The Crystal World

installation, The Crystal World, Brooke Benington, UK. Two-person show with Jack Brindley, 2020

Jack Brindley and Yeni Mao, based in Glasgow and Mexico City respectively, are occupied by overlapping and bisecting areas of interest. Both artists reference architecture, modernism and wider cultural and art history within their practices.
In “The Crystal World” we are presented with an at times contradictory set of dualities: light and dark; order and disorder; the macro and microscopic; unification and differentiation. Works that on initial approach may present one way, quickly reveal a more prismatic nature, multifaceted and open to various readings. There is a visual clarity to the work of both artists; with their duo-chromatic palettes and almost geological geometry; they appear ordered, even systematic. However, on closer inspection it is apparent that both artists embrace and actively encourage natural imperfections and chance happenings; traces of the process and material history are visible. Mao’s sculptures hang from a single point, their own gravity giving structure to their forms so that they seem almost to hum with potential or vestigial motion. Brindley’s asymmetrical panels rupture the space around them, articulating and exploring it, emphasised by the pale grey wash painted behind them. Their crystalline formality is a counterpoint to the prosaic beauty caught by the photos held within, glimpsed moments of everyday disrepair and decline. 

The artworks in “The Crystal World” are not only of their time, but they are also of time; they represent an accumulation of history, the perception and perspective of which is constantly shifting up to the point of conception, production and perhaps exhibition.  
In J G Ballard’s 1966 novel “The Crystal World”, from which we borrow our title, he describes a temporal petrifaction, a crystalline necrosis that spreads through the landscape. In his words “…it’s as if a sequence of displaced but identical images of the same object were being produced by refraction through a prism, but with the element of time replacing the role of light”. Through a disruption in, and ultimately the halting of, time, a beautiful but terrible order is imposed upon nature; an echo of our own need to impose order upon the world around us.

fig 23.4 cypher, 2019
steel, cotton cord, leather, salt, cement
135 x 50 x 20cm / 53 x 20 x 8in
fig 23.3 Kwok-A-Sing, 2019
copper, copper-plated steel, leather
81 x 26 x 8 1/2in / 206 x 66 x 22cm

(Present – Sir J. Colville, Sir R. Phillimore, Lord Justice Mellish, Sir B. Peacock, and Sir M. Smith.)

On the 30th of September, 1870, a French vessel, La Nouvelle Penelope, sailed from Macao, in China, with 800 coolie migrants, bound for Peru, South America, such emigrants having been shipped in conformity with certain regulations in force in relation to Chinese emigration. The respondent, a subject of China, was one of the emigrants, and one of the headmen or corporals to keep order among the other coolies. On the 4th of October, while the vessel was at sea, Kwok-A-Sing with others of the emigrants made a sudden attack on the captain and some of the officers and crew, murdered them, and having thrown their bodies overboard, took possession of the vessel, and compelled the seamen whose lives they had spared to conduct the vessel back to the coast of China, where they landed and abandoned the ship, Kwok-A-Sing stealing and taking money and effects, it was alleged, the property of the captain. (…) An application was then made on his behalf to Chief Justice Smale, of the Supreme Court at Hongkong, and on the return he was set at liberty, and one of the grounds was that the ordinance in question did not apply to the Treaty of Tientsin, and, that under the circumstances described in the deposition, in support of the rendition of Kwok-A-Sing, the Nouvelle Penelope was at the time of the alleged crime engaged in effect as a slave ship, and that he was confined as a slave, and justified in killing the captain in order to regain his liberty, and that the depositions disclosed no offence on the part of the prisoner.

The Times, 15 May, 1873