Amina McConvell’s hypnogogic manifestations

Chloé Wolifson

Darwin-based artist Amina McConvell recently held two exhibitions in Sydney, Hypnogogic at Verge Gallery and quest into the black field: an exploration of hypnogogic imagery and other hallucinations at Firstdraft. Both shows explored the phenomenon of visual hallucinations. McConvell is particularly interested in hypnogogia, imagery which can be noticed just prior to falling asleep. Her installations incorporate bold geometric elements which are cut out, painted, and in relief. They glow and strobe, their compositions somewhat chaotic in keeping with the uncontrolled and uncontrollable nature of these types of visions.

2015-04-24 12.05.15Amina McConvell, Hypnogogic, installation view, Verge Gallery, 2015. Photograph: Chloe Wolifson

McConvell’s exhibitions make for a nice parallel to the current swathe of exhibitions exploring the nature of light and perception in tandem with the UN’s Year of Light and Light-based Technologies, including James Turrell at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, and Light Show and Luminous at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Where many works use light as a medium through which to explore the physical nature of the phenomenon and the human experience of it as bodies and eyes in space, McConvell’s exploration looks inward, to perceptions occurring inside the body and eye as a result of physical and psychological factors including sleep, migraine, heat stroke and grief.

What really struck me was McConvell’s manifestation of these highly personal experiences in concrete form. The patterns we see on the insides of our eyelids are not easy to pin down. In fact, they can appear so fleeting that it can be difficult to confirm their form or existence to ourselves or others. It always seemed strange to me that these hard-edged geometric patterns occurring in a totally organic, primitive way, could really be a universal phenomenon. Yet here they are writ large, in a three dimensional installation complete with glow-in-the-dark paint and strobe lighting. They are unapologetic in their expression of the subjective, and the risk pays off.

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