October Gallery, London, 2009: 'Brion Gysin: Calligraffiti of Fire'
October Gallery, London, presented a solo exhibition of Brion Gysin, featuring the first UK showing of Gysin's rarely-seen painting, the 16.4-metre-long Calligraffiti of Fire. Calligraffiti of Fire is Gysin's magnum opus and final work.
A radical cultural visionary, visual artist, writer and performer, Gysin introduced his close friend, writer William S. Burroughs, to the techniques of "cut-ups" and "permutation". Together, they experimented in sound and image, using collage, tape recorder, light-painting, writing and film. They co-authored Third Mind, the term they used for such creative collaborations. Their work has had a pervasive influence in the arts and on underground and popular culture, affecting figures such as David Bowie, Patti Smith, Bill Laswell, Keith Haring, Michael Stipe, Genesis P. Orridge, and John Giorno.
October Gallery's exhibition complemented the December Burroughs Live at the Royal Academy of Arts (GSK Contemporary), and Life File, Burroughs' illustrated private files, at Riflemaker.
In the '60's, Gysin created the 'Dreamachine', which he described as "the only work of art designed to be seen with closed eyes", and a "drugless psychedelic experience". The Dreamachine rotates, and, through a flicker effect, evokes brainwaves which can produce spontaneous waking dreams. Gysin said "...it gives an extended vision of one's own interior capacities, which could also be overwhelming." It was Gysin's point of view that those "interior capacities" are the next art form, superseding painting.
October Gallery was the first in the UK to show Gysin's work with a solo exhibition in 1981, and the first to show Burroughs' works of art in 1988, 1990 and 1992. Gysin had a lifelong fascination with the juncture of word and image, and Calligraffiti of Fire (1985) is a culmination of a long series of his works inspired by hieroglyphics and calligraphy. He studied Japanese and Arabic calligraphy, and evolved his own style of word/image glyphs, supple as flames or tendrils of smoke. Calligraffiti of Firewas inspired by a makimono, a Japanese scroll, of fire in bamboo that, as a young man, he had seen at the Boston Museum of Fine Art.
Gysin's works are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Boston Fine Arts Gallery, Massachusetts USA; Centre Georges Pompidou, Fonds National d'Art Contemporaine, Musé´e d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and numerous private collections. Thames and Hudson produced Brion Gysin: Tuning into the Multimedia Age, edited by José Férez Kuri.
'Brion Gysin: Calligraffiti of Fire' was curated by Kathelin Gray, and produced in collaboration with The Academy of Everything is Possible.