Nina Muehlemann allows herself to fall under the colourful spell of Lea Cummings’ ‘Cosmic fields of endless possibilities’
Glasgow-based artist and musician Lea Cummings’ latest exhibition, is placed on the appropriately-named Spirit Level in the basement of the Royal Festival Hall
Tucked behind a corner through the ‘Tunnel of Love’, Lea Cummings’ exhibition hits you with a bright, loud, colourful energy. The works feel like a continuation and the perfect ending for the tunnel filled, as it is, with modern-day pop images.
‘Cosmic Fields of Endless Possibilities’ was, according to Cummings, produced in ‘meditative state’. This means, so the artists, that ‘the drawings tap into the collective unconscious, where themes, motifs, patterns and symbols frequently found in ethnographic art produced by various disparate cultures combine. As such, they portray a spiritual reality that underlies and transcends the physical one and unites all living things.’
The pictures were all done with pen on paper, yet I can indeed see elements that remind me of ethnographic art or embroidery – the intricate details that are part of every inch of each painting, the bright mixture of swirls of different colours. The first painting that grabs my attention is ‘The Extended Eye’.
It consists of different shapes – squares, circles, triangles – that in themselves are filled with colourful patters. In the overall composition, I am almost able to make out some sort of bird-shaped, winged silhouette within all the shapes and colours, but when I look at the painting again I’m not sure anymore whether it is really there.
‘Edge of Chaos’ is my favourite artwork of the exhibition, and its name speaks volumes. An abundance of leaf-shaped, snail shell-shaped, ice cream-shaped structures open up a magical land of rainbow striped rivers, lollipop suns and towers striped in all colours you could ever imagine. This painting seems magical and straight out of wonderland.
Cummings explains that ‘by working in this unconscious way I feel that I can tap into the universal energy field and express its forms and patterns. These drawings and the processes used to create them speak of an existence outside of the consumer capitalist culture of anxiety, planning and competition with its ideas of success and failure.’
In the video, which accompanies the 8 paintings, Cummings also states that no planning or sketches are part of his creative process. Instead, everything that goes into the artwork is right there, on the paper, and for Cummings, this is what gives the work its magic spark – it is not goal-driven and he can get totally lost in it, remove himself completely from his everyday concerns.
Even though there are only eight images, the exhibition is a lot to take in thanks to the wild colours, clashing patterns and amazing detail. All of this makes each image as a whole difficult to behold, and my eye almost automatically zooms in into the details – otherwise it can feel like too much to take in.
‘Lifeforce’, one of the paintings, takes this overwhelming sensation to an extreme: The picture in itself is split into 15 frames, and upon closer inspection, I realise that it actually consists of 15 distinctive pictures, each in itself special but united in their brilliant pinks and reds, the strong blues and purples and the bright yellows and greens. In the video, Cummings explains that ‘some people can’t look too long at the pictures because it gives them a headache’, but he also mentions that he enjoys this challenging element in his art.
Personally, even though the pictures can make my eyes feel tired because of their exuberant energy, I also feel like I could stare at them forever and always discover new details and new surprising colour combinations that inspire. I love the way they make my mind wander – down the tunnel of love, straight into wonderland.