James Dean Diamond’s latest exhibition at 12 Star Gallery is on until May 4. Dreaming of Le Gibet is a magical journey unravelling the mind at sleep.
The exhibition features 26 black-and-white photographic pieces, each measuring 110cm x 55cm.
These hallucinatory works by contemporary British artist James Dean Diamond draw on the music of the French classical composer Joseph-Maurice Ravel (1875–1937).
In particular, his piano piece Gaspard de la Nuit (The Keeper of the Night). Written in 1908, it is a complicated orchestration of three movements: Ondine, Le Gibet and Scarbo.
The inspiration lies with the temporal and formal innovations of Le Gibet, paralleling the obscure nature of dreams.
Similarly, Diamond’s approach to creating atmospheric harmonies, instrumental textures and effects are in line with Ravel’s spatial models of time.
Using urban environs to illustrate a state of mind, the artwork oscillates between figuration and abstraction.
Diamond conceived the work in film over a period of five years.
Shooting in London and Paris, he began the process by calculating the distribution of light from each surface.
The camera was re-positioned, slowing with multiple exposures – up to 200 exposures within a single frame. Structures, constructions, surfaces, space and scale were then overlaid to make a ‘unified composition’.
This method of raster scanning echoes Ravel’s rapid rhythm of a snare drum.
Built with layers of gestural abstraction, the pieces extend ‘theological time and cosmic time’ and make reference to a painterly practice.
The photography functions on both perceptive and observational levels. The principal concern is to reconfigure the moment, while expanding the possibilities of the medium.
Illusions and ambiguity
This twilight state is Diamond’s most cinematic. It is imbued with an ambiguity within which ethereal figures and unidentifiable buildings merge into an abstracted pictorial language.
A bustling metropolis festooned with bright lights and hoardings intermingles with the mass movement of human forms as celestial vibrations of electromagnetic waves unfurl.
An illusion of mystery has Gothic settings, undulations of a carousel glimmering with snow and a contemporary sprawl of sharp graphic angles accelerating through time.
The densely black compositions lure the viewer to a stage engulfed by a metaphysical darkness. A revolutionary crowd stirs to assemble at a medieval public gallows.
Other pieces are set amid the resemblance of a shock wave from a nuclear blast. The disintegration of the outer shell of the architectural spaces exposes the skeletal frame.
Diamond’s thoughts are clouded by the plight of ‘the world’s 65 million forcibly displaced people’ and an unease towards the rise of nationalism.
The study of dreams
Diamond’s own dreams have triggered his fascination with the field of oneirology – the scientific study of dreams.
Brain-mapping research suggests dreams contribute to the transference of the short-term memory into a long-term retention.
From an unconscious state the brain awakens and permits the semiconscious to observe the collation, slicing and sequence of multiple scenes.
A bioelectric chemical process transmits at great speed, stimulating visual imagery and virtual encounters which, on occasion, we recollect when conscious.
This examination somewhat aids the development of AI. Another theory proposes DNA is embedded with our ancestors’ memories and dreams.
The enactment of dreams also becomes the interplay of memory and experience, where visions surface as an expression of the artist.
Diamond’s visually complex vistas contemplate the uncertainty that pervades these fragmented images and present a world where ‘time scintillates, and the dream is knowledge’.
About James Dean Diamond
An earlier career as an electronics and mechanical engineer led Diamond to embark upon a Photography BA at the London College of Communication. His background also led him to approach his work as a sequence of analyses and inquiries.
Currently, Diamond is discussing a photographic project based on ideas of mutation with academics from the University of Sussex’s Genome Damage and Stability Centre.
For 20 years his highly-experimental, multidisciplinary practice has comprised large-scale photographic installations and originally-composed sound-scores.
Shooting extensively across European cities, he constructs alternate realities with an abstract visual language.
Diamond is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Kodak prize and a three-year Polaroid sponsorship for innovation.
His works feature in exhibitions in Europe and New York.
The show has been curated by Samia Ashraf.