No Sun without Shadow, is a group show featuring Jonathan Allen, Chitra Ganesh, Kate Gilmore, Fawad Khan, Emily Noelle Lambert, Jean-Pierre Roy, and Kristen Schiele. Combining mythology and philosophy, the artists use the figure in their works of various media – video, drawing, collage, and painting – to illustrate the burden of the artist and the process of art making.
The phrase “no sun without shadow” comes from Albert Camus’s essay, The Myth of Sisyphus. According to Greek mythology, King Sisyphus, as punishment for stealing from the Gods, is banished to spend eternity rolling a boulder up a hill only to see it roll down again. The struggle that Sisyphus endures makes us wonder for what purpose does Man, as individuals and collectively as a society, strive to achieve only to see one’s hard work unwound and start from the beginning? According to Camus, Sisyphus’s punishment is representative of the human condition of struggle. However, Camus also questions if Sisyphus may actually enjoy his eternal task and that his so-called punishment may come as an activity Sisyphus takes pride in doing. The pleasure of the task is intimately paired with the toil of the everyday; one cannot experience sun without also shadow.
As in any creative endeavor, the path an artist chooses may seem akin to Sisyphus’s burden. For what purpose and to what end do artists create? Like Sisyphus, the artist’s talents may seem both a gift and a curse. Camus’ absurd hero toils laboriously, and we question to what end and for what meaning is his work? Is this necessarily a pyrrhic victory? Only when an artist recognizes his absurd task, will he or she be able to come to terms with the pursuit of art. This constant questioning is a battle for all artists and is uniquely executed in the work featured in No Sun Without Shadow.
Jonathan Allen places the figure in an imagined space and forces the viewer to navigate his surreal dreamscapes. The tactility and layers of Allen’s collage paintings reflect the complexity and existential dilemma of the human condition. Alternately poetic and political, celebratory and critical, they reflect a conversation about pop culture, technology, media and what it means to be part of a larger social fabric.
Chitra Ganesh is also influenced by philosophy, mythology, and history. Her predominantly female figures often possess the third eye, a powerful symbol of omniknowledge that appears in Hindu, Taoist, and some early Christian iconographies. Though the dismembered and often distorted bodies in her work may appear to be victims of violence, these figures simultaneously seem to be control of their circumstances. The Cubist reconstruction of the figures couched in an ethereal cosmology flow into the science-fictional landscape, which also emits power and energy.
The struggle of the artist is physically manifested in Kate Gilmore’s videos. In Pot, Kettle, Black, the figure lifts pots of black paint from the floor to the shelves, paint spills from the pots drenching her in black. Viewers are led to question why the character undergoes such a task, a feat many might equate to punishment. The black paint is reminiscent of the emotional turmoil one puts into any creative endeavor and the engulfing nature of art-making.
Fawad Khan utilizes his deconstructed landscapes to come to terms with reality in politics, social affairs, and world events. His vocabulary of images is taken from his life experiences through which the exquisite explosions of his paintings combine the issues of war with motifs representing his varied cultural experiences and observations. In his works, Khan addresses a personal catharsis with violence, war, and identity. The disintegration of fatigue prints result in a Deconstructivist manipulation of wave-like camouflage forms where one can almost hear the silent explosions.
The human figure is a recurring theme in Emily Noelle Lambert’s work, though it often appears in a fragmented and illusory form. Her subjects are drawn from both her memories and subconscious. The figures interact with the landscape and in some cases, intertwine and become the landscape. Influenced by the interweaving of tantric bodies, the continuum from one figure to the next flows in and out of the figures and into the landscape. The practice of tantric meditation is to see the universe as if it is within us and to see ourselves as if we were within the universe. The human body is the microcosm of the universe. If we are able to reach within ourselves to the truth, we are able to understand the universe. We look within ourselves in search of truth.
Jean-Pierre Roy's narrative work examines the sublime collision between our luminous dreams and dystopian nightmares. Re-contextualizing Goya’s Colossus, Roy's work conjures the mythical giant as caught in the insatiable search for ultimate knowledge in an indifferent universe. No longer imbued with impossible power and strength, Roy's figures collapse, kneel and give themselves up to the horror vacui of self-knowledge.
Creating a landscape for the figure, Kristen Schiele gives us a sense of escapism. The landscape sets the tone and ambience for the figure. Her architectural landscapes feel dreamy, yet one feels as if there may be something sinister lurking around the corner. Her paintings take us to a psychological space of our past and even childhood memories.