Over five decades, Terry Flaxton has significantly impacted the world of moving image art. Having been a professor at UWE and a Senior Researcher at UoB, Flaxton's journey began with his first sound piece in 1970, his initial dive into film in 1971, followed by video in 1976. His illustrious career has seen exhibitions at renowned institutions including the Tate Modern, British Film Institute, and Institute of Contemporary Arts. Furthermore, Flaxton has earned global acclaim, with his works touring internationally and impressively gracing the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York with over a million visitors in each six-month run. In addition to his visual masterpieces, he's also been the cinematographer behind icons like Madonna, Sting, and Grace Jones.
This year, Flaxton is launching a collection on Sedition titled Diamond Beings. This coincides with a major retrospective exhibition in collaboration with Roseberry Studios in Bath, running from 7th October to 5th November, featuring over 50 works and ten screens and installations spanning his career from 1977 to 2023.
In a recent discussion, Flaxton shared his insights.
Q: Terry, could you tell us about your new retrospective at Roseberry Studios?
Terry: Well, I was looking back over my exhibitions of the last 15 years, and each retrospective makes you focus in a unique way. I've just turned 70, and while there's a natural tendency to reflect at this age, inside I still feel youthful.
Cut to 2023, with several large shows behind me and a different reflective energy in each and this is how I would position it: This retrospective at Roseberry Studios offers a different perspective, as it's a site-specific response to the building, spanning more than three floors.
Q: Your international exhibits, especially at renowned institutions and cathedrals, have been significant. Can you elaborate on these experiences?
Terry: I’ve exhibited at prestigious places like the Presidential Palace in Florence as well as in many festivals, galleries, and museums across the world. One of my works that will be part of the Roseberry Studios exhibition toured 8 cathedrals in the UK and various venues in Italy, Malta, Sweden, and China. This same piece was exhibited in two 6-month runs at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York, drawing around 1.2 million visitors each time. Its sister installation, The Intersection of Dreams, had a similar reach at the same cathedral. Additionally, I've worked as a cinematographer for celebrities like Madonna, Sting, Queen Latifa, Van Morrison, and Grace Jones. All these experiences have provided me with a deep perspective on the art world and the nuances of fame.
Q: The previous large retrospective you had was in 2010. Could you share more about that and how your current exhibition compares?
Terry: The 2010 retrospective was possibly my most ambitious to date, with 18 HD screens, which was significant for that era. Also around 2000 I'd become concerned with the tendency to put images on screens and walls, and by 2008 I was in full flow placing the image on the floor, objects like tables, the ceiling - anything but a screen on a wall. Seven or so years later I saw that bleed through to many other artists. So I aimed to dazzle visitors with virtuosity. However, as the retrospective launched, a snowstorm blanketed London, impacting the exhibition's reach and overall turnout. Fast forward to 2023, and this current retrospective brings a different energy. It's tailored specifically to Roseberry Studios in Bath and captures my reflections over the years.
Q: How is this retrospective structured across the Roseberry Studios?
Terry: The retrospective unfolds as an upward journey across the floors of Roseberry Studios. When visitors enter the ground floor, they're greeted by The Human Form, which is an exploration of the physical and mental states of humans. This is an introspective look, using portraits of people from various countries to gauge our inner selves.
As they ascend to the second floor, the theme transitions to Landscapes and Installations. Here, I'm urging viewers to map their consciousness onto these unfamiliar terrains and spaces. Some significant installations in this section are In Other People’s Skins and its sister piece, The Intersection of Dreams.
Continuing the journey upwards, on the intermediate floor, visitors will encounter Early Work. This section charts my evolution from film to high-resolution imaging, providing insights into my formative years and the shift in techniques and technologies.
At the pinnacle, the top floor holds Into the Void: 2023 and Beyond. This is where I present my most recent works. Collections here like Anthropocene, Immeasurable Heaven, and Entangled are invitations for reflections on humanity's place amidst the vast cosmos. These pieces, I feel, urge viewers to contemplate our existence in the universe. It's a blend of intense abstraction and non-objective art, encouraging a deeper introspection.
Q: It seems that you always have an underlying message or a philosophical touch to your retrospectives. What would you want your audience to primarily take away from this exhibition?
Terry: Every artist has a message they wish to convey, and for me, it's the enigma of existence. With this retrospective, more than just appreciating the art, I want the viewers to walk away pondering about their place in the universe. Through the lenses of different artistic mediums, themes, and subjects, my ultimate aim is to make people question and consider the grandeur and mystery of life. And in a world that is often caught up in the hustle and bustle, if my works can make someone stop and reflect even for a moment, I'd consider it a success.
Q: Terry, within your new collection titled Diamond Beings, there's a notable piece Diamond Beings: Forming over the Takamina Desert. Not only does it stand out in its narrative significance, but you're offering it as a complimentary piece for art enthusiasts. What led to this generous decision and can you tell us more about the artwork itself?
Terry: Diamond Beings: Forming over the Takamina Desert is being made available to everyone who wishes to experience it, free of charge. This decision stemmed from my desire to share the culmination of the Diamond Beings' journey with as many people as possible. Art has always been about connecting, and I believe this gesture can foster a deeper bond with art lovers and invite more individuals to dive into the world of both Diamond Beings and Sedition. The Takamina Desert, being one of the driest and most mystical places on Earth, offered a backdrop to visualize the Diamond Beings in their ultimate form. Their evolution through the collection culminates in this piece, where they take on a celestial presence against the vast landscape of the desert. This piece is an invitation to witness this ballet – a dance of cosmic entities in their most profound state. While it marks the end of a narrative, it also invites viewers to embark on new journeys of imagination and introspection.
For those interested in experiencing Flaxton's retrospective in person and engaging with him directly, please contact Caspar McKenzie at Roseberry Studios: email@example.com