The Last Afternoon Tea

Mesh : pixels and shadows

Where’s the matter? When is the shadow? Why is a raven like a writing desk? The Last Afternoon Tea represents an event horizon at which both subjects and objects are absolutely pixilated, time is warped, space wefted, matter degenerates and dissolves into a web of shadows, and the decorous institution of afternoon tea is nonsensically disrupted as the world disintegrates into a mesh of holes, a fabric of deceit. The scientific paradigm is exposed as yet another subterfuge; and the nubile paragon of ‘the object’ is transfigured, it materialises, crumples, battered and worn, audaciously daring to sag and wrinkle, as pixels distort. Alice, as always, is consumed by curiosity, but just for now, Albert E. has only one answer to the riddle, and it may not be the right one.

How to grasp pixels? How to mould the digitally wasted image? How to recall and reanimate the debilitated object, purged of all imperfections, eccentricities, foibles? And how to do all this while acknowledging the legitimacy and authoritative presence of the digitised, pixilated world? Annealed and malleable metal mesh, like clay under the hand (but with gloves to protect against sharp ends of wire) invites a collaborative enterprise, asks to be bent and buckled and folded and pleated and squeezed and stretched and crushed into shapes — the shapes of objects, of objects on a table setting — objects so often rendered bland and lifeless in their virtual re-representation. And metal mesh — its warp and weft creating rows and rows of squares (or pixels) — weaves a world in emulation of the virtual with its mathematical precision, its logical configuration as an archetypical grid, its ordered representation of the binary, digitised world. So uncanny in its seamlessness, and, when malleable, almost as compliant as the swirl function in Photoshop, it is easily sabotaged.

Today, objects are regularly ‘cooled’ as they are rendered virtual through digitisation; and when the digital is materialised by way of the controlled mathematical precision of CAD/CAM, this neutrality is exacerbated. Provoked by the fragmented, yet paradoxically apparently smooth and seamless serenity of the digital world, mesh invites the repossession of form and matter as an agency for a poetic material manifestation of digitised objects, where the warp and weft delineate potentially addressable points — an heterodoxically ironic departure from binary order, approached through a hands-on rendering, replete with expressive foibles and ‘faults’, of a series of generations of objects which evolve from the nearly-nubile paragon to something more experienced and idiosyncratic.

While permitting these tactical manoeuvres, mesh evokes aspects of the domestic world — the domain of the Still Life. In its usual role in this country, as insect screen, it simultaneously lets ‘nature’ in and keeps ‘nature’ out — allowing the passage of ‘fresh’ air while denying access to flies, mosquitos, moths, and other undesirables.

Mesh is both there and not there. The warp and weft of the wire is not only palpable, it also evokes digitised wire frame design drawings of potential objects, as well as those renderings of visually alluring but bafflingly inconceivable astronomical space-time dimensions.

To add to the complexity, there are the magical effects of moire created when one layer of mesh crosses another, or intersects with its shadow — an effect which changes with even a sight movement of the viewer’s head as reality swims in an illusion of shadows and digits — leaving both view and viewer utterly pixilated.

Click on an image to view an enlarged version, or click on the first image to view the series as a slide show.