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Vong Phaophanit & Claire Oboussier Dominic Head Noe Baba Elisha Enfield Michelle Gorman Max Fletcher Raj Shah Charlie Tomlinson William Phong Ly Justus Cox Theodora Sutton Claire Lamy Rebecca Kunzi Lianne Chan Chung Ching Wong CURATED BY

Edwin Coomasaru Dominic Head Phoebe Darling-Senner Isabella Smith Daisy O'Sullivan


This autumn, the University of Sussex celebrates fifty years since it was established. To commemorate the event the Arts Society has curated The Contemporary Eye. It is a show that represents contemporary art produced by different generations of artists local to Sussex. It features painting, film and sculpture by sixteen artists. At the centre of the exhibition is 'All that's solid melts into air (Karl Marx)' (2006, Tate Collection): a film by Vong Phaophanit with text by Claire Oboussier. Claire graduated from Sussex in 1985. Their piece is filmed in Laos, South East Asia. It captures the landscapes, architecture and figures with a poetic gaze. 'All that's solid melts into air (Karl Marx)' explores a theme that is central to the exhibition: the eye. The opening of the film observes a team of camera men moving and assembling the cinematic lens. The narration scripted by Oboussier investigates the very nature of perception. A distinction is made between ‘to see’ and ‘to look’. The narrator comments, ‘when we look we have already decided what it is that we will see’. Looking involves imposing a vision. Oboussier asserts ‘to see Lao I must suspend all that I know of it’. The Contemporary Eye explores the act of perception. The artworks delve into blurred boundaries between realism and abstraction. They investigate notions of heritage and national identity, gender and sexuality, voyeurism and sight as a political act. Certain pieces delve into surreality and dreams, manipulating the distinction between the concrete and the cerebral. The Contemporary Eye presents a vision for our times. Edwin Coomasaru October 2011

We would like to thank Matt Knight, The Creativity Zone Manager. We greatly appreciate the work of assistant curators Daisy O’Sullivan, Susanna Cordner, Joe Eyles, Tom Hedger and Samuel Taylor. We would also like to thank all of the artists involved, particularly Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier. Their support and advice has been invaluable.

Exhibition Artworks Vong Phaophanit & Claire Oboussier Vong Phaophanit has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally and is perhaps best known for his large scale installations which incorporate a wide range of materials including ash, silk, rice, rubber and very often light. He has experimented with the use of neon for the past 20 years and has used it widely in his work. At the moment he is harnessing the use of LED light technology for his latest work. Phaophanit frequently collaborates with architects on projects of innovation. In 1993 he was shortlisted for the Turner prize and in 1994 he was awarded the DAAD fellowship in Berlin and subsequently lived and worked there for a year. Phaophanit has been a regular visiting lecturer at Chelsea College of Art, Wimbledon School of Art and The University of East London. He is less known for his drawings although this is a fundamental part of his practise and he was recently senior fellow in drawing at Wimbledon School of art. In 2006, along with a group of ten other internationally renowned artists, he participated in a pioneering community based art project ‘The Quiet in the Land’ in Laos, South East Asia for which he made the film ‘All that’s solid melts into air (Karl Marx)’. This work, along with an earlier installation ‘What falls to the ground but can’t be eaten’ are now part of the Tate Gallery permanent collection UK. Phaophanit’s most recent exhibitions were at Shanghai Biennale 2004, Void Gallery in Derry in 2005 and Berlin (‘The Tropics’) in 2008. Phaophanit has collaborated with artist/writer Claire Oboussier for over 20 years. They have worked on numerous projects together and produced a book – ‘Atopia’ during a year spent working in Berlin. In her own practise Oboussier uses a range of media: often the written/spoken word, film, sound and sculptural elements. Her doctoral thesis explored the intersection of the visual and verbal realms. She is currently working experimentally with digital images and sound of Wandsworth Prison for a multi-­‐screen installation entitled ‘Doing Time’ She has also written extensively on, and in parallel with, Phaophanit’s work and collaborated with him on the film ‘All that’s solid melts into air (Karl Marx)’ for which she wrote the text. Max Barnes 2011

‘All that's solid melts into air (Karl Marx)’ 2006 Video: 33min Tate Permanent Collection

Dominic Head Our dreams are built on a viscous ensemble of regurgitated experiences from our day-­‐to-­‐day lives. Without a sense of logic, time becomes somehow static and lost. The figure must undergo metamorphoses in order to survive in this surreal landscape. But is this merely a depiction of our dreams, or a reflection of something far more real? The contemporary eye is a cynical eye veiled behind pretentions of rationality. Using the aesthetic of dreams, I develop highly intense spaces that become at once a mirror and a manipulation of reality. Through painting I visualise irrational thoughts through a kind of sculpting of the medium. I sculpt a figure into a fluid landscape that appears to consume his anatomy as would be recognised in a poem by the Roman poet Ovid. Projection, on the other hand, is a far more visceral experience. The image and the sound work as a symphony that moves us both internally and externally. We are taken in and out of the dream-­‐like space at the will of the artist, perhaps putting into question the level of control the director has over their sheep-­‐like audience.

