In this room, objects seem to be rushing toward us – or alternatively they are being sucked at great speed away from us. The long deep space is exaggerated in its perspective, with multiple perspectival lines of architecture underscoring its length. It is without human presence, yet full of the movement of transparent presences. The work is made from materials that are composed of dust: chalk pastel and metallic dust. These become embedded in the fibre-fabric; but the work retains a sense of being composed of particles.
What is this room? What are these objects? This work is part of a series called Silent Thresholds, where Nel explored the artist’s studio “as a philosophical space – as a place of creativity and visual thinking”.
The space seems to have the remoteness of a museum, and
is dreamlike. The objects seem like artefacts from some other reality, difficult to know, seemingly out of context. The columns, the sense of cold bare walls all contribute to the sense of its museum-like mystique.
Perhaps this is not surprising. Karel Nel has always been a collector of cultural artefacts; he has gathered African and Oceanic objects in the numerous exotic locations to which he has been. He has said, “There is an inextricable link between my artmaking and my collecting.”
Nel is also profoundly interested in the coming together of art and science. Both art and science, he says, seek to understand reality: both question the nature of existence.
He has worked very closely with teams that include earth scientists, astronomers, palaeoanthropologists and historians, exploring the earth’s deep history, the shape of space, the beginnings of time, chaos theory. Yet he is also deeply interested in the spiritual. For Nel, it is through his work that those three – art, science and the spiritual – are brought into one.