Exhibition catalogue essay for Air: Visualising the Invisible in British Art 1768 - 2017, published in Air: Visualising the Invisible in British Art 1768 - 2017, Ed. Gemma Brace and Christiana Payne (Bristol: Sansom and Co., 2017)
Nimbus – cloud
Nubes – a cloud
Nubis – of a cloud
Nubi – to or for a cloud
Nube – by/with or from a cloud (1)
I see them as temporary sculptures of almost nothing – the edge of materiality … It looks like you can dive into them or grab them, but they just fall apart. (2)
Imagine if you could hold a cloud, reaching upwards to delicately cradle its fraying edges between two hands. But then the sky would be empty: it was a perfect day not a cloud in the sky.
But what is the sky without clouds? Without clouds there is no sense of space or time to the vastness above us. If nothing has ‘been there’ (3) then how do we relate our past to our present. The exhibition Air considers how we ‘visualise the invisible’, albeit referring more generally to air as an element; ever present, ever there. Clouds, or more specifically clouds in art, provide a perfect example from which to explore the idea of visibility. Their very intangibility and immateriality in life causes their materiality in art to become rich with meaning. Materiality itself is intricately linked to the notion that something ‘has been there’ – on a phenomenological level it demands that we acknowledge that something ‘is there’ – that it suggests that maybe we should ask not just how do we visualise the invisible, but how do we materialise the immaterial.
Images: Air: Visualising the Invisible cat. cover © Sansom and Co., Mono no Aware by Jemma Grundon and Anamorphic Landscapes by Polly Gould © RWA, Shape in the Clouds II by Peter Randall-Page © the artist.