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I’m trying to imagine light as something tangible; as if you could pick it up and hold it in the palm of your hand; this is the territory where what has been seen, memory and the imagined co-exist’.

Simon Averill. 2014

Simon Averill’s paintings re-consider what might take place within momentary instances of seeing; they are an exploration of the ways in which sight, memory and perception interact. The works are a translation of, and receptiveness to, intimate time spent within place and nature. Nature is of course, always changing, always in flux. The paintings respond to these unpredictable, often beguiling or fleeting, moments of naturally occurring optical phenomenon and distortions to the senses. Experienced physically and biologically, in place and in time, something is present that was not there before. The experience is recovered after a lapse in time, through memory.

The title of the exhibition - “Splitter” - refers to an occurrence when a photon of light comes into contact with a clear reflective surface and splits the beam of light in two. A photon might pass through this surface or it might bounce back; it’s impossible to know with any certainty which of these it will do.

In reference to this, the work engages with an uncertainty and fallibility of seeing and the senses. The paintings in the exhibition resist any singular reading or interpretation. Instead they allow for a diffusion and intermingling of multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points. Within these paintings, particles cluster and scatter across the glassy surface of the work. A translucent glazed overlay seals the paintings, adding luminosity and a synthetic soft glow. This is iridescent work, realised through slender and elongated landscape proportions. The work itself seems to be in possession of agency and attitude. Colours have shimmering or reflective characteristics and are fluid. An encounter is saccadic. It is noted that humans and many animals rarely look at a scene in fixed steadiness. Instead, quick, simultaneous movements of both eyes in the same direction ensue. In an encounter with this work, eyes are inclined to move around the surface.

Averill’s exquisite abstractions are less concerned with meaning and representation and do not attempt to replicate already settled forms. Rather the work is concerned with a dissemination of phenomena through a ‘tactile’ seeing, affect and embodiment. Seeing, like memory, is of course, capable of mistakes and of being wrong. In actuality we perceive very little of what is being looked at and like memory, perception is often susceptible to misconception. In human eyesight, the density of receptors on the retina only allows us to see a small fragment in high resolution. The fovea is only capable of resolving about 3 degrees of visual angle - which is about the size of an old 50p coin held at arm’s length. The eye has to constantly move around to build up an overall image that the brain can then reassemble and make sense of.

In Averill’s paintings distance and division of fore and background are difficult to gauge. A dynamic iteration of data, fast shape or form, synthetic space or scattered light, heightens abstraction and ambiguity. The work does not inhabit space easily; it might be said that the work emits a restlessness. Cell fragments split, agglutinate and form intricate meshes; nerve cells intensely wire together or intra-connect. The paintings would seem to oscillate, moving continuously and with such rapidity so as to be indiscernible to the eye. Shapes and lines shimmer and flicker and at the same time are calm, persistent, keen. A relay of activity occurs between painting and viewer. The eyes and body would seem to connect with positions and movements of the painting. It might also be said that the paintings in turn connect with the position and movement of a viewer. There is almost the sense that the work shifts shape when not looked at, teasing at the limits of our peripheral vision. Looking at the paintings is compelling; it could be said we are woven into them or that the paintings somehow ‘get into us’. As Teresa Brennan notes, “the transmission of affect, if only for an instant, alters the biochemistry and neurology of the subject. The “atmosphere” or the environment literally gets into the individual. Physically and biologically, something is present that was not there before”.

Gillian Wylde. 2014.

Gillian Wylde is an artist and senior lecturer in Fine Art at Falmouth University.


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Simon Averill is a British artist born in Brighton, England in 1961. He currently lives and works near Marazion in West Cornwall.

Simon Averill's paintings are informed and motivated by his response to light and a compulsion to record the fleeting and transitory effects of light on his immediate surroundings. The experience of being in a certain place will mark itself indelibly on Averill’s conscious – resulting in a methodical and repetitive series of motifs, which describe the intangible effects of light in varying degrees of diffraction, reflection and distortion.

Averill studied Fine Art at Brighton Polytechnic and graduated with Honours. In 1986 he established a Printmaking Workshop near Penzance, Cornwall, which he ran until 1990. Since 1989 he has lectured at Falmouth University, where he is now a senior lecturer, specialising in painting and drawing. He has been a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists since the late 1980s.

Averill has exhibited widely with exhibitions in the UK, Europe and USA including the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Show, The Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries, Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, Sherborne House, Plymouth Museum, Plymouth Arts Centre, Truro Museum, Falmouth Art Gallery, Newlyn Art Gallery and the Festival Hall in Chicago, USA. Simon Averill is represented by Anima-Mundi.