dylan ray arnold: Growth of the Night Plants

Exhibition text

dylan ray arnold

Growth of the Night Plants

Forum Box, Helsinki

August 11 — September 03, 2023


The physical dimensions of consciousness are put to rest, pushing flowers from the bed-replacing drawers in the night. And although nocturnality may suggest a certain obscurity, the night that is summoned here is one that evokes a fertile reverie. Dreaming gives way to the fading of reality’s constraints allowing for unimaginable behaviours like flying, becoming invisible, passing through walls, transformations of not only the self, but also of space, the recreation of narratives, and even the altering of the present, the past and the future.

The universe created by dylan ray arnold is not far from one that dreaming, or hallucinating, offers, yet it is one which is fully embodied. Confronted with architectural-esque microcosms in which the interior and the exterior exist on the same plane, the viewer is invited to imagine flying, passing through walls, observing the contorted postures of their inhabitants in slumber. The changes in environment and narrative occur as plants become bodies and vice versa; and the transformations of the self, space and time reveal themselves not only in the everchanging and multiple caterpillar figures always on the threshold of their imminent metamorphosis, but also in the the gestures and techniques employed by the artist. Everything is breathing, pulsating, hiding, revealing, crouching, looking and stumbling awkwardly as accumulated objects manifest the everyday/night experience, however overwhelming it may be.

The redundancy, absurdity and nevertheless importance of systems — think nervous, digestive, circadian and root — present themselves as a still image of transformation. The exhibition can thus be considered as a spatial diagram of the affective body in which everything is intrinsically relational as the draw-er - the artist - and the drawer present us with a need for withdrawal — one that is nevertheless transformative. Materials and how they are manipulated transport the viewer to a space of interiority, as the range of gestures – folding, cutting, tucking (in to bed?), hanging, revealing, upholstering and covering – allude to the contradictory nature of a game of hide and seek: “It is a joy to be hidden and a disaster to not be found.”

This desire to simultaneously be invisible and seen brings us to the title of the exhibition. Borrowed from a painting by Paul Klee of the same name, “Growth of the Night Plants” suggests the loneliness of the nocturnal bloom. A moonflower's blossom, for instance, lasts a single night, and if no witnesses are lurking in its vicinity at its efflorescence, the flower wilts before its existence is ever noted. This tension between invisible and visible is elaborated by the presence of the drawer, or more precisely, a junk drawer: a space in which objects and ephemera oscillate between significance and refuse. In dylan ray arnold’s assemblages, found objects that could have easily been collecting dust in such a space intertwine to embody duality/multiplicity: encrypted enveloppes recall restriction and control as lotto tickets recall both potential and hopelessness. The drawer here thus doubles as both a fertile bed of spring soil and the cold depths of a coffin, simultaneously holding the secrets of both origins and burials.

The meandering from this to that forms a path of sinuous lines that spread across the space. Lines are central in dylan ray arnold’s work — in all their flight, curling inward, suggesting, filling, connecting or whatever they appear to do as a spatial diagram. And we mustn't ignore that a good diagram is one in which there are things beyond control; one in which drawing and lines are simply forms opening and forming (blooming?) by themselves. In a new series of collages composed of scans of notebooks, we discover dylan ray arnold’s nervously yet consistently wandering line that illustrates an idea put forth by Paul Klee: “A line is just a dot that went for a walk.” And thus in the exhibition, the drawing is a line that not only went for a walk, but one that walked right off the page, growing in the space.

The blooming of night flowers may cue their own demise, yet one isn’t to forget that death is always a possible outcome in play. In “Growth of the Night Plants,” dylan ray arnold offers an insight into how the hermetic figure’s rumination, or the depths of a drawer, are not simply destinations in pure dust, but generative, imaginative and necessary stopping off places for transformation. If the drawer is a pocket vital for dreaming and, in turn, metamorphosis, then “instead of melting away on some nocturnal screen and evaporating quickly, [dreams or hallucinations] root deeply [...] through the depths of our bodies.” The physical dimensions of consciousness are, in this sense, the affective body, and although it is put to rest here, it is more fertile than ever.