Great Wall / Black Hole
Shown at Iain Irving Projects. Greenwards, by Hatton, Aberdeenshire, August 1997.
Great Wall/ Black Hole was an installation that depicted the Great Wall of China as a 1:500 line drawing and a Black Hole (Earth) as a 1:1 painting. The drawing of the wall is virtually impossible to create at any scale yet the hole is easy and yet could contain all of the matter, every single particle of our earth and us.
..the Esk road slips seamlessly into the North Esk road toward Aberdeen. It’s late morning and grey cloud cover in from the west is still in the sky. Pale shafts of light cut a path down to the tussled sea as one would lay out a hand of cards. The meniscus of the horizon is taut in the distance, a deep-curved thick band of payne’s grey. A seagull dips over the coastline and through the columns of light – shimmers on and off over the face of rock searching for food… a half mile from Gourdoun. The tide is in.
I’m looking at a work of Eva Rothschild’s on the private view card that tells me about the exhibition ‘Great Wall/ Black Hole’ – these words are sprayed over a ubiquitous image of a blue and white wave crashing onto the shallow gradient of a beach. In the other Polaroid that makes up the diptych, at an angle to the picture plane and continuing the perspective of this wave is the statement, “nothing behind me exists”. Gustave Courbet’s painting Le bord de la mer a Palavas immediately comes to mind, as does an image of James Stewart and Kim Novak embracing in front of a turbulent sea in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. In Courbet’s painting he depicts himself standing on a rock looking out over a dark sweep of water towards the horizon. He gestures with his left arm, and exclaims into space. I see him motionless, at a distance, a silhouette with his back to me, a dark angel in a realm of light: an artist painting an image of himself facing out to sea – just as he, while he was working on the painting, would have had his back to the rest of the world. As with the act of making love, so too with making art: beyond the immediate focus of one’s attention, nothing else (behind me) exists.
Rothschild’s diptych is a renegotiation of a known image – the sea, horizon, waves – a renegotiation which induces a subtle moment of destabilisation that resides in the act of recognising it as something other than just another (private view) card informing the viewer as to when an exhibition begins and ends. (The diptych is not in the exhibition proper, but for many, it is all they will see of Rothschild’s show at lain Irving Projects. The printed matter which he and the artist send out is, particularly in view of Irving’s location, crucial to our perception of the exhibition.)
In the gallery itself are two drawings, Great Wall and Black Hole, schematic representations of the Great Wall of China and planet earth were it to fold in on itself. Scale, the means by which the world is determined and measured, is something to be uncertain of in here, a thing which is cold and vertinginous. Earth, the Black Hole on the wall of the gallery is only eighteen millimetres in diameter, while the ink lines of Great Wall- the only manmade structure visible from space – cover a significantly larger area, like an unearthly musical stave.
The light emanating into the world from Courbet’s painting illuminates the melancholy and horror I know to occur here. It also illuminates a much wider contemporary struggle, between a desire for solitude and consolidation on the one hand and the need for society, discussion and cooperation on the other. These two drawings by Rothschild similarly invite us to rethink our position in the space of our world and to rethink our (the) point of view: “nothing behind me exists”.
The Great Wall drawing stretches over two white walls of the gallery space mimicking the thick band of Payne’s grey on the real horizon outside behind Gourdoun.
Kevin Henderson, text from AN, ‘Soundings, Eva Rothschild, Great Wall/Black Hole’, page 25, November 1997.