Out of the box

Anatomy of Colour  – image attribution Susan Rushton

I saw this subtly subversive work at Susan Rushton’s blog and felt drawn to writing about reading its form.  Anatomy of Colour  by Sarah Emily Porter was selected for the 2019 UK National Sculpture Prize and was installed at Broomhill Art, Devon

By subversive I mean how we see normally hidden building structure featuring in the garden, and yet these normally hidden frames are painted, completed, finished, with wildflowers being allowed to subsume the ‘building’ almost before the paint has dried.

There’s a hint of Joan Nassauer’s Messy Ecosystems Orderly Frames here; the understanding that a functioning ecosystem requires plant arrangements that are hard for many (modern) people to make meaning of; to understand (and care for) nature and see it’s beauty we need to understand it deeply, intimately. We are really meant to peer into this work.

Colour is integral here – Sarah has deliberately not produced an ordered spectrum instead mixing up the colour ‘order’, including white (a non ‘colour’) and selecting Victorian hues.

I imagine this structure is acoustically interesting as the frames would open and close off sound paths as one moves around. I’m reading David Byrne’s How Music Works where he discusses McLuhan’s position about our shift from an acoustic culture to a visual one that’s based on discrete elements that block and limit our understanding of things and make us think linearly.

The open frames of Anatomy of Colour draws us into the cube as a system. The non-conforming colour scheme assists this, stopping the eye at each layer, making us work our way through – all while the cubic outline of the collected frames show us this sculpture is a system, but not a closed one.

David Byrne wrote  (Nothing But) Flowers about all our built works returning to nature. We’ve probably all heard it but read and listen sometime:

Here we stand
Like an Adam and an Eve
The Garden of Eden
Two fools in love
So beautiful and strong
The birds in the trees
Are smiling upon them
From the age of the dinosaurs
Cars have run on gasoline
Where, where have they gone?
Now, it’s nothing but flowers

There was a factory
Now there are mountains and rivers
You got it, you got it

We caught a rattlesnake
Now we got something for dinner
We got it, we got it

There was a shopping mall
Now it’s all covered with flowers
You’ve got it, you’ve got it

If this is paradise
I wish I had a lawnmower
You’ve got it, you’ve got it

Years ago
I was an angry young man
And I’d pretend
That I was a billboard
Standing tall
By the side of the road
I fell in love
With a beautiful highway
This used to be real estate
Now it’s only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it’s nothing but flowers
The highways and cars
Were sacrificed for agriculture
I thought that we’d start over
But I guess I was wrong

Once there were parking lots
Now it’s a peaceful oasis
You’ve got it, you’ve got it

This was a Pizza Hut
Now it’s all covered with daisies
You got it, you got it

I miss the honky tonks,
Dairy Queens, and 7-Elevens
You got it, you got it

And as things fell apart
Nobody paid much attention
You got it, you got it

I dream of cherry pies,
Candy bars, and chocolate chip cookies
You got it, you got it

We used to microwave
Now we just eat nuts and berries
You got it, you got it

This was a discount store,
Now it’s turned into a cornfield
You’ve got it, you’ve got it

Don’t leave me stranded here
I can’t get used to this lifestyle



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