Stockholm

Spencer Finch, The Moment When Three Dimensions Become Two Dimensions (Apple Tree, 3 July, 2010, 9:38 p.m.), ink-jet print, 22 x 30".

Spencer Finch, The Moment When Three Dimensions Become Two Dimensions (Apple Tree, 3 July, 2010, 9:38 p.m.), ink-jet print, 22 x 30".

Spencer Finch

Galerie Nordenhake | Stockholm

Spencer Finch, The Moment When Three Dimensions Become Two Dimensions (Apple Tree, 3 July, 2010, 9:38 p.m.), ink-jet print, 22 x 30".

Emily Dickinson sought the sacred in nature rather than in church. In one buoyant but sacrilegious poem, she “détourned” the Trinitarian blessing, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” making it: “In the name of the bee / And of the butterfly / And of the breeze, amen!” American artist Spencer Finch shares this spiritual reverence for nature, endlessly attempting to capture those ethereal moments in which nature overawes. Embracing paradox, his titles grasp at literal descriptions of ineffable natural experiences. He describes The Moment When Three Dimensions Become Two Dimensions (Apple Tree, 3 July, 2010, 9:38 p.m.) as “a photographic document of the precise moment at twilight when the eye can no longer discern depth in the landscape.” Finch’s words, like the poet’s, are only shadowy approximations of experience; the same could be said for this nocturnal photograph of a tree. The photograph captures the twinkling instant when the color of the massive tree is so close to that of the darkening and expansive sky that they seem to disappear into each other. Rather than faithfully evoke experience, words and images are more likely to trigger perceptual memories whose authenticity to the original experience is everlastingly elusive. In Cloud Study (Giverny) 0484 and 0684, both 2012, in which cloud images formed from Scotch tape display the essence of the clouds themselves, the original experience of the clouds remains just out of reach for Finch, as for Monet before him. Whether focusing on twilight’s mysterious ambiguities or entrancing diaphanous clouds, exploring these dissonances between experience and representation leaves one at a permanent loss for the experience itself; in this way, Finch’s work is equally poignant, tender, and innocent.

But Finch is at his most achingly earnest when he takes Dickinson as his subject. Among the works in his recent exhibition “I’ll tell you how the Sun rose” was a work called Wind (through Emily Dickinson’s window, August 14, 2012, 3:22p.m.), consisting of a humble window fan sitting on a pedestal; modified to turn itself on and then off, it aims to re-create a breeze that might have been felt a century and a half ago. Rather than prompt our memories, this simple movement of air seems designed to transport us into identification with Dickinson’s own experience, as if in the hope that it could stir us as nature inspired her. It does refresh. And of the breeze, amen!

In a series of collages based on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Colour, Finch appeared to turn from sensory approximations of natural phenomena toward a theoretical opticality, but this was not entirely the case. An unfinished manuscript, comprising notes on Goethe’s Theory of Colours (1810), was found on Wittgenstein’s desk after his death in 1951; he had worked on it for the last eighteen months of his life. The book is largely a study in uncertainty, an expression of its author’s indecision and vagueness about the relationship between the sensory experience of color and the language that describes it. He wonders, “Couldn’t there be people who didn’t understand our way of speaking when we say that orange is a reddish-yellow?”Finch’s collages attempt to illustrate this conundrum, and fourteen others, resulting in evocations of doubt, ambiguity, and haziness—approximating Wittgenstein’s experience just as the breeze from the fan approximates what Dickinson might have felt coming through her bedroom window on a summer’s day.

Ronald Jones