The Seven Lamps
The Seven Lamps
Iavor Lubomirov, Jason Hicklin, Michael Stubbs, Juliette Losq, Bella Easton, Grant Watson, Dolly Thompsett
Sacrifice or Art for Art’s sake| Truth or Faithfulness to materials | Power or Scale versus detail | Beauty or Nature as the ultimate standard | Life or The presence of the hand, or mind of the artist | Memory or Built to last | Obedience or Originality as a form of mastery
“...[I] have suffered too much from the destruction or neglect of the architecture I best loved, and from the erection of that which I cannot love, to reason cautiously respecting the modesty of my opposition to the principles which have induced the scorn of the one, or directed the design of the other.”— John Ruskin, from the introduction to ‘The Seven Lamps of Architecture’.
In the very middle of the nineteenth century, when the industrial revolution was just beginning its fast march away from artisanal production and the secular sciences their erosion of religious moral sensibilities, John Ruskin compiled seven earnest memoranda of guiding principles for the very survival of future architecture. The principles were intended to be general and fundamental to all form of human creativity, with architecture urged as the one discipline that is capable of leading and indeed saving all the visual arts, including painting and sculpture. Yet in this deeply impassioned, conservative exhortation, it is just possible to discern a desire for the new and unknown, hidden deep in its breast. This desire is couched in a fearful plea that the new should respect the old, should grow from it and preserve the hard-won knowledge and skills of craftsmanship. Thus, Ruskin is distrustful of new materials and manufacturing methods and takes pains to point out man’s inability to conceive any but the shallowest forms without reference to nature. Yet he also talks in often quite modernist terms of the wild and crude beauty of art forms in their raw beginnings, however choosing all his examples from the safety of antiquity and with the caveat of a later perfection achieved in the style.
It is now more than one hundred and fifty years since the publication of Ruskin’s ‘The Seven Lamps of Architecture’. A century and a half may be the proper time, by Ruskin’s scale, to take stock, in the light of his lamps, of the way the rude beginnings of modern art too have come along. Is there any sign of achieving some over-arching perfection, which, while alien to the detail of his writing, may be true to some of his spirit? And conversely, was Ruskin indeed right to consider his principles the ‘constant, general, and irrefragable laws of right, which based upon man’s nature, not upon his knowledge, may possess so far the unchangeableness of the one, as that neither the increase nor imperfection of the other may be able to assault or invalidate them’?
This exhibition uses the works of seven contemporary artists, under the heading of the seven ‘lamps’, to examine inevitable gulfs, as well as often surprisingly deep sympathies with Ruskin’s concerns. And although any such sympathies may be one-sided, we too, like Ruskin, may take comfort in his own now silent antiquity to impose our enlightened understanding on him. Hence we have also allowed ourselves to paraphrase the abstract definition which we feel to be underlying the motivation of each lamp.
Curated by Bella Easton and Iavor Lubomirov. Text by Iavor Lubomirov.
Preview: Friday 15 June, 6-9.30pm
16 June - 12 August 2012
Friday and Saturday, 12-6pm
Enclave Unit 8, Resolution Way,