19 January - 1 April 2007

Darkness Visible

featuring new works by Jane Bustin

Darkness Visible at Southampton City Art Gallery

19 January - 1 April 2007

Southampton City Art Gallery

Civic Centre

Southampton, SO14 7LP

Opening Times:

Tues - Sat: 10am - 5pm

Sun: 1 - 4pm

Mon: Closed

Tel: 023 8083 2277

Email: art.gallery@Southampton.gov.uk www.southampton.gov.uk/art


Darkness Visible - The Portrait of Dr Richard Brown has been made with the support of the Arts Council England


Darkness Visible
Contemporary Art Society Special Collection Scheme
19 January - 1 April, galleries 1- 4
This exhibition results from a collaboration with the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull. Darkness Visible contains a selection of contemporary photography, painting and film from both galleries’ collections. The show explores the darker states of the human psyche: unhappiness, anxiety, introspection, melancholy and a seeming obsession with morality.
The title of the show is inspired by a recent series of works by the artist Jane Bustin. The 5 portraits are seen together for the first time. Included, is the final and long awaited work in the series, a miniature portrait of scientist Dr. Richard Brown, inventor of  Nickel Phosphorous Black (known as superblack), claimed to be the blackest black in existence.
The development of both collections has been made possible by the support of the Contemporary Arts Society’s Special Collection Scheme (1998-2004), financed by the Arts Council Lottery Fund.

Darkness Visible contains a selection of contemporary photography, painting and film.
Artists include: Philip Akkerman, Ian Breakwell, Jason Brooks, Jane Bustin, Dorothy Cross, Jeremy Deller, Graham Gussin, Craigie Horsfield, Paul Morrison, Georgina Starr, Gavin Turk, Mark Wallinger, Gillian Wearing, Stephen Willets, Shizuka Yokomizo and Bettina Von Zwehl.


Installation shot of Jane Bustin - Darkness Visible series at Ferens Art Gallery, Hull

Darkness Visible - Artist's Notes:

Darkness Visible, the title Jane Bustin has given to an ongoing series of paintings she began in 2001, is a quote taken from Milton's depiction of Hell in the first book of Paradise Lost:

“A dungeon horrible, on all sides round
As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames
No Light, but rather darkness visible”

Milton's description is both a contradiction and an abstraction. Without light it is impossible to see and in order for his imaginary landscape to become tangible the poet makes absence literal. It is a concept that parallels the approach and practice of Bustin's recent work. For a painter the notion of nothingness is fertile territory and when she initiated the Darkness Visible project it was Bustin's aim to make a group of abstract portraits of living individuals, that would explore particular perceptions of blackness to test its traditional, linguistic and metaphorical associations. The paintings would take the form of diptychs, with their dimensions, support materials and colour treatments referenced to the subjects they were based upon.

Bustin invited her subjects to work in a collaborative way, providing her with statements in whatever form they chose, to describe their perception of blackness. The source material was varied and reflective of the individual's subjective concerns. The writer Hélène Cixous sent a long poetic letter, which touched upon internal and external ideas of blackness: from dream spaces to racist connotations. The composer John Woolrich made his statement in the form of a piece of music; while John Hull, a blind theologian made it clear that it was impossible for him to provide in any way a descriptive statement of his sense of darkness, preferring to direct Bustin towards the e.e. cummings poem : Now I lay(with everywhere around) - a gentle evocation of the passing of day into the stillness and silence of night.

Whilst researching the project Bustin came upon the recent invention of 'Nickel Phosphorous Super Black' a chemical etching process developed by Dr Richard Brown of the National Physical Laboratory for potential use in the space industry. The nickel phosphorous black surface is applied to aluminium or copper substrates and produces the blackest black known in existence on an industrial scale. Provided with a small sample of the material Bustin has made a miniature diptych which incorporates a fragment of Super Black in conjunction with a painted panel where she has layered pigments to achieve the blackest black she can through paint.

As Bustin wrote in her letters to her collaborators: “The notion of blackness without and within an individual can be interpreted in any number of ways, from a Kleinian perspective of the depressive/creative tendency, to an expression of an emotional state, or to those outer parts of space where our universe meets infinity and the theory that black does not exist as such, but is a 'mass' without light.”

These paintings are intended both as portraits of the inner person (the unseen or 'unseeing' of the subject) and as the record of a dialogue that examines the meeting points between different creative and philosophical languages. Worked by Bustin, a field of colour can function as a channel to the senses that exist alongside sight in the human. What holds our attention is not a simply a formal arrangement of the processes a painter uses but an emotional resonance achieved by the effects of colour and light. She reveals blackness as a field of infinite richness and possibility.


Black Air: Jane Bustin

Black Air is an artist's book co-published by EMH Arts Publications and Artprojx to mark Jane Bustin's exhibition of five major new paintings in the show Darkness Visible (which takes its title from Bustin's body of work). 'Black Air' records Bustin's collaboration with a number of contemporary individuals who were the subjects for abstract 'portraits' she made based on their conception of blackness/darkness. The book has been developed from letters, statements and scientific data that were exchanged throughout a five year project and includes unique contributions from the writer and theorist Helene Cixous, the composer John Woolrich, the inventor of 'Superblack' Dr Richard Brown and John Hull, the author of 'Touching the Rock'.


16 pages, published in an edition of 500 copies.

co-published by EMH Arts Publications and Artprojx

Black Air PDF Order Form

Email david@artprojx.com for more details


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