there it was. staring back at me
5 July – 1 August 2023
Janet Rady Fine Art is pleased to present there it was. staring back at me, an online group show of four international contemporary artists, running from 5 July to 1 August, 2023.
Reflecting on a quatrain extract from a poem by the late Beirut-born celebrated poet, essayist and artist Etel Adnan, the exhibition dwells on the theme of eye contact in an unfolding metaverse era.
there it was. staring back at me features artists Maria José Cabral, Amy Dury, Hannah Knox, Fergal Styles; and is curated by Rajaa Paixão.
I went out to see the sea from my terrace.
it looked at me. I understood that
I mustn’t launch myself into
its fierce waves
Section of the poem sequence ‘Return from London’ by Etel Adnan
English translation 2019 by Sarah Riggs, via Griffin Poetry Prize.
there it was. staring back at me is an online exhibition that explores the place of two-dimensional physical works of images and words in an expanding universal virtual reality , and metaverse experimentation anchored in immersive experiences.
In her poem sequence ‘Return from London’, Etel Adnan refrains from immersing herself into the ‘fierce waves’ of a sea, ‘looking’ back at her. The poet, therefore, blocks an invitation of engaging in the depth of the waters, perhaps too intense to submerge in; silencing a potential dialogue and a symbolic interaction with a defying surrounding element. The poet took refuge within the protective boundaries of her terrace. Would that feeling of emotional preservation persist if the sea were virtual, or the sentiments behind the metaphor unfounded?
In a vast realm of imagined simulations, would an eye contact – be it delightful, furtive, uncomfortable, or deliberate – hold its full momentum and genuine meaning, knowing that it is not real in its physicality, and bodily proximity?
Whether it’s what Maria José Cabral describes as a ‘game’ between absence and presence that represents memory; Amy Dury’s rewritten figures, extracted from pre-digital age photographs; Hannah Knox’s paintings of garments presented as individual closeup portraits; or Fergal Styles’ optimistic approach of smuggling things in his works and hiding away others, hoping for the unexpected… all four artists demonstrate an underlying urgency in the inquiry of the figure.
The show aims to situate where these humanmade works, the creators and their legacy fit in, in a metaverse scenario, drawing a threshold line between immersion and intensity.
Same as the poem, the paintings in the show are engaging and open to interpretation. Each work exudes this sense of intensity questioning the (un)returned gaze, in a digital time where a direct eye contact… or a fleeting one… is becoming less and less of an occurrence. The exhibition reinforces the significance of the familiar wet painting, the weight of its presence in a shared space, and the eloquent exchange we allow; or deny.
Exhibition text by Rajaa Paixão.
Click here for the Exhibition Catalogue