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Chris Welsby
Lost Lake (1998) was made for the late 1990s phenomenon the 'video-wall', in this case a 16 monitor configuration installed in a horizontal plane, with a single, oblique-angle shot of a lake's surface as its image.

The ripples and reflections on the water fill the composite frame, and construct a typically Welsbian visual paradox:

Viewed from one angle, as the viewer enters the gallery, the perspective of the water surface and the reflected trees makes sense spatially, since the viewer's angle to and distance from the water surface are very similar to that of the recording camera. As the viewer moves around the 'lake' .. the spatial coherence is disrupted since the reflections will not move as they move. The image of the water surface parallels the surface of the monitor screens, but the water reflects only the image of trees, and not the image of the gallery. Chris Welsby A Systems View of Nature, 2004.

The four-screen At Sea (2003) was more minimal, and partially reworked the theme of the earlier single screen Drift (1994); in this instance a fog-bound limitless ocean without horizon or other visual anchor-point is scanned by a restlessly shifting camera. As its ambiguous titles suggests, it is as much a visualisation of the mental state of being 'all at sea', 'lost / adrift', as a descriptive seascape. By now, Welsby was working fully in the digital domain with its new constructional possibilities. In Changing Light (2004), made for the Artspace Gallery, Sydney, sensors and a computer allowed a new form of interactivity in which the viewer becomes directly involved with the work. Again the screen is horizontal, and the subject a lake surface. Now the shimmering pattern of reflections responds to the presence of the spectator, the rippling intensifying as viewers increase in number, but rewarding the solitary observer with greater tranquillity and clarity of image. Welsby is able to unite his fundamental concerns about the convergence of nature and technology, which Changing Light 'inextricably bound together in a playful dance of colour and light'. Chris Welsby A Systems View of Nature, 2004

In the early 1970s while studying at Chelsea School of Art and the Slade, Welsby got to know some of the British 'systems' painters who taught there, such as Malcolm Hughes and Jean Spencer, and began his life-long engagement with movement by making photographic works to be viewed in series. Thirty years later, 'systems' are still central to his thinking, but now in the more complex form of the unseen structures that connect natural phenomena with human mental processes and technologies. Indeed, Welsby acknowledges as a major influence the physicist Edward Lorenz, who applied systems science to meteorology and thereby laid the foundations for contemporary Chaos and Emergence theory. This new awareness illuminates Welsby's major written account of his own work A Systems View of Nature;

What interested me about both structural film and complex systems was the possibility of creating work based in the interconnectedness of these systems, where landscape was not secondary to the filmmaking process or filmmaking process to landscape, but process and structure, as revealed in both, could carry information and communicate ideas. Chris Welsby A Systems View of Nature, 2004

David Curtis
David Curtis is the author of A History of Artists' Film and Video in Britain and works at the BAFV Study Collection. www.studycollection.org.uk.
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