Saturday, February 24, 2007

EXHIBITION REVIEW - Luminous by Brian Eno

Until this installation, I’d only seen one other installation of Eno’s, in London sometime in the 1980’s. Then, he was exploring the capacity of video to produce colour, texture and a slow shifting sense of form, in conjunction with one of his ambient pieces of music. This current exhibition continues his fondness for creating self–generating systems. Here he’s created a catalogue of images, textures and colours that a computer randomises, changing the combinations, overlapping and slowly transforming. Apparently this system can generate 77 million paintings. The pace is gentle, the mix of colours - rich and startling. So beautiful sometimes, you achingly regret there passing. This is accompanied by an Eno soundscape, which sounds as if it too was generated from a number of set elements. The over all effect was meditative or hypnotic, a restful sense of calm in the midst of a frenetic department store. You watch your mind holding onto one moment and having to let it go, as it gradually evaporates and reconfigures itself.

Eno has rarely been interested in making emotiveness a primary route for his self-expression. His work visually or audible experiments with forms, processes by which things can be made, uses random elements and interventions to subvert any fixedness that might be creeping into the creative evolution of a piece. If anything the less present he is in a work the better. He is a man of ideas, and tackles making music or art in an idiosyncratic but fascinating manner. The end product might be cool in tone, or grating and unnerving, sometimes a bit edgy. Whatever the effect it is rarely preconceived or intended, that’s just the way the ideas led it.

Musically, at least, he’s been hugely influential, though he’s never been trendy or cutting edge enough to gain a place in the higher echelons of the rock hierarchy. He’s always been too quirky and unpredictable to be fashionable. He’s appeared to be happy twiddling in the background behind Bowie, Talking Heads or U2, and letting them take the major credit. Generally music has caught up with his earlier enthusiasms and innovations, so his more recent output has refined his processes and, as a result become more predictable.

His visual installation work has been rarely seen in this country. It extends his preoccupations with form and process into new areas, using up to date technological advances in image making. Don’t expect to be bowled over; it’s too subtle for that. Like his ambient music, you can either notice it or not, engage or disengage, like it or hate it. To give up the centre stage in this way, to a randomised computer process however pre-configured, requires the letting go creative of authority and the demands of an ego to be in total control of the result. I find this approach quite inspiring from a spiritual, as well as a creative point of view.

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