Wild Cries of Ha-Ha is the translated name of one of the eight great charnel grounds described in Hindu and Buddhist spiritual texts. They are places of transformation, where the living and the dead communicate, populated by shamans, roaming spirits and corpses. These extremely sacred sites are feared and opposed by those without a strong-will and only the most devoted believers of asceticism and ritual practices can worship there.
Richard Proffitt’s atmospheric assemblages and installations are eerily accurate representations of the sanctuaries and relics used by cults, tribes, hippies, and loners in their attempts to communicate with otherworldly energies. We encounter intensely detailed shrines illuminated with sinister red darkroom lamps or flashing disco lights, burnt-out campfires with infinitely looped chants and mantras, ramshackle shelters plastered with anarchist newspapers, medicine wheels sprinkled with sage and incense, and collages of record covers, psychedelic posters and drug paraphernalia.
Throughout all of Proffitt’s work, ordinary objects, scraps of discarded junk, and obsessively collected artifacts are crafted and altered into tools of divination or magic. Wire hubcap rings are reconfigured into elaborate dream-catchers with feathers, bones, cassette-tape, and pin-badges dangling like talismans. Totemic icons and fetishes are fashioned from crude bits of driftwood, bones and charity shop treasures. What appear to be ancient slates with silvery etched primitive drawings are absurdly revealed to be painted foil crisp-packets.
A phrase from a banal 1970s pop song endlessly surfaces and vanishes in a recording that murmurs throughout the exhibition, leading us in an incantation from the everyday to the mystical:
‘As we eye the blue horizon/It’s merely an illusion’.
This new gathering of works reminds us that we are not lighting upon exhibits in an ethnographic museum or a cabinet of curiosities but that the artworks with which we share the space have a transcendence that transports us, subconsciously, throughout time, and to exotic cultures and locales. The physicality, form, structure, and composition of the pieces has become more refined as the artist has constructed his own language of symbols and motifs to guide us on our journey.
Richard Proffitt’s recent exhibitions have included A Modern Panarion, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane; Take Me To The Other Side, Pallas Projects, Dublin; Eternal Spirit Canyon (solo), The Joinery, Dublin; Rendezvous 11/12, Institute of Contemporary Art, Lyon and National Gallery, Cape Town.
The above introduction was written by Michael Hill, who will hold a discussion with Richard Proffitt about the exhibition, Saturday, January 17, 12pm, in the gallery.
Richard Proffitt and Michael Hill have made a small edition of booklets that will be available at the exhibition.