Simon Finn: Archeologist of Aesthetics
By Ashley Crawford
Like some kind of demon spawn of H.G. Wells and M.C. Escher, Simon Finn is explorer, machinist, topographer, a mad scientist of the finest ilk travelling the vortexes of time and space in baroque vehicles that meld the aesthetics of the 17th Century with the frisson of the 22nd. It seems that whatever arcane subject Finn turns his thoughts to, they are explored, dissected, eviscerated, exenterated and then rebuilt, reconsidered and rejuvenated.
Media, it seems, are simultaneously irrelevant and crucial. Irrelevant in that it simply doesn’t seem to matter what media he utilizes – sculpture, charcoal, 3D rendering, photography, video – can all be brought into play. Crucial in that he seems to have the ability to comfortably master them all. He will, and does, adapt and illustrate his key themes via the medium most suited to the immediate task.
While these works are clearly painstakingly rendered, they retain a strange urgency, as though NASA has set him a searing deadline for immediate completion with the caveat that they must function; too much is at stake for any chance of failure.
The combination of a virulent imagination, insatiable curiosity and a simple love of tinkering combine in a combustible outpouring of Finn’s much-loved “spatial and temporal representation.” In other words (or worlds) the bodily forms of time and space and its accompanying notions of entropy and rebirth. In the case of this particular body of work, represented by the deep sea and deep space.
Core to these works is Finn’s passion for deep-sea diving, an unusually physical activity for a contemporary artist. But then physicality is also core to his practice. Finn doesn’t just imagine these images. He builds them before working out how to dismantle them and then working out how to record every step of the practice.
In Vertex/Vortex Finn makes use of an interplanetary image making device, the NASA Mars Rover camera technology; “its form and image/data output,” he says, to create “a simulated scenario where the interplanetary camera is dismantled and submerged under an ocean surface, as a way of negotiating its representative affects.”
But in doing so, and effecting his images with such strident and almost uncanny resemblance to their source, Finn creates a strange and unnerving question as to what is the ‘real’. Like a Philip K. Dick science fiction story, Finn creates a ‘simulacra’, a world that is both ‘real’ and not. This is, arguably, what makes his work so seductive, we become immersed in Finn’s ‘fictional’ explorations. Time is played into question – the camera(s) in Downward Spiral are arrayed in a baroque, symphonic pattern more suggested of a Victorian staircase than an array of high-tech equipment. Stages of Descent resembles a sea anemone, a creature from Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or a H.R. Giger design for Alien.
The very title of the exhibition is revealing – travelling as it does from the vertex – the pinnacle or summit, down into the swirling vortex – the highs and lows of the realms he simultaneously explores.
It’s a giddy ride diving with Simon Finn. As an explorer of both time and space, an archeologist of aesthetics, he is truly unique. He may still be an ‘emerging’ artist, but it is a beguiling experience finding oneself ‘submerged’ in his spiral simulacra.