Varieties of Presence is this solo show of art works by artist Oliver Reed which encompasses a range of oil and watercolour paintings created over the past two to three years. They are the result of various visits and durations over the past seven years to the French Alps and the Queyras Region in particular.
The title to the exhibition, ‘Varieties of Presence’ is derived from the book of the same title, by Alva Noë, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, USA and who’s work focuses on perception and consciousness. In this book, Noë argues that, “the world is not simply available; it is achieved rather than given” knowledge and experience reveals the world before us.
Oliver states, “Observing an environment is not seeing it, the space needs to be explored and experienced through a symbiotic relationship between the objective and the subjective, the physical aspects and its perceptual and sensorial experience, we engage with the space through a combination of beliefs, emotions, senses, knowledge, space and time.”
The same place and space is constantly altering, it is not the same place and space it was a minute ago; the environment changes, the trees slightly taller, the environmental conditions change and I too will have changed. My understanding and knowledge for a location has evolved from the previous year’s visit, becoming more attune to specific aspects and nuances that I may have overlooked or ignored a previous year; the geology one year and the flora the next, slowly developed my understanding of this space and building up my knowledge and visually perceived knowledge.
Oliver explains that’s it’s not until you set of on a day’s walk do you experience its nuances, the cold early starts when narrow valleys and corries are cast in shadow, making the space look flat and dark, distorting the perspective and interpretation of the perceived space, before the sun has risen above the high mountain tops and total changes the nature of these spaces. However, you only become aware of these changes on the return journey, when later the same day and the earth has rotated by some 75˚ over a 5-hour period, the sun appearing to have changed positon and making visible spaces that now have a completely different perceived effect, mood and reading.
As you walk your perception of a space changes, objects and distances can appear close yes take many hours to walk yet at the same time a peak may seem hours away and the reverse can be said, reaching its summit in little or no time. Similarly, whilst part of the environment in front of you may look flat, featureless, steep and without form, yet from another angle or change in light, appear sharp, jagged and easier to climb. The higher you climb your understanding for how the environment changes too, the colour, textures, climate, geology and the fauna and flora, each element play on your own perceptions and impact on your own reading of the space; you are part of the space as much as you are perceiving it.
Whilst visiting these location, Oliver will often make watercolour sketches, take numerous photographs and collecting various rocks from different walks. The combination of practical and visual recording together with physically collecting of rock or ‘memory stones’ as he may call them, act as a visualization aid and trigger for his memories and perception when back in the studio and detached from the physical location.