Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quarks, threads and a helpless longing ...

Regions of the Heavens I. Oil on canvas with cotton stitching. 1000mm x 1000mm. Deborah Milligan
Regions of the Heavens I looks at the Heavens as place of profound mystery and reverence with one of the many ancient symbols for air - and heaven - floating across the surface. The symbolic power of the four elements has long been part of our thinking and this enduring obsession is to do with their intrinsic connection to the cycle of life and death. Historically, exposure to the four elements represents the only ways in which the dead can be disposed of, and through this exposure nourish and support new life. Interestingly these symbols are largely circular.

Regions of the Heavens II: A Helpless Longing. Oil on canvas with cotton stitching.
1000mm x 1000mm.Deborah Milligan
Regions of the Heavens II: A Helpless Longing looks at one of the points where science and religion touch. It talks of a more active engagement, a greater desire to explain and understand. Its initial inspiration is a quote from George Bernard Shaw:

There are other concepts at play in this work too. One is the Thread of Life which weaves through many archetypal stories and is particularly symbolised by the Moraie. The Moraie are referenced in The Odyssey by Homer and also reflected in the actions of Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, who each day unmade her day’s weaving rather than cut the thread that symbolised her husband's life. In A Helpless Longing the thread itself is symbolic, not just the form that the thread takes.

The form however also references the 'Lattice of Life': that cosmic matter that possibly connects all aspects of the Universe. The threads in the lattice are carriers of matter, energy and thought, and have been described as ‘non-time, non-space grooves in which life will eventually run’. According to this theory the gaps between the strings are vital: between the strings there is nothing, nothing at all. Is this the ‘pause between the breaths’ of Hinduism? The ‘space between the atoms’? Some physicists theorise that, at a sub-atomic level, space has a foamlike substance, which has a certain synchronicity with the 'Lattice of life'. In his intriguing book 'Clap one hand for the Big Bang' , Ian Pullen from the Theosophical Society states:

Science is generally logical until it gets down to sub-atomic levels and the idiosyncrasies of Quantum Theory. Down amongst the muons and quarks of this universe, all sorts of peculiar and illogical things
happen. Particles can be in two places at once; they can also ‘communicate’ with each other and seem able to foretell the future.

Out of interest there is a pretty cool site with clear descriptions of Quantum Theory (and other related theories) here. Regions of t
he Heavens Debor
I like the friction between all these thoughts: the helpless longing, the thread of life, the 'Lattice of Life' and Quantum theory. These concepts don’t sit comfortably together, there are broken lines and unanswered questions, leaps of faith – to me this expresses the mystery of life.

Regions of the Heavens III: The Rift. Oil on canvas with cotton stitching. 1000mm x 1000mm.
Deborah Milligan
Regions of the Heavens III: The Rift focuses in on this tension – at the uneasy relationship between dissecting and accepting, between pushing and containing. Here the ‘rift’ refers not to the space between the atoms, but to our understanding of what that is. This work talks of our need to explain, and thereby contain, that which we don’t understand. To hold it back. It is a basic fear of the unknown. It also looks at when we push our understanding so far that something gives way. It explores that idea: when we push so hard we tear the fabric that holds in our understanding, and then we try, futilely, to re-contain what we have released.

This series is a cyclic progression: accepting, exploring, accepting the next step, exploring from there. For we are in uncharted territory and that is how we must travel.

3 comments:

Jac Godsman said...

I love this regions of heavens series Deb. The Rift particularly pulls my senses... it's like there's a whole other world in there trying to get through....

Jac Godsman said...
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Deborah Milligan said...

Thanks Jac, that's a great response. I am so glad it moves you like that. The Rift is largely about containment and pressure.