Deep Down Blueness

Could it be something to do with the fact that the eye is moving through ever finer, and often ever more finely layered, gradations of a single colour? And that the particular colour in question is of course blue, which drags along in its slow wake a long history of honourable use in the service of images of otherworldliness and ineffability?

Yes, this must surely help account for the fact that the experience of looking into – not at, oh no, at suggests that the eye might be bouncing off a wall – a sequence of new cyanotypes by David Hornung makes you think most of all of the strangely appealing driftingness of subaquatic experiences.

Not that you yourself really need to be underwater at all. Perish the thought. You can experience it in any good aquarium. Not even the eye needs to get wet. So you enter in, and then you swim alongside and through the elements, and because you feel yourself to be inside the medium through which your eye is swimming, it does not seem at all surprising that everything around you is breaking up and shredding away…

Yes, that is what always seems to be happening in this ever shifting, ever drifting world of David Hornung’s cyanotypes, a world which seems never quite to have a bottom because it always seems to be possible to stare a little deeper and to go a little further. The strange murk, this infinitely beguiling shadowland world, is bottomless. There are threads of storylines proposed, which then seem to fall away or part company with themselves. There are emblematic objects which drift into our ken – a lantern, a ladder, a stag, a small and decrepit house through whose rafters we are invited to stare. How does this knit with that? Nothing ever does quite knit into a whole. Things separate out, or they begin to collapse in on themselves as if they were only ever the most tentative of propositions. They float around like dust motes. They are unpinioned, set free to roam abroad and beyond. The staging is always uncertain. And then there are the human presences, that Pop-Eye-ish marionette of a man who, even as he tilts forward, seems to be falling apart, breaking up like a biscuit snapped in two in the hand. These images never quite settle into anything which could be described as crisp or hard or definitive. There is a wilting, fabric-like softness or dissolvingness about them. There is also an otherworldly innocence about these scenes into which we seem to be gazing – this world never has the hard-edged menace of Hans Bellmer.

Which brings us back, by a natural progression of thought, to the nature of blueness, what it proposes, how sky-high and guileless and slow and dream-impregnated it so often is, and how it also enjoys some relationship, no matter how remote and godless, with ideas of the mystical and the irrational, of being buoyed aloft on a nothing which is ever directly explicable, but which can also be so pleasurably sustaining…

David Hornung: Cyanotypes 2019-20 will be showing at the International Quilt Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska from 30 June-25 September 2021

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