Michael Woods 1995
George Melly 1998
George Melly 2004
Martin Sexton 2007
Ana Balona de Oliveira 2008
José L. Terrón Ponce 2012
Flora Alexandra Ogilvy 2015

Piers Jackson
Optica

Essay

 

In the mind's eye there is no material hindrance, everything is just as one sees it.
Piers Jackson

… the effect of Piers’ early scientific training is certainly responsible for the exact precision of his images, but above all that is the element of magic and mystery.
George Melly

6.522 There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical …
7. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
Ludwig Wittgenstein,
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Despite all the possible art-historical, philosophical, literary and scientific associations, Piers Jackson’s most recent series of works undoubtedly embodies a uniqueness (in line with his previous series, one must add, for the latest constitutes the closing of a fivefold cycle).
It is a fact that these works are instilled with some irrefutable mathematical laws of geometry, optical studies of human perception and properties of light, alchemical investigations of matter, and the Ancient belief in the fundamental elements of nature or physis and their corresponding ideal forms.

It is also undeniable, even if not immediately recognised by the artist as a direct source of inspiration, how some profoundly mystical and spiritual writings, such as those by Leo Tolstoy, Arthur Schopenhauer and Ludwig Wittengstein’s Tractatus, seem to resonate in the works’ intellectual peacefulness and in their sort of aesthetic play with hidden spaces beyond sensorial reach. Interestingly, only in the end of his treatise does Wittgenstein unveil his mysticism as an existential summit attained through the climbing up on and throwing away of the linguistic-logical ladder: ‘6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly’. Similarly, Jackson’s geometrically axiomatic ‘propositions’ seem to invite the viewer into an ascending or even ascetic path at the end of which, as George Melly so eloquently put it, one may encounter ‘magic and mystery’ above ‘exact precision’.

Then, as Jackson has himself acknowledged, a very personal appropriation of Socratic-Platonic as well as Stoic philosophy pervades his subtle but highly meaningful use of colourfully layered card, luminous gold leaf and concavely geometric forms, by means of which the artist explores the perfect formal beauty of the sphere and some of the five Platonic solids, such as the tetrahedron, geometric equivalent to fire, and the cube or hexahedron , symbol for earth according to the Platonic cosmogony. (Significantly, it is no mere coincidence that Socrates and Plato’s theories exerted such a strong influence on the work of the philosophers mentioned above.)

Furthermore, the artist’s practice opens up the possibility of multiple art-historical affiliations, namely with some early-twentieth-century modernist experiences and mid-twentieth-century minimalist abstractions. One could think of the painterly geometric explorations of Malevitch’s Suprematism or even Kandinsky’s studies ‘concerning the spiritual in art’ (although one should obviously allow for a considerable distance with regards to Kandinsky’s expressionism). Also, Carl Andre’s phenomenologically sculptural structures and Sol LeWitt’s geometric systems come to mind

Nevertheless, that overwhelmingly strange sense of uniqueness to which Jackson’s works give rise gains prominence as soon as the viewer comes face to face with these enigmatic yet illuminating objects pointing beyond the world of objects. It is as if the works propelled the viewer to move within the safest and calmest space of aesthetic contemplation, thus offering themselves to perception and thought, while at the same time appearing to hermetically conceal a symbol never to be deciphered in its entirety, thereby procuring the most unsettling disquiet – that of the non-visible, which, as opposed to the invisible, resembles an absence which is felt as the closest of presences. Jackson would perhaps put it this way: the non-visible is that which, surpassing ‘apparent reality’, can only be seen by ‘the mind’s eye’.

Ana Balona de Oliveira
(May 2008)