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News

Studio updates, current events, and archival posts from 2014-2017.

ELEMENTALS

NETWORK: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, glass, copper, aluminum, silicon, one transformer — image by Nathaniel Willson © 2017.

NETWORK: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, glass, copper, aluminum, silicon, one transformer — image by Nathaniel Willson © 2017.

The ELEMENTALS series began as a simple idea to explore light-based media that was subtle. I wanted to divest myself from predictable, one-trick graphic novelties and art fair booth decorations. I also sought to get straight to the core of the medium by asking, "What are the essential components of this line of inquiry, what is at the base of the pillar?"

NETWORK: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, glass, copper, aluminum, silicon, one transformer — image by Nathaniel Willson © 2017.

NETWORK: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, glass, copper, aluminum, silicon, one transformer — image by Nathaniel Willson © 2017.

From 2015-2017 I researched, fabricated, and assembled new pieces made from clear glass tubes filled with the noble gasses helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon. I attached these tubes to custom-made aluminum support frames in four radiating shapes that reference focus, energy, union, and entrance into something beyond — an attempt to invoke something close to cosmic as I could.

SCREENS (slice): helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, glass, copper, aluminum, silicon, one transformer — image by Nathaniel Willson © 2017.

SCREENS (slice): helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, glass, copper, aluminum, silicon, one transformer — image by Nathaniel Willson © 2017.

I, the world, things, life — we are situations of energy. The point is not to fix the situations, but to keep them open and alive — like life processes.
— Giovanni Anselmo

From the beginning, the series was full of problems. Each gas behaved in different and unpredictable ways. While neon and argon were easy to work with, helium was incredibly difficult to power: the glass would burn so hot from the inside out that it seemed like the tube would explode. Every transformer combination used to energize all five at once would inevitably leave krypton and xenon pulsing in weak and diminishing spirals, sputtering into faded streams. It was like the process was driving itself toward its appearance, and once I realized this and let go of my image of the work, they began to reveal themselves slowly. From trial and error over those two years, I was able to isolate the right tube diameters, pressure, and transformer combination to allow each gas to express its unique qualities while joining the greater whole in harmony.

It would be nice if there were two worlds, one wholly conscious, the other wholly unconscious, going along hand-in hand without ever getting muddled; instead of finding ourselves between the two, with no certainty, monstrously held inside the vast pain-filled subject.
— Alighiero Boetti
SOURCE CODE: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, glass, copper, aluminum, silicon, eight transformers — image by Nathaniel Willson © 2017.

SOURCE CODE: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, glass, copper, aluminum, silicon, eight transformers — image by Nathaniel Willson © 2017.

The process yielded three distinct bodies of work: SOURCE CODE, NETWORK, and SCREENS. For me, it's like envisioning energy as data streaming from some core place in space across a vast interconnected series of beacons into a field of sound and vision. It's the transmission of starlight to microchip with humans in-between.

SOURCE CODE: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, glass, copper, aluminum, silicon, eight transformers — image by Nathaniel Willson © 2017.

SOURCE CODE: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, glass, copper, aluminum, silicon, eight transformers — image by Nathaniel Willson © 2017.

In the end, each iteration is both an expansive and discrete view into a slice of what I see when I look up into the night sky, deep into the internet or inside my mind. Each gas produces a varied and intense quality, yet the overall effect is pointedly obscure as the meanings remain veiled by a minimal amount of clear information — atmosphere as open vista, light as the gate, energy as an entrance.


SOURCE CODE will be on view the entire month of August as part of Out of Sight coinciding with the third edition of the Seattle Art Fair. See the full ELEMENTALS collection here.