Ancient Lights: Nicholas Mangan - Art Collector

Nicholas Mangan, Ancient Lights, 2015. Installation view, Chisenhale Gallery, London. Co-commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery, London and Artspace, Sydney. Courtesy: the artist and Chisenhale, London

By Emma Capps

On a suburban street in London’s east, Chisenhale gallery is currently showing Ancient Lights, a new film installation by Melbourne-based artist Nicholas Mangan, marking the artist’s first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom.

For this project, Mangan has focused his disciplined, finely-honed aesthetic on the “physical and conceptual power of the sun,” he says. The artist approaches this ambitious subject through a two channel video installation, which is powered, impressively, by solar panels installed temporarily on the roof of the gallery’s building.

In an interview accompanying the exhibition, Mangan said of the project: “I was trying to think about ... a very contemporary idea of energy, which is that although energy is always flowing, it’s not perpetual. If you want energy you have to pay for it; there has to be a loss.” The dynamics of this equation are clearly at the forefront of Ancient Lights, although the means by which Mangan visualises his concerns are often deeply elliptical.

The weight of the exhibition is centred on a video work for which Mangan has grafted together footage shot on location in Spain and Arizona with audiovisual data gathered by NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Project. We see a slowly revolving cross-section of a bisected tree trunk; an orange tree covered in icicles; solar panels gridded across a vast desert. This portion of the work is long and large and looming, and is tactfully offset by the more direct (if less interesting) second video, which features an endlessly spinning Mexican ten-peso coin.

In its earnest and scholarly tone, Ancient Lights clearly demonstrates Mangan’s fluency in contemporary modes of thought surrounding energy and economics. Although, perhaps more importantly, the conviction and vitality of Mangan’s approach signals an artist who has much to contribute to the constantly building critical and artistic dialogue concerning the anthropocene.

Recent exhibitions of Mangan’s include
Art in the Age of…, Witte de With, Rotterdam; Anthropocene Moment, Les Abattoirs, Toulouse (both 2015); Octopus, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne; Concrete, Monash Museum of Art, Melbourne; Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (all 2014). The artist also participated in the 2015 New Museum Triennial: Surround Audience, New York; 9th Bienal do Mercosul, Porto Alegre; and the 13th Istanbul Biennial (both 2013).

Ancient Lights is produced in partnership with Artspace, Sydney, where it will be presented as part of his solo exhibition, Other Currents, in September 2015.

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