Ignis Fatuus: Dreams & Delusions - Lights of Soho, 2015

Mehta Bell Projects presents an exhibition of international upcoming artists. At this exciting moment in a young artist’s practice it is precisely their dreams and delusions that enrich their creativity, laying the foundations of future greats in the art world. Mehta Bell Projects present Ignis Fatuus: Dreams & Delusions, a showcase of some of the brightest emerging talent in the contemporary art world.


Ignis Fatuus
1. A phosphorescent light that hovers or flits over swampy ground at night, possibly caused by spontaneous combustion of gases emitted by rotting, organic matter.

2. Something that misleads or deludes; an illusion.


Taking the concept of Ignis Fatuus as a starting point, these artists investigate the shades of light and dark that is at the core of what it is to be part of the world today. The artists explore themes of utopia/dystopia, globalisation and the complex notions of identity, power and the human condition in regions across the world. At the centre of the exhibition is the sculpture by British artist Schoony. The boy soldier, dressed in army fatigue shorts and helmet, speaks of the lost generation. Powerful in its size but poignantly vulnerable, the boy stands defiant, but his innocence and defenceless is palpable . Overwhelmed in the face of an unknown future as we embark further into a brave new world, the exhibition asks its viewers what will become of the promised land?


In James Roper’s paintings the concept of Ignis Fatuus really comes to the fore. Alluding to this enigmatic and ethereal phenomena, Roper’s artwork depicts cascading clouds that billow into the distance, creating an infinite vortex in the centre with no horizon in the distance. He addresses ideas of the sublime and metaphysical with his powerful paintings hinting optimistically at the idea of light breaking through the dark.


In Andrew McAttee’s painting ‘Smash’, the artist combines both paint and Perspex to create an explosion of colour and a highly stylised and graphic composition that suggests the complex system of gases and atmosphere surrounding earth. Although ‘pop’ in its aesthetic these saturated colours and bubbles of gas could be representative of the moment of inception, or perhaps something more sinister?


Kate Shaw’s paintings embody the magical mirage of Ignis Fatuus itself. Employing hallucinatory colours, glittering phantasm-like, Shaw entices the viewer to engage with the illusory landscape of Ignis Fatuus. Appearing through the metaphorical mists is Tsai & Yoshikawa’s hybrid, flower-like form inspired by exotic, jungle-like foliage that radiate a myriad of bold colours and patterns. Both organic and artificial in their concept and execution these hybrids hover between the grotesque and the beautiful. Are these plants a celebration of the rich diversity of nature, or do they allude to an underlying threat or foreboding about the future of our planet and the preservation of nature?


Echoing these ideas of man’s manipulation of nature and the endless regeneration of life, multi-disciplinary artist Crystal Wagner creates sculptural forms made entirely of paper. Using the by-product of trees themselves, this ubiquitous and familiar material mutates into a mythological, Triffid-like form that writhes and distorts within the frame, attempting to break free of its boundaries.


Demonstrating equal prowess with the scalpel and paper is Kristjana Williams whose intricately carved map of the world thrives with plants, flowers and exotic animals. Rich with colour and detail, Williams’ practice incorporates strong graphic lines and the illustrative style of Victorian engravings. Amongst this dense landscape roam flamingos, insects, leopards and birds that jostle for space within the frame. Williams’ colourful aesthetic brings these creatures to life, creating a dynamic scene that flourishes with energy and a celebration of the natural world. However, the encroachment of the continents seem to propel the vegetation and animals from the picture frame. The depiction of an historical map could also hint at a sense of nostalgia, and perhaps the imminent cost of the natural world versus the advancements of industrialisation and capitalism.


Cleverly combining motifs from East and West is London-based artist Justine Smith. Sourcing currencies from Afghanistan, China, Europe, Libya, Iran and Pakistan amongst others she meticulously hand-cuts the notes, dissecting disparate elements to form the spiritual symbol of the Mandala. Used as a devotional tool characterized by a concentric configuration of geometric shapes, Smith subverts this emblem by positioning money and power as the new religion, both a dream and a delusion. Incorporating images of guns, bullets, military weapons and political figures she creates a dialogue on the concepts of power and our relationship with money and its value systems. This work also alludes to the often violent and turbulent effects of countries at war and the potentially devastating impact of corruption. Smith exploits the physical beauty of these banknotes and incorporates gold leaf to create a highly seductive work that can superficially entice the viewer but also poses a moral dilemma.


Sarah Jacobs explores notions of globalisation and hybrid national identities in her suspended canvases that hang like traditional tapestries or flags from dowel rods. Dynamic swirls of patterns, her paintings become the kaleidoscopic illusions of Ignis Fatuus. In her ‘Ethosphere’ series these patterns are repetitive in parts, but the illusion of harmony is shattered as she peels back multiple layers addressing the complexities of identity. The elements are fractal and transitory, with the viewer’s gaze propelled around the canvas. The dichotomy of order and chaos is skilfully represented by the artist’s hand, raising questions of the success and legacy of globalisation and its impact on international communities.


Upcoming Taiwanese photographer Wang Chienyang contains his subject in a toy claw crane machine, a familiar sight at fairgrounds and arcades. However, the image is enigmatic – is the girl protected, cosseted within her womb-like space supported by the cuddly soft toys that envelop her and insulate her from the world outside? Or is the female subject trapped, encased within the structure of a money-powered game, with the impending claw about to be launched? Chienyang’s work is ambitious in its production and challenging for its subjects, as well as the viewer; revealing the world of Ignis Fatuus, that oscillates between illusion and reality.

© 2020 Mehta Bell Projects