From ancient history through the classical era and beyond, mankind has long been mesmerised by the four elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire. From Babylonia to Greece, the concept of the four elements has come to symbolise everything from different facets of the cosmos to alchemical experiments and even personalities and zodiac signs. ArtEco Gallery, London, is pleased to announce its group exhibition 'Elements', exploring these four facets through the works of Mat Chivers, Sidsel Christensen, Hyojun Hyun, Kyounghee Noh and Lise Wulff. Part of an annual themed exhibition, Elements comes as a prelude to Earth Day (22 April). "I wanted to explore different perspectives of nature," explains the gallery's Kristin Hjellegjerde.
For Chivers, a childhood hobby of breeding tropical moths in a small shed at the bottom of his garden sparked the use of moths as a form of leitmotif in his artistic practice. In 'Elements' he presents three drawings that form part of a new series of work combining intuitive markmaking with pure geometry. Featuring the Oleander Hawk Moth, Eyed Hawk Moth and Indian Moon Moth, respectively, the insects are presented within a geometric field, created in colours that constitute light - Chivers uses yellows, reds and blues in hand-ground Japanese Sumi ink. By combining symmetry and asymmetry, Chivers purposely creates an air of ambiguity, and the moths represent a potent allusion to the metamorphic process, which in itself harks to the alchemical properties of the four elements.
Meanwhile, Christensen presents the video work Study for Composition IX, an exploration of the purity of nature and what it can give us. Part of a series of video studies the artist has conducted since 2009, the work looks at abstraction from the Modernist tradition, examining how the lens-based medium constantly resists ideas of formal purity, remaining instead a direct representation of an exterior reality. "On one level the work expresses an interest in how to articulate a removed, abstracted sense of space, as a psychological location," explains the artist. "On the other hand, it seems that the possibility of maintaining an abstracted, idealised space is constantly punctured through the history and social reality in the mind of the artist." In this artwork, Christensen explores how a body can be positioned within landscape portraiture, juxtaposing the body, sea, mountains and sky to create shapes and textures in free interplay.
Presenting oil on panel works, Korean artist Hyun's works focus on an attempt to capture fleeting moments of the uncanny as he experiences them during daily life and his travels. It is the capturing of these moments, as they change from the familiar to something different or special, which captivates the artist. Works in the series The Forest in Glasgow's Park have been inspired by the changeable weather of the Scottish city, allowing Hyun "to perceive various appearances of the same place - intervals of sunshine during the many cloudy days in this city allow me to experience stronger sensations of light and colour, in ways different from Seoul." With their deep green, mossy colour, the works maintain an earthy feel, while exploring the influence of outside factors.
For Noh, it is a mixture of unfixed fragments of ideas, images and feelings that have combined to create her evocative paintings - at once hyper-detailed and roughly unfinished. Careful brushstrokes create hauntingly beautiful images, yet are framed by rough slashes of paint, leaving empty white space as if the canvas were partially left unfinished. Previous works encompass several landscapes, and her detailed, labour-intensive depictions of forests, clouds and the sea draw the viewer's attention, not to the detail of the works and the intricate pencil lines, but rather, to a reflective stillness. "Over the past two years my interest has shifted to the notion of space and what it means to produce paintings," she explains. " I enjoy playing with the notion of painting as well as space - the fact that a work is only a piece of painted fabric, rather than attempting to seduce the viewer to read the piece as another reality. To be honest, it is an on-going conversation between myself as an artist and the act of painting."
Last but not least, the works of Wulff are influenced by nature and natural materials. "When I paint, organic shapes are strongly present," explains the artist, whose works focus what the land, and thereby, nature, have to give us. A nest-like mound of twig-like pieces emits music by Norwegian composer Mathias Eick, while, nearby, shapes made of entwined metal wire form shadow pictures that flow into one another with the fluidity of water, depending on the light of day, complemented by 'woven stones', similar in construct yet made of yarn instead of wire. The dichotomy of these different hard and soft materials offset each other, revealing, like the petals of a flower, different natures and levels to each piece.
"This exhibition reflects on the beauty that we still have a chance to embrace and to care for - whether through the land art of Lise Wulff or the video installations of Sidsel Christensen," continues Hjellegjerde. "In the works of Mat Chivers one is shown how something simple, like a moth, can become beautiful, while Hyojun Hyun's fresh, green nature has been disturbed, mirroring our own relentless need to find that 'untouched' retreat - the ever-tantalising virginal nature so hard to find in today's fast-paced industrial world."