28.10.08 Michael Whittle, 'Dark Ages', Amelia's Magazine

On entering a Georgian house in Kennington, Emma and I wondered if this was really the address of Man&Eve gallery for the Michael Whittle exhibition. After all with the fireplaces, high ceiling and garden, it seemed more like a cosy home. I must admit that viewing his work online made me really puzzled as the artists delicate sketches obviously had an intellectual basis but what this basis was I wasn’t sure. Similarly, Emma was there to meet and interview the man behind the images for issue 10 of the mag (out in December fingers crossed).

‘Dark Ages’ concerns itself with the dialogue between the mind and nature. This is not immediately obvious yet there is a religious, solemn feel in all the images- as if they have been carefully drawn by monks. His attention to detail together with his alchemical style is astonishing. Your brain almost cannot take in that much detail, and your eyes boggle, not properly registering the image fully. Such detail stems from his interest in science and ‘the tension between our hopes and aspirations towards knowledge, with which we can take action, and on the one hand, our despairs and disappointments in our thwarted efforts that eventually lead us to find peace with our dim wisdom.’

Within each piece there is an imbedded symmetry, which hints at anatomy, neurology, archaeology and geography. His drawings made me think of those detailed horticultural books with delicate pencil sketches of plants made fifty or so years ago. The works seem to make a nod to a simpler time where drawing was the main mode of documenting. Such drawings were linked to gaining knowledge at how a plant or ecosystem worked. And it is perhaps commentary on how powerful Whittle is, that despite the basic pencil and paper medium, his work still remains current. As long as he continues to challenge our age-old need to attain knowledge and the limits of this, he will never go out of date.

Tanya Geddes, 23rd October 2008
Amelia’s Magazine.