David Cotterrell
Kathleen Herbert   A Study of Shadows
Kathleen Herbert, Blueprints for a Caesium 137 Landscape II, 2019

Kathleen Herbert  Blueprints for a Caesium 137 Landscape II   2019  giclée print on Bamboo Hahnemuhle paper, pins and undeveloped cyanotype on watercolour paper  52cm x 100cm  

Private view: Friday 17 January  6 - 9pm
18 January - 15 February 2020

For Kathleen Herbert’s third solo show at the gallery, the artist presents a series of photograms, A Study of Shadows, and a film work, Everything is Fleeing to its Presence. Herbert uses the mediums of film, photography and sound to explore the hidden narratives that can be uncovered within colour and through material and process.

Using the early photographic process of cyanotype, Herbert’s A Study of Shadows series is a continuation of her interest in visibility and light through the colour Prussian Blue and the relationship between science and colour theory. In Goethe’s Theory of Colours he describes blue as ‘darkness made visible.’ Prussian Blue has a unique chemical structure and was originally created through the cyanotype process. It was the colour used to measure the blueness of the sky and was also used in the UK during the Chernobyl disaster as an antidote to radiation poisoning, preventing Caesium 137 from entering the food chain. Prussian Blue also has the ability to heal itself; if the intensity of its colour is lost through light-induced fading, it can be recovered by being placed in the dark.

Newton first discovered the colour spectrum by placing a prism in a beam of light. The white light hit the prism and split into multiple colours. He then discovered that placing a prism upside down in front of the first beam condensed the colours into a white light. For A Study of Shadows, Herbert coats watercolour paper in a light-sensitive solution. She then places prisms in varying compositions onto the paper before exposing it to UV light. The image is then fixed by placing the paper in water. The process is invisible and somewhat beyond control; Herbert works without ever quite knowing how the image will emerge. The resulting images appear to float to the surface from the depths of the colour, revealing the areas where the light has been impeded by the prisms; the shadows.

Everything is Fleeing to its Presence is a binaural sound and video installation exploring visibility through the socio-political narratives of the colour Prussian Blue. The piece has developed from a residency Herbert conducted at The Beaney House Of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury in 2017 and was exhibited at the New York Public Library in October 2018 as part of Anna Atkins Refracted: Contemporary Works.

Part poem, part documentary, part autobiography, the narration of Everything is Fleeing to its Presence, developed through Herbert’s research, explores the biological and cultural histories of this pigment through metaphors of visibility and light. In this narrative, Herbert recognises private colour perception as well as more public scientific observations of Prussian Blue and its properties. Intertwined with interviews with a chemist and the artist’s response to handling what is now regarded as the first photographic book, Cyanotype Impressions (1843), the film is a more personal narrative of loss. The visuals of the film are a set of photograms on slides. Using the cyanotype process and exposing the paper for varying durations, the photograms are a series of empty tonal voids of Prussian Blue which appear and disappear whilst the narration unfolds.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an essay by Dr. Mike Ware, Honorary Fellow in Chemistry at The University of Manchester.

Kathleen Herbert lives and works in Kent. She has received several major awards from Arts Council England and the British Council. In 2005 she was nominated for the Beck’s Futures Award. Recently Herbert’s proposals A History of The Receding Horizon and Their Land Is Our Country were selected for the Artangel Open Longlist and Artangel Open 100.

Herbert has completed several major commissions from Southbank Centre, London, Royal Opera House, London and Firstsite, Colchester. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally, including: Fotografskia, Stockholm, (2017); Art in Motion, Messeums Wiltshire, UK (2017); A Light Shines in the Darkness, Film and Video Umbrella Tour, UK (2014-2015); Stable, Museum of Biblical Art, New York (2014); Force of Nature: Picturing Ruskin’s Landscape, Millennium Museum, Sheffield, (2013); Triumph of the Will, Camberwell Space, Camberwell College of Arts, London (2013); Garden of Reason, National Trust, Ham House, London (2013); Restless Times, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Norwich (2012); Firstsite, Colchester (2012); VOLTA NY, New York, (2010); Vita, Kuben, Umea, Sweden (2009); Hå gamle prestegard, Norway (2009); Sint Lukas Gallery, Brussels (2008); Auckland Triennial, Auckland (2004); Out of Site, Arnolfini, Bristol (2004), Time & Again, Crawford Gallery, Cork (2003); The Heimlich/Unheimlich, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne (2002); SCAPE, Art & Industry Bienniale, Christchurch (2002); BOP, Gallery Caldeira 213, Porto (2001); The Silk Purse Procedure, Arnolfini & Spike Island, Bristol (2001).

Herbert’s practice has also been featured in various publications including Artforum International, where Zack Hatfield, reviewing Anna Atkins Refracted: Contemporary Works, described Everything is Fleeing to its Presence as ‘mesmerising’ and ‘majestic’. Herbert has also been featured in Wall Street International; Time Out; The Sunday Times Culture Magazine; a-n magazine; Art Monthly; The Guardian Guide and recently ‘Installation as Encounter: Ernesto Neto, Do Ho Suh and Kathleen Herbert Considered’, in Contemplations of the Spiritual in Contemporary Art, edited by Rina Arya.