simon finn








Simon Finn’s Frozen Moment


Dr Eiichi Tosaki


The process of Simon Finn’s ‘disruption’ is more akin to Marey’s and Eakins’  synthesized chronophotography than Muybridge’s strobographic images. Finn’s art works are somewhere between those of Thomas Eakins and (as Goethe puts it) the ‘frozen music of architecture’. Finn’s drawings bring into being a structure through which he explores the frozen moments of a process. The tower does not yet exist physically outside of these images, but when it is built (and that is the plan in West Java later this year), it will embody as part of its structure at some level in our thinking this potential for disruptive autopoeisis: making and unmaking. Finn’s concern is not about the frozen moment, but with the imbrication of the structure’s overlapping movements within this disruptive process.





Like the frozen flow of abrupt departure from a fixed form, like the spectacle of destruction of a bridge or building during demolition, Finn’s realization of the frozen flow reveals a visual rhythm - not rhythm as oscilloscopic wavy movements - but rhythm conceptualised as a combustion engine, where there is an accumulation of movement on the same spot. What is different, however, is that Finn’s combustion engine is to be broken at a certain stage of moment, or is to be ill-arranged, e.g., the axis of combustion is off-centered somehow.


Finn’s starting point is a frozen moment in the accumulation of movements. His approach suggests an espial eye looking for the point of rupture: the gist of the whole flow of a motion, the summary of the whole predicate of the sentence, the dazzling eye of the whirlpool.


This is quite opposite to the Japanese way of making a garden. The starting point of Japanese garden making is to put a carefully selected self-standing rock in the centre. This rock symbolizes a monk, flanked by two disciples, and then the process continues by allocating the rest of the rocks, intuitively forming a little cosmic landscape. This also relates to a jo-ha-kyu 序破急 rhythm, which can be appreciated in the transition of a flower. As Zeami, founder of Noh theatre in 14th century Japan, said “because the flower falls, it is celebrated.” Each Noh performance has to have Jo 序, which is beginning, slow and quiet, ha 破, which is development through destruction, and kyu 急, which means urgency and the peak of performance.

By comparison, Finn’s process starts by finding the breaking point of rupture which brings about a flood of destruction - leaving the well-made structure at the hand of the destroyer.


Finn is a tech-savvy contemporary artist. However, for him, this is just a starting point. His computing skills are among the possibilities for building a CG mock-up image of spectacular events. By using digital technology Finn prepares for the analogue stream of rupture in the following process: 
First, He gradually accrues the fragments of events to construct an avalanche of energy of shapes and flows. He then sets up the breaking point, the trigger. This is Kyu. Second, The flood of broken matter in a chaotic stream, composed by the debris of objects washed up by the flood is released. The structure is demolished so it can be built again, and again. This is ha. Third, he then uses stop-motion to reconstruct the accrued movements to a frozen moment, which is depicted and fixed into his drawings. This is jo.


This mock-up image is destined to be destroyed. Finn is the boy on the beach, building a sandcastle with every intention of destroying it, for that is the point. Also the point of new departure. Finn’s Panopticon/tower system is the boy’s sandcastle. Finn must have found something. It is perhaps through his experience of deep sea diving. It is the self-inclusive moment of an eternal moment, the moment that contains an enormous stretch of time and the tiny spot of his body in the sea grasping the endless volume of space and matter. Finn discovered his basic instinct for creation: a moment contains endless time and space, quietude including enormous noise, placidity including the harsh ground of disaster, emancipation and suffering, drive and indolence, living will and destructive power of death, visibility and invisibility.




Finn’s drawing is stunning, since this is the moment/process when the boy on the beach observes the broken process of the sandcastle.  Stunned by the image of rupture, Finn observes quietly. Perhaps this is his experience of that moment at the deepest point of a scuba dive: darkness and quietude at 60m under water, looking up toward the simmering sunlight with a feeling of the crushing power of all that sea water. From this point of ecstasy the flood of images gushes into his mind.


Finn’s recent work, featuring the sea as a burnt surface, has great power in this exhibition space. I can conclude this short essay with the demonstration of the meaning of Yugen in Japanese aesthetics, which was initiated by Noh theatre. It is uncanny that the description of Yugen coincides with the deep meaning of Finn’s work.


Yugen is a compound word, each part, yu and gen, meaning “cloudy impenetrability,” and the combination meaning “obscurity,” “unknowalibity,” “mystery,” “beyond intellectual calculability,” but not “utter darkness.” [e.g. ‘moon’ in Japanese aesthetics ET]. Both terms yu and gen were originally (in Taoism and Buddhism) related to the art of [textile] dyeing, meaning the colour black. But it came to denote darkness, and then profoundness. This profoundness was the fundamental meaning of the term yugen, when it was transmitted to Japan. It carries the connotation of half-revealed or suggested beauty, at once elusive and meaningful, tinged with wistful sadness. It also connotes the beauty of gentle gracefulness and elegance and the sentiment of peaceful placidity and tranquil loneliness. It also relates to the world of invisible things where the sense of being beyond reality permeates. Thus yugen resides in the domain of the unknowable by reason, but is only intuited as a special thing, which forces one to feel something in the pure duration of time.




Dr Eiichi Tosaki is an artist, art historian, and philosopher. He has lectured widely on art history, art theory, philosophy, psychoanalysis, religion, animation, Japanese culture, and art practice, in Melbourne, across Australia and internationally. His book “Mondrian's Philosophy of Visual Rhythm: Phenomenology, Wittgenstein, and Eastern thought” will be published by Springer in 2015. He is currently an honorary fellow in Philosophy, Melbourne University.




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Simon Finn