29 January – 12 March 2016
White Cube Hong Kong presented an exhibition of new work by Darren Almond. This was Almond’s first exhibition in Hong Kong and included two new series of paintings and new sculpture.
From Almond’s very first live-broadcast work in 1996 titled A Real Time Piece, to later video and photographic works, an understanding of ‘time and being’ has been at the core of his practice. This exhibition continued this interest and addressed what it meant to exist in both real and fictional realms of temporality.
In the ground floor gallery, three ‘flip clock’ sculptures and a series of multi-panel mirror pieces reminded us that the language of numbers both underscores and unifies our everyday lives, from financial institutions to the positioning of planets and stars. Almond identifies time, existing in both analogue and digital realms, as an enforced structure that crosses all cultures and inhabits all languages. These clock sculptures, whose mechanisms are syncopated to digital time, display numbers that have been laterally bisected. This abstraction of the ten numbers, serves not only to highlight their origin in the Arabian decimal system, but also generates a new algorithm for reading time. The works attest to the fundamental paradox that time is both constant and variable; it is abstract yet a vital component within the makeup of our psychology. Alongside these, in the multi-panel works the numbers are also bisected but static. Each work is configured within the structure of the grid, whose primary function is as the gateway to the abstract, while the mirror element serves to reflect present time, yet shows a moment past.
New paintings of nocturnal landscapes were premiered in the first floor gallery. During a full-moon photographic shoot in Patagonia in 2013, Almond was captivated by the colour and movement in the night sky. Having already charted the positions of stars in drawings made over a decade earlier, he turned his attention to the dark sky paradox of space itself. Addressing the colours of the void space, Almond interprets Heidegger’s notion of the three dimensions of the universe – the past, present and future. The differing wavelengths of colour gradually reveal themselves the longer they are contemplated, emerging out of a darkened spectrum. These deep dark voids of apparent blacks are in fact built-up through many layers of prime colours. Washes of indigo, yellow and temperate red coagulate on the surface of the panels, creating non-homogeneous textures and shapes that radiate and absorb the speckles and constellations of stars, nebulas, auroras and galaxies that emerge from the surface. These paintings are both an inversion and an extension of Almond’s ‘Fullmoon’ photographic series, in that they are imagined ‘timescapes’ from beyond the moon, whilst simultaneously located within the shadow of the sun.
Almond’s mirror pieces, clock sculptures and nocturnal landscapes employ patterns that are in harmony with our circadian clock, recalling how physical and mental experience is effected by illumination and the presence of numbers. The structures in operation in the works exhibited in the ground floor gallery are what forge the relationships in the paintings that were on show in the first floor gallery. Both the sky and numerical systems are not tangible, but are ‘phantasmic’ enigmas that we cannot exist without.