Splendor Solis

Douglas White

MARCH 9 — MAY 15, 2014


For his solo exhibition at Eden Rock Gallery, Douglas White presents Splendor Solis, a body of work made in, and inspired by the island of St Barth during a month long residency. The name (translating as “The Splendor of the Sun”) is derived from a celebrated 16th Century alchemical text which lays out the material and spiritual operations behind the science of alchemy. It is particularly known for its exploration of the point at which nature and mankind meet, and the infinite potential for reconstruction and reformulation held therein- themes which the artist consistently explores.

Douglas’ art is a strange, spectral world of symbols and materials which are rooted in an intensely personal mythology. In this exhibition we see wooden boards scarred by high-voltage electricity, an octopus printed in its own ink, a monumental palm created from blown out tyres and the head of an ape lovingly formed from a dead cactus tree found by the roadside. An accompanying publication offers a highly personal insight into the artist’s inspirations and working processes. Material transformation lies at the crux. In his sculptures and drawings, he takes items that would otherwise be forgotten and turns them into art, exploring the aesthetic and narrative qualities that each discarded object holds.

The materials Douglas reclaims have often undergone a violent or destructive change prior to coming under his transformative wing. Through some intense force their forms have been distorted, but in the most absorbing, organic way. Charred wood and decaying plants reveal a touching delicacy that could be easily overlooked by the disenchanted eye. As their original matter takes on a new shape, we are acutely aware of both the original substance and its reworked form. As such, each of his pieces is at once recognizable and strange; in a somewhat unsettling distortion of form Douglas takes that which we know and renders it unfamiliar, prompting us to question what exactly entails the “essence” of any given object. In each of his sculptural endeavours he acts as a medium, translating the unseen possibility of the object and showing us its true potential.

In his recent installation commissioned by the Eden Rock Gallery, Douglas created his iconic Black Palm from the blown out carcasses of truck tyres. By taking the used material and forging it into a new form (that of the palm tree) he continued in his on-going exploration of Lavoisier’s theory of physical matter – that mass is never lost or gained but merely transformed from one form to another. During this installation, wherein Douglas’s artificial tree sat alongside its biological brothers, a bird nested in its leaves. This seemingly simple, natural occurrence acted as a poignant reminder of the circularity of chemical intrusion in biological spheres; to the bird, the rubber palm was interchangeable with a natural form, reflecting a truly modern mentality in a particularly delicate way. The spectral shape of the warped fronds, at once unnerving and compelling, held the ability to house life in the most natural, beautiful sense. Douglas’s palms raise questions of sustainability and the impact of environmental intrusion; the idea that no action is ever as simple as it seems.

Douglas White was born in UK in 1977 and currently lives and works in London. He has participated in numerous solo and group shows internationally, recently showing in locations as diverse as London, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Paris, Dubai and Moscow.