Simeon Nelson - Joanna Callaghan


Mappa Mundi Simeon Nelson

Joanna Callaghan

Upon entering the world of Mappa Mundi I am transported back in time: I am a child and everything in the world is big and strange. Standing in front of data cloud, a cacophony of bright red shapes on a large white wall, I am Alice in Wonderland. I’m face to face with a massive playing card where the diamonds and hearts have spun off rebelliously only to later sheepishly re-arrange themselves symmetrically. Is this a joke? I’m not sure as I back away carefully. I spin around and find myself in front of Godhead Gestalt, or Keeper of Secrets as I named it. It brings to mind an unopened, forbidden wardrobe imploded from the force of it’s secrets. Appearing harmless in it’s cheap, cheerful, formica garb, it beckons me closer. I am not sure about it. It seems friendly but there is something dark about it. Paradoxically the Keeper of Secrets is transparent, revealing other forms and nuances behind it’s marbled armour. This is a controlled implosion, carefully crafted and manipulated.

Ornamatrix is perhaps the most surprising. Seen firstly in a photo I had been repelled by it’s unfathomable mass: dark, silent, dead. In the flesh it was majestic: complex, intricate and teeming with life. I ‘know’ that it is symmetrical, that it’s form is repetitive, that underneath it’s mass is a grid. I know this because I have been told it. I have not however found it myself. I got lost long before I got that far. An analysis of the object breaks it into it’s component parts, but here is the irony and perhaps the joke (again). The object cannot be broken. It has no parts. Where I had got it wrong was misunderstanding the interplay Simeon has created between the movement of the eye and the form of the object. What appears in a single glance as dead, is ignited upon a second glance and subsequently begins to crackle and smoke and burn as the eye whips around the object zapping it with life. Suddenly ornamatrix is a crawling mass of forms and shapes that shift and move and I find myself falling into it.

Teetering I move off to decoroced. Funny. The one I thought I liked the most was the least appealing. In the flesh, the red was flat, obscuring and congealing the form. It seemed messy. Yes blood like, menstrual perhaps: slithery clots, hard curves, trailing tendrils, sharp claws that might hurt. The right consistency but not the right colour – this is a man’s view after all.

I saw Wall zip as an enormous ladder that if I climbed, might reveal to me this world of forms that Simeon seemed intent on creating. It was after all perfect for climbing: solid, tall and made of wood. What more could I want? Perhaps from up there these bits might come together to form some gi-normous universal, immutable form. Perhaps I might even see my own essence swaying in the breeze on the top of a distant wall zip in a land far, far away. Or wait maybe I would see nothing, or better still maybe I would be blinded by the beauty of the essence of myself: my appearance would not see anything, my essence would not be interested enough to look.

Sometimes I felt the urge to break a bit off these perfect sculptures. (Maybe I could fall off Wallzip and be impaled by Ornamatrix.) There is something disturbing about their symmetry. It feels hard and a bit cold though the forms are often beautiful and the use of colour and texture attractive. I wondered about this man that makes things like this. Is this how he sees the world? Does he imagine that there are essences of things and if so is this his attempt at finding them? Why are there so many contradictions in his work?

Perhaps it is this duality within himself that is the ‘real’ essence of the work. Human beings are full of contradictions. We are masters of the paradox and celebrators of polarities. The world is easier to understand when then are positions with which to orientate oneself. What position has Simeon taken? Maker of Forms? Transcendor of Essence? I have always imagined an essence as something that is revealed once other things are taken away, a kind of reducible thingee. Simeon’s sculptures appear to take away, to reduce, but at the same time, reveal and complicate. I think they look how transcendence might sound. I don’t think they are any ‘thing.’ They are remnants of some invisible process. Perhaps a computational anomaly or a cerebral infarction. Either way, they are definitely not from this world.