Ian Whittlesea’s White Cloud Forming paintings are a new series of works on paper and aluminium that relate to his book Becoming Invisible. The book itself draws on the literature of Rosicrucianism, theosophy and esoteric yoga and describes how, by means of visualization and breathing exercises, the reader can combine the seven colours of the spectrum to create a glowing white cloud that renders anything contained within it invisible.
The White Cloud Forming paintings are, in part, an attempt to manifest this cloud of invisibility. Made using only sprayed pigment, without brushes or any physical contact with the paper or support, they are simultaneously a representation of another’s mystical state and entirely abstract records of the process of their own making. They have a lyrical beauty and an ethereal presence that speaks of both their esoteric subject matter and their means of production. The painting’s veils of spectral colour, and the airborne and air-propelled method of application, parallel Whittlesea’s ongoing work with breath and breath control.
Sometimes resembling the cloud studies of Constable and Turner the paintings draw on a complex group of antecedents, including Lawrence Weiner’s early spray painted works, John Latham’s One Second Drawings, colour field painting of the 1950s, Robert Irwin’s luminous disc paintings of the 1960s and representations of the ineffable made by spiritualists and occultists. In their reference to the void the paintings bring to mind Whittlesea's earlier work on Yves Klein, while their use of a limited, predetermined, colour palette and system of making recalls the work of Sol LeWitt, and in particular his dictums that 1. Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach. and 5. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
Ian Whittlesea (b. 1967, UK) lives in London. His work is concerned with words, and with the ability of text to transform the physical and psychic state of the viewer. It assumes many forms, from painstaking paintings to printed books, ephemeral posters and transient projections, and explores the relationships between language, image and diagram both on the page and in the world. In recent exhibitions he has begun to examine the concept of a physical bibliography, presenting an archive of research material, objects and ephemera as a single, ever expanding, readymade.
Whittlesea first became known for his (ongoing) series of Studio Paintings that, using white paint on a dark ground, simply name the place that another artist or writer has worked. His translation of Yves Klein's Les Fondements du Judo was published in 2009 and his newly illustrated edition of Mazdaznan Health & Breath Culture in 2012. These texts, along with his Becoming Invisible project, have been collectively described as 'instruction manuals for transcendental exercise'.
Solo exhibitions include Breath is Life, Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool UK (2015), Attaining Cosmic Consciousness, Tenderbooks, London UK (2014) and A Breathing Bulb, Marlborough Contemporary, London UK (2014). Group exhibitions include Now is forever lasting constant in the mind, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2016), Exercises in Empathy, Site, Sheffield UK (2015), Resource, Bluecoat, Liverpool UK (2015) and Everything is About to Happen, Artists Space, NY USA (2014).
He is represented by Marlborough Contemporary, London.