Eternity in a series of moments 2011 Video: 5 minutes, 8 seconds

Movida 2011 Oil on canvas 37.5cm x 46 cm

Noe Baba My subjects include made-­‐up characters inspired by ancient dolls and contemporary animation from my Japanese heritage. I am interested in how one can create a face with human expression in just a few marks, and how through recognising it, we can be reminded of ourselves. I paint intuitively, from my subconscious and my imagination. The paintings happen in layers, which make up a space that the characters, and the viewer in turn, can inhabit. Through invention, colour, mark-­‐making and the treatment of surface, I want to create tension between joyously celebrating paint and expressing a sad and childlike feeling of vulnerability that we can possess as adults.

Ao 2011 Oil and spray paint on canvas 210 cm x 240 cm

Shinpai 2011 Oil on canvas 180 cm x 180 cm


2011 Oil and spray paint on canvas 170 cm x 170 cm

Untitled 2011 Oil and spray paint on canvas 180 cm x 180 cm

Elisha Enfield As a painter I have always felt that I am searching for something. This hunt has taken me through derelict allotments, shabby Hong Kong supermarkets and other sites even more desolate, almost post-­‐ apocalyptic. It was the absence of people that struck me most about these spaces – or more to the point, the sense that where once they had been, they were no longer. The idea of the photographic image has haunted me throughout this search. Photographs are absences themselves, by their very nature they are already over, records of events that have ceased to exist. They are also, however, a way of looking outwards and of processing our relationships to others, to ourselves and to death. Our love for likenesses of the world is key to describing it. Perhaps this is why in film I have found a source I can use. Cinema has its own reality. It is a site for the spectacular, our modern equivalent for the powers of telepathy, séances, levitation, all of these reassurances that there is more. I am not religious, but almost like a search for faith I have been seeking these signs of the miraculous. Even more than this, I now wonder if it is the hunt itself that is the premise of my work, the hope that if I wait for long enough and watch closely enough, I will see something. These phenomena, at the edges of vision or understanding, are never fixed or solid. There is only ever the possibility of appearance.


2010 Oil on Board 15 x 20 cm

1:01:19 2010

Oil on canvas 150 x 120 cm

Untitled 2010 Oil on canvas 140 x 110 cm


2011 Oil on canvas 150 x 120 cm

Michelle Gorman My work broadly focuses on the subject of nature and the sublime. I'm fascinated by the world around us; the enormity and beauty of the universe and our tiny and brief part in it. Though my painting often leans towards abstraction, I find a solid base in reality to be key to everything I do. I seek only to allude to nature, my paintings are intended to show that as big or potentially beautiful as I could ever make them, they are nothing compared to what they are referencing.

Cloudscape 2009 Oil on canvas 170 x 170 cm

20 00 Hours (Winter) 2010 Oil on canvas 152.5 cm x 197.5 cm

04 00 Hours (Summer) 2010 Oil on canvas 152.5 cm x 197.5 cm

Max Fletcher My work over the past year has become increasingly concerned with image and constructing an image. The manner in which the shapes and forms interact within the space and construe something has been important. Initially photos, especially of interiors proved key in informing my work. Essentially the photograph was a device to provide the shapes and pictorial elements that would then inform the painting. Of late however I have struggled to make sense of any photo and turned to other strategies in terms of production with collage and themes of auto composition becoming increasingly interesting. As such there is not a sole approach used in the creation, yet there is hopefully some form of consistency in the ideas and themes of the work. The manner in which the image extends beyond the literal shape of the canvas and relates to the surrounding space is important. Richard Aldrich has been an important figure for me of late and his show at Corvi Mora earlier this year put forward a lot to consider. The press release of the exhibition stated that ‘there is no grand statement, no singular concept to present, but rather a constellation of subtle gestures that, over time, space, medium and format, are coexisting and effecting one and other.’ The idea of how the work operates within a body is certainly something that interests me. Equally the manner in which the paintings function in relation the space has been no less important. Indeed, both these mentioned concerns affect each other and the curation can have a critical impact on how the works are viewed.

