SMAC Gallery, Cape Town
16.05 – 15.06.2019
The title of this body of work, ‘Tangled Hierarchies’, boldly establishes one thing for audiences before entering the spaces it occupies in SMAC: everything is connected. Peter Eastman, who previously delved into his fascination with a forest near a family home for his Deep Chine series in 2014, revisits this space to illuminate the depths of metaphor and resonance that called to him then. The exhibition’s text by Matthew Freemantle explains that the title is an homage to the final chapter of Pulitzer Prize-winning book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter of the same name.
In the final chapter, Hofstadter speaks of “a self-reinforcing “resonance” between different levels…which, by merely asserting its own provability, actually becomes provable. The self comes into being at the moment it has the power to reflect itself.” In choosing how to reflect himself; Eastman invokes the power of the “Strange Loop” or Tangled Hierarchy, described in the book as a kind of magic that exists within the very design of a creation; prompting a perspective upon which the creation is also allowed to create. By decreasing the proximity between himself and the forms Eastman sees himself reflected in, and re-presenting these forms to the audience as substantiation of the tethers he’s collected, he’s added a physicality to the idea of a strange loop. In a sense, Peter Eastman has brought the concept to life. Hofstadter refers to this as, “levels which ordinarily are seen as hierarchical: that which draws, and that which is drawn, turn back on each other, creating a Tangled Hierarchy.”
Having used aluminium previously, he continues this practice in his current showcase, evident in the series Form I, II and III, whereby his use of enamel paint heightens the colour, sense of life and focus. Each of the three utilise the natural objects found by Eastman, to construct shapes emulative of iterations more resonant with the audience, coaxing our ideas of our own forms to the forefront. The enamel has a reflective quality that further nuances this; the audience become collaborators by the very act of viewing the art and projecting their own forms. “You become immersed in a similar way, hopefully, to how I lose myself in the forest. You will see yourself reflected in an ever-changing and ephemeral image. As with in a small, limited space within a forest, one’s slightest movement can change the scene entirely,” says Eastman.
With Enon Riverbed I, II and III, Peter Eastman makes use of an array of materials in honour of the forest. Using enamel, ironwood and candlewood on an aluminium surface, Eastman creates an expression of his strange loops. In seeking these patterns and symbols, Eastman, according to Freemantle’s text, “homes in on nature’s tendency to self-reference, and further how it cooperates and interacts with its surroundings. These repetitions harmonise with nature’s cyclical habit – and innumerable universal cycles of creation and closure.”
New additions to his technique are presented with Eastman’s use of camera-work; specifically his use of longer exposures, and movement, and the resulting visual textures are akin to brushstrokes. The imagery is dreamlike; with oils and foraged materials presented on aluminum. The series Tangled Hierarchies; Riverbank, Ironwood and Candlewood all honour the elements of Eastman’s vision; they are an homage to nature itself, and the scale, execution and colour linger, as the distortions and design permeate each frame in harmony. Riverbank is especially eye-catching, as the exposure allows a metamorphosis to take the subject and add a lightness, an otherness to it that circumvents its own reality. Eastman’s vision supplements the strange loops with a weighted, knowing hand, giving evidence to the audience, as it was given to him walking through the forest. “It’s a very limited space, this particular bit of river about 100 metres long. This is where all of the work is drawn from. I walk up and down in this area and, bizarrely, I can feel when I step out of it. Somehow, I cross this imaginary threshold the scene becomes boring,” Eastman says.
The show is thoughtful and intriguing, with the cadence of gentle strangeness, utilising refined techniques, slow and sure photography and a core concept that travels outward from deep within every frame of each work with rippling ease.