Research; Roger Hiorns’ Transmutation process

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‘Im Winter’ 2002
Galvanised steel, paint, metal clamps, thistles, copper sulfate 

Roger Hiorns is a fascinating artist; he utilises alchemical symbolism, and an esoteric form of visual language to create his body of work. Engines, Copper Sulphate Crystals, Naked Performers, Fire, Thistles and Brain matter are all used to consider concepts such as transmutation and the nature of consciousness. This rich and diverse set of principles and materials highlight that Hiorns is a man who is as mystifying and mysterious as his artwork. There is something very fascinating about his process, and how he utilises crystallisation and pulverisation to craft artwork about an objects latent power and symbolism, and bringing it forth within his process of creation. I have also been exploring this notion of latent energy and power within objects and materials within my own work, and have been struggling to find a way to highlight the importance of these qualities within discarded or seemingly meaningless objects.

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‘UNTITLED’, 2011
Engine, steel, copper sulphate

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‘Untitled’, 2011
Engine, copper sulfate, steel, lamp

Hiorns’ esoteric symbolism often utilises engines, possibly as a symbol of motion and power, and highlights the wonder one feels when hey look upon such an amazing feat of engineering. These sculptures consist of a BMW car engine covered in bright blue crystals, standing on a metal structure. Hiorns places the engines inside a tank filled with a copper sulphate solution, resulting in stunning crystals fixing on its surface. He is concerned with processes that are unreadable and unmanageable, resulting in artworks and objects that are a surprise to even the artist. JJ Charlesworth on the self-producing aspect of Hiorns’ objects: “If crystals grow on the body of a BMW engine, as in The birth of the architect (2003), or in the thistles that hang on steel rods of Discipline (2002), or if foam rises from the vessels of Beachy Head (2000-06), they no longer have anything to do with the human intervention that initially set them in motion. Hiorns makes objects that suggest a sort of independence, a separation from the world of those who see them, as if they have a purpose, or at least a story behind their existence, that exists despite the context in which they are encountered. Whether it is sculpted, constructed, assembled, arranged, photographed or painted, much contemporary art still assumes that the artwork should generate a kind of dialogue between it and the spectator. A common trait in Hiorns’ objects is the aspect of mute indifference to the spectator, who can only query, at a distance, the strange concatention of elements before them, and muse on the obscure intent that brought them into being.”

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Untitled (Alliance)’, 2010
Pratt & Whitney TF33 P9 engines that were once mounted on a Boeing EC-135 surveillance plane
Effexor, Citalopram, and Mannitol

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‘Untitled’ 2010, Atomised Jet engine

Continuing with the motif of the ‘engine’, especially those of aircrafts; Hiorns focuses on the majesty and power of these objects, and by objectifying them, brings them to the forefront of out mind and consciousness; prompting debate and reflection upon these objects. Here, Hiorns utilises the process of atomisation (a method of pulverising) to reduce an aircraft engine to nothing more than a fine dust. Here, the majesty of the engine is reduced to nothing more than a pile of dust upon the floor. Through this, Hiorns transmutes the engine from a dense, physical object, into a spiritual, ethereal form. This is fascinating, as it harkens back to the notion of time and experience, and how we are witnessing what the engine will eventually break down into in thousands of years; a fine dust.

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