Untitled 1 2011 Oil on canvas 20.32 cm x 25.4 cm

Untitled 2 2011 Oil on canvas 20.32 cm x 25.4 cm

Untitled 3 2011 Oil on canvas 20.32 cm x 25.4 cm

Untitled 4 2011 Oil on canvas 30.48 cm x 25.4 cm

Raj Shah Though experimentation is a very important element within my own practice, I always strive to keep key principals consistently running throughout my work. Basing a lot of my own thought process of the thought processes of others, I attempt to create an atmosphere that both, is recognisable and instils a sense of empathy to the viewer. I draw inspiration from almost everything I encounter, from every type of art to the mundanities of everyday life and the world around us. However, my biggest source of inspiration without a doubt is people. I feel it is from the interaction of others, that you can truly create a work of art made for people. Whether or not you wish the viewer to enjoy the work is irrelevant, so long as they are able to interpret it in their individual ways. Despite my love of using a variety of materials and experimenting with new and foreign concepts, I am at heart, a painter. Growing up, I was always hugely inspired by the “great masters” of painting for their sheer attention to detail and dedication to the work in hand. It is these aspects that I hope to learn from and encompass within my future works, whilst still capturing a sense of who I am and what I am creating.

Untitled 2011 Oil on canvas 25 x 20 cm

Charlie Tomlinson afterlife? / censorship / confinement / containment / discharge / isolated / impulsive / instinctive / inevitable / freedom / sublimation / life? / spontaneous / sporadic / liberation / inspiration / repression / release / restriction / responsive / uncontrolled / unconscious / unpredictable / death?

NET 2011 Oil and white spirit on canvas 146 x 109 cm

William Phong Ly My practice explores the complexities of the Vietnamese diaspora and migrations to the UK. I use raw materials in my work to explore states of flux, transition and temporary mark making. Escape highlights the forced dispersal of communities following the Vietnam War as well as ideas of displacement. Untitled combines raw video footage to express a memory of a place.

Escape 2010 Terracotta clay, white clay, acrylic paint and rice 400 x 300 cm

Untitled (A place) 2011 Video: 3 minute, 3 seconds

Justus Cox The Meeting was shot entirely at night in central London. The narrative follows the path of two strangers as they head towards one of the most famous landmarks in the city. To a soundscape by the American composer Arthur Russell, the camera tracks both characters; exploring abstract emotionalism within the context of perceived notions of identity.

The Meeting 2011 Video: 9 minutes, 56 seconds

Theodora Sutton

My work is inspired by astronomy and the physics of space. Through the medium of installation, animation and photography I investigate light and the way that it falls onto curved surfaces. Precision and mathematical positioning within a space draw onto the orbits of planets around suns, and suspended spheres become cosmic bodies that hang against the black backdrop of space. My work attempts to combine both a scientific visual style with a beauty that can be found not only in the images we see in astronomy but also the concepts and ideas that they open us up to.

Black Planet 2010 Animation: 16 seconds

Cosmic Contours 2010 Animation: 24 seconds


2011 Glass and LED 30.48cm diameter

Patterns in our Skies in our Eyes 2011 Fishing wire and LED lights 31.75 cm each

Claire Lamy My piece explores the idea of looking as an act of power. By taking a transcript from a pornographic DVD and printing as a piece of framed text, I am investigating and ridiculing the gender power relations. The woman is a figure lacking any agency, a submissive subject to both the male ‘Boss’ and the assumed male viewer. By choosing a workplace scenario I’m addressing the different employment prospects between the sexes. Women are presented as financially irresponsible and frivolously materialistic. The line ‘Did I really have a shot?’ becomes powerfully ironic when read in this context. Do women ever have a chance at equality?

Mr Wood blows his top when he sees the expenses report 2011 Framed printed text on paper 21 × 29.7 cm

Rebecca Kunzi

My work has led me to consider whether I am indeed, maker of the ‘things’ that appear or whether they guide my usefulness as a tool in exacting themselves into being. My research of Heidegger’s philosophies about Being and Art have led me to think that artists have a ‘presupposing knowledge’ of the work – the Being – and that artists are manipulated by these existential Beings into crafting their existence. Aesthetically, the works have often been interpreted within a ‘micro’ or ‘macro’ connotation, but it is my understanding that these organisms actually exist invisible to us; in pouring water and ink onto the surface of the paper they are captured and made visible. A pencil is used to extrapolate the details lost in the violence of seizure.

Curious Protrusion 2011 Ink and pencil on paper 17.2 x 31 cm

Lianne Chan Performing in Blue is a piece that evolves. The process is a performance in of itself. It is a dialogue: from installation to exhibition, to its dismantling. Each sugar paper sheet is left with an imprint. I'm interested in exploring the boundaries in our relationship with materials considered less ‘aesthetical’.

Performing in Blue 2011 Sugar paper and pins 152.4 x 548.64 cm

Chung Ching Wong

My practice is about the perception of life by transforming images with a microscopic observation. I explore both the objective and the subjective mind, and connect with viewers on an interactive level. It is an animation composed of 81 edited images of two original photographs. It explores the boundary between the illusory nature of imagination and the concrete reality of objects. Does the nut really change or is it merely our mind wandering? We come to question our own environment, perception and rationality.

It 2011 Animation: 1 minute, 3 seconds

Edited by Edwin Coomasaru & Phoebe Darling-­‐Senner

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