More than Meets the Eye

Milton’s Paradise Lost is 350 years old this month.

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William Blake, a most brilliant interpreter of Milton, wrote of how “the Eye of Imagination” saw beyond the narrow confines of “single vision”, creating works that outlasted “mortal vegetated Eyes”.

In more than 10,000 lines of blank verse, the poem tells the story of the war for heaven and of man’s expulsion from Eden. a meditation on challenging and longing.

Milton is shown dictating Paradise Lost

The almost blind Milton dictates Paradise Lost to his daughters in an engraving after a painting by M. Munkacsy (Credit: Alamy)

In Paradise Lost, Milton conjures the spirits of blind prophets. He invokes Homer, author of the first great epics in Western literature, and Tiresias, the oracle of Thebes who sees in his mind’s eye what the physical eye cannot. As the philosopher Descartes wrote during Milton’s lifetime, “it is the soul which sees, and not the eye”.

Now, there are many ways to see through blindness. One is by scanning tunnelling microscopy which can give images on an atomic scale.

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Fake Demons

Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable is at the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, Venice, 9 April – 3 December. The show is from the same artist who put a tiger shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde.

Detail from Demon with Bowl
Demon with Bowl D Hirst  (Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst)
Hirst now claims a role of archaeological impresario. In 2008 the wreck of a treasure ship called the Apistos (Unbelievable) was found on the seabed off east Africa. According to the myth, it sank about 2,000 years ago. This is its cargo and Hirst has assembled an underwater grotto in his mind where artefacts and monsters live.

Sphinx by Damien Hirst.

Sphinx by Damien Hirst (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

Calendar Stone by Damien Hirst.

Calendar Stone by Damien Hirst (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)
Detail from Hydra and Kali by Damien Hirst.
Detail from Hydra and Kali by Damien Hirst (Andrea Merola/AP)
Skull of a Cyclops and Skull of a Cyclops Examined by a Diver.
Skull of a Cyclops and Skull of a Cyclops (Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.)

Aspect of Katie Ishtar ¥o-landi.

Aspect of Katie Ishtar ¥o-landi (Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd)

Brexit

About half a million years ago, in the midst of an Ice Age, a land bridge connected Dover in the South of England to Calais in northern France.

Immediately to the north of it, was a huge glacial lake, which had formed at the edge of the ice sheet that covered much of Europe.

When it started to overflow, vast amounts of water crashed over the land bridge, forming a series of very large waterfalls.

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The lake overflowed 450,000 years ago, damaging the land link. Then a later flood fully opened the Dover Strait.

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The scars of these events have recently been found on the seabed of the English Channel. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications by S. Gupta et al. on 04 April 2017.

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Decades ago, engineers who were surveying the seabed for the Channel Tunnel, discovered a series of mysterious large underwater holes (fosse) between Dover and Calais, caused by the lake overspill (black regions on the map above)  The fosse are now in-filled with sediment and show up as a line of isolated depressions 100m-deep carved into the bedrock and hundreds of metres to several kilometres in diameter.

450,000 years ago, the glacial lake water plunged over the rock ridge as a series of waterfalls from Dover to Calais, which then eroded and carved out these depressions.

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A second catastrophic flood took place about 150,000 years ago forming a huge valley about 10km wide with a lot of features suggesting flood erosion. Perhaps an ice sheet broke off, collapsing into the lake, causing a surge that carved a path for the water to cascade off the chalk ridge. As the channel floor slowly eroded by these torrential floods, seawater from the Atlantic Ocean rushed into the resulting channel, isolating the British Isles from the mainland.

 

Clouds Over Islands

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What really happens in this picture is this: land heats up faster than water. When the sun comes out, the land heats quickly, forming an area of low pressure directly on the island. This results in an area of higher pressure offshore.

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Since air moves from high to low pressure, the marine moisture as well as moisture from the island gets drawn into the low pressure over the island. Low pressure creates upward vertical movement, causing the warm moist air to rise, cool and condense into a cloud directly over each island.

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Plastic

The “Plastic Show” at the Almine Rech Gallery in London is by Melissa Castro Duarte.

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It brings together works by DeWain Valentine and four of his contemporaries — Mary Corse, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman and John McCracken — who were all experimenting with newly available materials in Venice and Santa Monica in the 1960s.

Valentine’s acrylic sculptures suggest the air is “becoming a substance”: They’re vast glossy blocks, columns, discs and lozenges that change color as you move around them and gaze in and through them. “All my work is really about the sky and the sea,” he says.

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The high sheen of his sculptures comes from buffing and lacquering, techniques used in his parents’ garage. Works in the show by John McCracken, by contrast,  are constructed from plywood and fiberglass with a glossy shell of polyester resin, just like a surfboard.

Polyester is a synthetic polymer made of purified terephthalic acid (PTA) or its dimethyl ester dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) and monoethylene glycol(MEG).

PTA is 1,4 benzenedicarboxylic acid: C6H4(COOH)2, mol. weight: 166.13

DMT is 1,4 benzenedicarboxylic acid: C6H4(COOCH3)2, mol. weight: 194.19
MEG is 1,2 ethanediol: C2H6O2 , mol. weight: 62.07

Digital Grotesque

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Digital Grotesque is an architecture that defies classification and reductionism. It explores unseen levels of resolution and topological complexity in architecture by developing compositional strategies based on purely geometric processes.

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In the Digital Grotesque project,  algorithms create a form that appears at once synthetic and organic. The design process thus strikes a delicate balance between the expected and the unexpected, between control and relinquishment. The algorithms are deterministic as they do not incorporate randomness, but the results are not necessarily entirely forseeable. Instead, they have the power to surprise.

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The resulting architecture does not lend itself to a visual reductionism. Rather, the processes can devise truly surprising topographies and topologies that go far beyond what one could have traditionally conceived.

Digital Grotesque is between chaos and order, both natural and the artificial, neither foreign nor familiar. Any references to nature or existing styles are not integrated into the design process, but are evoked only as associations in the eye of the beholder.

The leading architects of this new approach are M. Hansmeyer, Zurich, and B. Dillenburger, Toronto.

http://www.michael-hansmeyer.com

http://www.benjamin-dillenburger.com

Maine-iac

Mount Katahdin (Maine) was painted in 1939 by Marsden Hartley, and is soon on show in a new exhibition of his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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The show opens with an inspired stroke of scene-setting: a mural-size film projection of waves crashing against a bleak stretch of Maine’s Atlantic coastline.

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The artist had conflicted feelings about his spiritual home at Lewiston. His father was an English immigrant and worked in a textile mill. His mother died when he was eight. Hartley was inconsolable and stayed that way. The earliest picture in the show, “Shady Brook ” from 1907, is a landscape in a wispy Romantic style and may depict a scene he recalled from childhood.

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“Log Jam, Penobscot Bay,” is from 1940 (Detroit Institute of Arts) and hints at other plants of the Maine landscape, long extinct.

These are the famous Early Devonian fossils from the cliffs where New England faces the Atlantic. Psilophyton grew there 400 million years ago.

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A well-known Hartley figure is more recent and is on show at the Met:

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