Against all lockdown odds, the three-dimensional, kinetic installations of Jess Hume (BA HonsSculpture ) translate brilliantly into the digital format of the 2020 Graduate Show.
Colours ranging from bold to pastel and fluorescent burst out of the website. Opacity, translucency and layering are blended with silhouettes and shadows. Materials from neon acrylic to tulle and tissue paper are sensually combined, with the frisson of their touching points glorified in close-up photographs. A range of form from ‘stellated’ geometry to nebulous curvaceousness is explored. Single works and assembled elements are seen hanging from the ceiling – to be viewed from varying heights from below to above – installed on walls or placed on the floor. 3D scale can be deceptive in 2D images, but monumentality as well as intimacy is apparent. Work is shown in natural light or illuminated in darkness by coloured light. In one experiment, light is refracted into a rainbow when reflected off neon acrylic.
The accompanying two-minute long film shows the relaxed pace of the motors which rotate suspended elements. This adds movement and grace and allows shadows and reflections to play with each other. In a remarkable feat of analogue made digital, tier upon tier of sensory experience can be felt whilst scrolling through images on a screen.
Hume’s intentions are ambitious and generous. She states that she is ‘fascinated with marrying geometric forms with our perceptions of space and the cosmos.’ She tries to include ‘a childlike element of wonder’ and hopes her audience will ‘enjoy the simplicity of the visual stimuli…allowing our imagination to drift’. An interest in ways of seeing perceived, as opposed to real, matter makes her as interested in how people respond to her work as in the instinctive way in which she makes it. She endeavours to provide a visual highway to childhood memory, such as marvelling at glow-in-the-dark stickers. At the same time, she invites us to engage in a mature contemplation of the universe.
Before COVID-19 struck, Hume had been planning ‘a large scale vividly coloured spatial kinetic sculpture, made of separate spinning “stars” suspended individually from the ceiling with clear fishing line and slow spinning motors so that the piece is constantly changing. Depending on where and when you stand in the space, you would see a different constellation configuration.’ The fact that her sculptural work is so effective in this on-line showcase demonstrates how well it exists at the interface of digital and analogue. In the post-lockdown art world this may increasingly be the nature – and requirement – of much fine art.
In the meantime, Hume has won a Royal Scottish Academy New Contemporaries award. Hopefully this will provide the opportunity to realise her physical plans in their exhibition next Spring. She describes her practice as a ’vibrant, tangible evolving organic body of work of “celestial detritus”’. I for one cannot wait to experience it in terrestrial reality.
Alice Strang is an award-winning art historian and curator of modern and contemporary art (https://alicestrang.co.uk/).