The subject of this enigmatic drawing by Charles Avery is a hexagonal prism, designed as a chamber for people to climb into so that they can experience eternity. It sparks much curiosity from the small group of people gathered around it. As Avery describes:
The floor and ceiling are tessellated with equilateral triangular glass tiles of different colours, that repeat their design into eternity being reflected in each internal facet of the chamber by back painted glass derived of the finest kelp.
The drawing also exists as a ‘maquette’ (a study for a larger work), and both are related to the Palace of the Gulls, part of Avery’s ongoing major work, The Islanders. Avery embarked upon this epic project in 2005, intending to describe the topology of an imaginary island. What could be a lifelong task, he aims to detail every aspect of the island, from its flora to its philosophical belief systems. The project will culminate in the production of several leather-bound volumes of an encyclopedia.
In the make-believe world, a cult evolved on the island after a talking seagull passed on the secret of eternity to a madman. To determine whether there is any truth in the idea, cult followers enter the eternity chamber. Avery describes the effect of this on the islanders:
… the subject emerges in a trance-like state, insensible to everything around them, yet with eyes wide open staring into the near distance. Yet I fear this is a very different madness from that of the man, for whereas he seems able to successfully navigate himself through the physical world, his imitators do not and within days walk into some fatal situation, either off a cliff or drowning in a bog.
When drawing groups of figures, Avery starts from one area of the body, often a nose, and works outwards until a character is revealed. Each subsequent figure materializes in relation to the previous one until a narrative emerges. Avery sees drawing as important in its own right, using it to encourage public interaction. As he explains:
Drawing puts much more trust in the viewer. Drawing is a form of writing, it’s a telling medium and people get involved in it.
Avery works across a range of media –drawings, models, diagrams and text. The fourth and most recent installation of The Islanders was The People and Things of Onomatopoeia: Part 2 at Pilar Corrias in London, 2017. This exhibition combined drawings along with items of jewellery, furniture, posters and other decorative items.
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