When you look at images from outer space, a strange things happens to your mind: it tries to bridge the chasm of incomprehension between what your eyes are showing you, and what your brain knows and (mostly) does not. When you look at images of outer space, you’re looking back in time; an impossibility made plainly possible. Richard Penn’s work explores this paradox, honing in on the distinction between macro and micro views and the continuum that exists between these two opposite, yet inextricably linked points.
Field of View, a show of 118 monoprints and a video projection at the Nirox Project space, continues his inquiry and exploration of the outer limits of our universe, gleaned through telescopic instruments which “stare at their field of view for hundreds of hours in order to gather enough of the dim light sent forward” (artist’s statement) and in so doing construct impossible maps that transcend space and time. These maps are minute fields of view of an infinite universe. This play on scale and view are the key subject of this show.
The scale of the show, which encompasses the entire space, is a kind of macro view, with the works clustered into groupings forming a second scale of view, and finally the minute detail of each work forming yet another view. This layering of depth of view reiterates the process of the project, whereby process prints and reject prints from a previous project were reworked into background layers onto which new lino cuts where added. On top of this 120 cut paper monoprints were created and the prints run through the press several times. In this way, each of the works becomes its own universe, with layers of view and meaning piled up and struggling to form coherence. The works are random, awkward, but with divine geometric perfection too.
Each cluster maps out a different kind of universe, a different view of the universe, a different map. In one, white lines of ink traverse horizontally across the paper in close succession, wavering slightly, creating a static energy that is painful to look at. This static noise is echoed in the video projection, which merges digital, analogue and hand drawn animated dots and marks. This static noise is leftover radiation from the Big Bang; it’s the after birth of the universe, which becomes visible in the gaps between analogue frequencies.
The gaps in between the works, and the clusters of works, adds to the meaning making, or rather, enact the gaps that exist in our comprehension of the macro scale. The play between these two views, as well as between comprehension and incomprehension is both natural and unsettling. Each work, when honed in on, becomes its own micro universe, yet when viewed from afar is small, tiny, inconsequential, just one piece in the larger collection.