Meditating space with Louise Despont - Art Collector

Louise Despont & Aaron Taylor Kuffner, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and The Drawing Center, New York

By Jess Holburn

Louise Despont harnesses a diagrammatic and meditative visual language that encompasses geometry, science and spirituality through intricate drawings on antique ledger papers. Monumental yet intimate, upon entry one garners a sense of being in a contemporary ceremony. Currently dividing her time between New York and Bali, Despont embraces notions of balance, harmony and healing. As an eclectic collector of ideas and images, her influences extend from Hinduism, to Buddhism, to Anthroposophy and Theosophy, and beyond.

This exhibition presents two enclosures, the first is a wooden rectangular passageway titled Pure Potential, with a facade protected by thousands of wooden dowels. Contained within are eight Pure Potential drawings that connote a transitioning of ephemera into tangible, geometric forms. According to the artist these forms are symbolic of preconscious, prelinguistic states. The second sanctuary, The Oval Room, is made of sheetrock and plywood, holding a monumental frieze drawing sixty feet in length, six feet high and composed of seven panels. Each panel represents a stage of transition, the flux from formlessness into form and then regeneration.

The graphed paper lends itself to architectural scaffolding from which the artist can work incrementally and visualize multiple scales simultaneously. There is a smooth equilibrium of warm colour temperatures throughout, from pastel greens to aqua blues and salmon pink. Such aesthetic choices connote the integration of the physical, the spiritual and the emotional. Figuration emerges from abstraction, and order begets spontaneity.

One cannot help but think of ethnobotanist and mystic Terence McKenna when exploring Despont’s work, who spoke of a new vision of nature not as matter or energy, but as information. These drawings do convey nature as information and humans as emergent complex systems.

According to Despont, the subtle body of mind, intelligence and ego is also bounded by the senses and subjectivity. “The drawings in this exhibition are the result of my personal experiences, my relationships, my practice of yoga and meditation, and experiments with consciousness and perception,” Despont says. “The necessity of honing sensitivity is at the root of these subtle body practices, which for me is also what drawing has always been about.”

What adds to these sensory sanctuaries is Despont’s collaboration with Aaron Taylor Kuffner and his electronic gamelans or “gamelatrons” that surround the outskirts of the gallery. Gamelan is the traditional ensemble music of Bali, composed predominantly of percussion instruments such as drums, chimes, bells, gongs, and vibraphones. Kuffner’s robotic versions of these instruments are a kind of cyborgian awakening in which the hypnotic, vibratory sounds activate the visual vibrations of the space. In this gentle immersion, we make personal yet communal connections to the energies within.

Despont has exhibited internationally and has been a recipient of many awards and grants. She is represented by Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York.

Louise Despont, Energy Scaffolds and Information Architecture shows at The Drawing Center from January 22 to March 20, 2016

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