This body of work by Nerina Lascelles positions viewers before churning seas, forbidding ravines and treacherous slopes. Elemental forces are in flux, and within this unstable environment expeditions into thick and formidably layered interiors can begin.
Inspired by the visually arresting Shanshui painting (Sansuiga in Japanese) that originated in 5th century China – paintings synonymous with mist-covered mountains and rivers fed by waterfalls – Lascelles has enacted an epic cycle of Sisyphean expanses that propel us seamlessly into corresponding landscapes of the mind.
Shanshui painting soon effected a kindred movement in poetry, in which poems were composed to be read with a specific painting in mind, while others were intended to evoke a particular image in the mind’s eye. Echoing this tradition, Lascelles has selected a Zen poem, a haiku or a poem’s title for each painting, so viewers can turn the shards of poetry over in their mind as they explore the alluring typography and the play of light and shade.
While the completion of this cycle has enabled transformations in the artist herself, from discomfort, hardship and loss to beauty, wisdom and clarity, as objects for pure meditation they have a quietning effect on the mind, dissolving notoriously fraught relationships with mundane external affairs, and in so doing opening into a psychologically purer space resembling Heidegger’s translation of the Japanese principle of iki , which he renders as ‘the pure delight of the beckoning stillness’ or as ‘the breath of the stillness of luminous delight’.
So as the many mountainous forms embody strength, timelessness and certainty, the areas of spacious light lure viewers into mystical beyonds, where form ultimately gives way to a nurturing formlessness, and where objects, emotions and thoughts are replaced by a yearning for something essential, for an essence, for a luminous presence at our core.
Like Shanshui painting and poetry, Lascelles invites viewers to embark upon journeys of contemplation encompassing birth, life, death, abundance, loss, and longing, and to pursue their innumerable corresponding journeys into poetry and art.