John Hansard Gallery is delighted to present a major new solo exhibition by David Blandy.
Atomic Light features four new films and are Blandy’s most ambitious productions to date. The works build upon his continued interest in history, the legacy of empire and the climate crisis. Two films are shot on location in Singapore and the UK, the others created using archive and found footage.
Expanding on his Artist Residency at Towner Gallery, Eastbourne in 2022, this new exhibition at John Hansard Gallery includes immersive installations and associated ephemera.
Atomic Light is built on doubles, reflections, and equivalences of difference. The works echo, showing two worlds connected by an event, an idea, a sky. In Sunspot, two observatories, one in California, one in Tokyo, both observe the same sun on the day an atomic sun was made on earth – the Hiroshima bomb that killed 100,000. In Soil, Sinew & Bone, a history of war and a history of agriculture, mirrored, the fertile earth of phosphates and nitrates reflected into weapons of war.
All the stories are connected through the story of Blandy’s grandfather, a British soldier interred as a Japanese prisoner of war in Singapore, who always believed that the horrific atomic bombing of Hiroshima saved his life. The twinned films, The Edge of Forever and Empire of the Swamp feature the landscapes of southern England, his home, and Singapore, where he was held as a POW. The beaches and woods play against the mangroves and a city graveyard overtaken by nature and at risk from new roads and housing.
The English tale is one of two children coming to terms with their familial history, how it is wrapped up with war and societal complicity with environmental destruction. The Singaporean tale, written by playwright Joel Tan, is a fable of nature and the repercussions of colonialism. Both feature fragile ecosystems, with mangroves at risk, the sea polluted, the air poisoned. Both island states are not self-sustaining, relying on imported food and imported labour. Singapore is built on a graveyard, and England is haunted by ghosts of the past, ghosts of Empire.
Atomic Light is co-commissioned by John Hansard Gallery and Towner Eastbourne, supported by Arts Council England, Screen Archive South East and The Elephant Trust.