The Fatal Curiosity of Bevan Ramsay

Bevan Ramsay (photo credit: Riccardo Cellere)
Bevan Ramsay (photo credit: Riccardo Cellere)

“Oh, the fatal curiosity of the philosopher, who longs, just once, to peer out and down through a crack in the chamber of consciousness. Perhaps he will then suspect the extent to which man, in the indifference of his ignorance, is sustained by what is greedy, insatiable, disgusting, pitiless, and murderous—as if he were hanging in dreams on the back of a tiger. ‘Let him hang!’ cries art. ‘Wake him up!’ cries the philosopher”—Friedrich Nietzsche, “On the Pathos of Truth” (1874)

Bevan Ramsay,
Bevan Ramsay, “Smörgåsbot,” Soft Tissue (2013): urethane plastic, acrylic and oil paint (116 x 37 x 60cm)

Like Horst Hutter, I maintain that images are a kind of food which must be properly digested like any other. Some things, like an ISIS beheading—child pornography or a drone bomb snuff film—are extremely hard to digest; so hard, in fact, that they can leave you with a species of spiritual indigestion, which manifests itself in bad dreams, generalized anxiety, and PTSD. The decidedly disturbing sculptures that comprise Bevan Ramsay’s Soft Tissue leave you with haunting images that take weeks to properly digest.

 

Bevan Ramsay,
Bevan Ramsay, “Get a Head,” Soft Tissue (2013): urethane plastic, acrylic and oil paint (120 x 48 x 46cm)

Like touring a sweatshop, a garbage dump, or a factory farm, Soft Tissue forces you to remember that we are indeed “sustained by what is greedy, insatiable, disgusting, pitiless, and murderous.” Even so, it would be a mistake to view Ramsay as yet another preachy moralist trafficking in the pornography of pain. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ramsay is an artist and a philosopher—which means that his loyalties are deliciously divided: the artist in him wants to let us hang in “dreams on the back of a tiger,” whilst the philosopher in him wants to wake us up! This creative tension runs through all of Ramsay’s work, but it’s never been quite so obvious as it is in Soft Tissue. There’s something undeniably erotic and sensual about these sculptures. Yet, at one and the same time, we find ourselves—in equal measure—repulsed by them. In the Bible, this strange, ambivalent mixture of fear and wonder is known as awe.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Village Explainer (2016)

Bevan Ramsay,
Bevan Ramsay, “Woof,” Soft Tissue (2013): urethane plastic, acrylic and oil paint (67 x 54 x 164cm)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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