning to awe in the face of natural phenomena: he is at home with the big questions and the small to the point of reverence - or innocence.  So that the record of his search becomes the work of art itself, the very pieces we have before us, at once both as documentation and object.  In this examination of his materials - light - Mike can be said to strike at the extreme end of modernism, along with painters like Jasper Johns, Robert Ryman, or Barnet Newman, each with their own quite disparate material obsessions in their day, or of photographers such as the under-recognized Jack Sal.  We can perhaps be grateful, however, in 2016, that his work is less austere than those, and far more sensuous, because the times have changed.  Here are some pieces from the MMX show.  There were 21 in all, each unique, 12 x 16 in. unframed, each of an uncanny beauty.

Jackson, #396, 2016
Jackson, #447, 2016

Jackson, #485 (Valley Landscape), 2016

Jackson, #524, 2016

In the year 1225, Robert Grosseteste wrote a treatise at Oxford in which he said that light extends matter by spreading itself infinitely in every direction and so forms material bodies.  It projects, it induces, it calls into being, it envelopes and continues on.  Mike understands this.  'In a certain sense,' Grosseteste wrote, 'each thing contains all other things.'  Mike gets that too.  He would have been a star pupil.

Jackson toying with light and shadow

Jackson in his studio

installation view at MMX Gallery

The discoveries he makes are not those of the great modern Swiss artists of the photogram, Humbert, Mächler and others, whose results were astounding and simple, astounding in fact because they were so simple.  Rather, he moves from the real world (but what is real about shadows?) to the fantastic and then back again, confusing the two, confounding us in the process and dragging a great deal of references with him, and much of his charm is that his path never fails to astonish.  Jackson is a magician.  Light beckons and he follows wherever it may lead.  'There are senses of reality [in my work],' says Jackson, 'but the rest is so fantastical that it could never be.'

For more information on his motives and methods, check out this video on YouTube produced by the gallery.  I'd like to say 'illuminating' but we're pun-free at the blog.

His website is www.mgjackson.co.uk