“In Search of the Purple Fish”.
A contemporary sculpture and assemblage.
“Our English word purple comes from Latin purpureus, which comes from Greek porphyra, a noun denoting the purplefish. This sea mollusk, properly the purple limpet or murex, was the source from which all purple and red dyes were obtained in antiquity. But the purplefish had another name in ancient Greek, namely kalche, and from this word was derived a verb and a metaphor and a problem for translators. The verb kalchainein, “to search for the purplefish,” came to signify profound and troubled emotion: to grow dark with disquiet, to seethe with worries, to search in the deep of one’s mind, to harbour dark thoughts, to brood darkly”(1).
I first came across the term “in search of the Purple Fish” in Anne Carson’s book Float. In the section “A Right to Remain Silent” the text varies slightly but the explanation and source is what started this piece of work. I think it was the idea of a colour expressing the depth of ones thought that appealed to my painterly intuitions.
“Tyrian purple may first have been used by the ancient Phoenicians as early as 1570 BC. The dye was greatly prized in antiquity because the colour did not easily fade, but instead became brighter with weathering and sunlight. Its significance is such that the name Phoenicia means ‘land of purple.’ It came in various shades, the most prized being that of “blackish clotted blood”. (2)
It is also an idea that has always accompanied humanity, that introspection, as we seek to understand ourselves and our place in community, society, nation and the world. Something the greatest minds have laboured with; that artists have explored, composers and musicians come so close to touching and although it is something which I cannot explain or answer it is a joy to have that sense of being that the search stimulates.
About the Work: like most of my work the initial idea springs from a simple or small intuition or recognition of something which is outside the normal perspective or meaning of an object or text, something I see differently.
This piece began with the piece of dead wood which reminded me of outstretch arms (see below), but it became someone crucified, when a family member found the piece of wood that became the crucifix, but although I use the term crucified it has nothing to do with crucifixion but the idea that most things are on a spectrum, when it comes to ideas nothing is precise the placing of the outstretched arms halfway between the cross and the base, it is whether the idea is worthy of raising up to the top with merit or lowering to the base to be lost.
But this was a search for the “purplefish” and so I wanted something to make that journey on so I created something that reminded me of the bridge of the “Star Ship Enterprise” that bold went forth to explore the universe. (below).
The old fashioned chair on the flight deck is taken from a painting by Van Gogh which has his pipe and tobacco on it, a whim on my part and a nod to my painterly self. Also I heard the painting of the simple rustic chair as Van Gogh’s homage to the poorer and overlooked in our society.
Below the top deck is a section which is loaded with pebbles (see image below), that the figure in the piece is collecting this is a reference to all the personal opinions, grudges, biases, loves, affinities both good and bad that we gather through life and influence how we look at others. These are important ideas that we use to be who we are but can sometimes hold us back from seeing what is really before us.
The final part of the work is the light which is in a Perspex ring case which is guilded (roughly, I did not want perfection) and painted with a transparent purple paint. The light is connected to a PIR motion sensor so that it comes on automatically when anyone ids detected near to the work. It stays on for a minute then goes off but will come on again if anyone stays in the vicinity. The sensor can be seen in the image below in the crate being dragged from the sand.
The light which can be seen in the image above, also shows the distressed guilding of the perspex casing.
I could spend a great deal of time explaining in more detail the meaning of the work but even when I who created the piece goes onto explain about the work I seem to loose the essence I saw when I was creating the work and hat I feel when I look at the work now so I will stop here, adding only that I like the idea that as long as the light continues to come on humanity continues to exist, unless of course it is not a person that triggers the light but the cat!
(1) Anne Carson – from “Variations on the Right to Remain Silent” from A Public Space, Issue 7 / 2008
(2) Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple