Nick Sweetman Solo: Nov Oct 30 – Nov5



Opening Reception: Thursday Oct 30, 7-11pm

Exhibition Dates: Oct 30 – Nov 5, 2014 

It is easy, and in many ways convenient, to conceive of surfaces and objects around us as static, enduring “things” in the world – bits of more or less unchanging matter. It might perhaps be described as a “natural” assumption, given the appearance of things to our senses. We learn to touch, see, and move around to discover the different properties of surfaces and objects. Later we learn to associate those sensations with their materials – broad categories like wood, metal and stone. Soon we learn to recognize more complex physical characteristics and are able to imagine why a particular object exists in its current state. We develop preferences and avoid certain materials and their various states, while seeking out others.

All of humanity’s creations are temporary arrangements of matter in a perpetual state of more or less gradual transformation. Not all of these processes are perceptible to us, but many are by inference: we see rust and understand that exposure to water over time has gradually transformed the smooth grey metal into a rough, orange patina. We see spots on the ceiling and understand that over time moisture within the plaster has allowed mould to grow. Anything we perceive is simply the most recent result of a long, continuous process of material transformation (some of it human-caused, some not) that appears static to us because of the gradual rate at which many material transformations take place.

In short, matter is dynamic. The work in Material Dynamics is about exploring these moments of confrontation with matter broken free of its previous form and transformed into something new by time and environmental factors. We attach cultural significance to these changes. Some are looked upon as troubling signs of decay – the slow but endless encroachment of natural forces into our designed spaces – which we often associate with uncleanliness and neglect. The decay of organic matter, putrefaction in particular, is considered disgusting because of the sights and smells and their biological association with sickness and death.

Elsewhere, this sort of evidence of time has acquired a certain status and is even desirable. In both the art and design worlds, the look of ruin has been commodified in a variety of ways – old, reclaimed furniture is sold by high-end designers at an exorbitant mark-up; decorators pay painters to come and apply faux-finishes to their wood and brick to make them appear aged; ruins all over the world are places of wonder and businesses are built on our desire to experience the world’s ruins, not just in person but through endless artworks and images of post-industrial urban centres like Detroit and Havana, as well as much older ruins like Peru’s Machu Picchu or the city of Angkor in Cambodia.

What is it about the aesthetic of ruin, decay, and transformation over time that captivates the mind? Are we fascinated by an object or place’s divergence from its previous state of being? Could it be that experiencing decay aesthetically allows us to contemplate the reality of material’s constant transformation – and in turn our own brief, temporary existence – in a safe, pleasurable way?