In 2012 Damon Roberts sent over a silk screen image he`d been working on called A.L.S.D. Pharmacy. Asking me if I could put together a post to help promote his prints and his Glass Siren Studio. My imagination captured by image, this I duly did.
I see a picture of hope made modern. Hands held out cupped, where in place of water, we have pills. A poster for a better living through chemistry. Where large pharma monopolies “feed the world”, “cure the world”. I see Fuzeon and the Sub-Sahara, but I also see Ecstasy in the midst of Neoliberalism`s mid-80s no way back.
Twenty-three years ago I used to have a recurring dream that I`d found a suitcase full of E on the street. A lifetime`s supply. I`d hide it under my bed and I`d never go without. Now I can`t remember the rush, but then it was all I cared for. I surrendered to a “feeling of unity” that in hindsight was really the opposite. A focus inward on self.
We were not unified. We were all together all alone. A nod of recognition was simply the acknowledgment of another in the grip of a celebration of I. If someone shook your hand, offered you water, a joint, a hug, a kiss, it wasn`t “I think you`re great”, but “I feel great, and I have to tell somebody. Anybody.” It didn’t make us love everybody. It made us love ourselves to the point where we thought that everyone else should love us too. But this is in hindsight. At the time as my family fell apart I foolishly believed I`d found a new one. Until “Take your brother by the hand” became “Fucking the rest right off” and spiraling abuse, debts and increasingly dangerous, darker, means of finance turned us from aspiring to be “something beautiful” to the toughest gang in town.
As acid house approaches its silver jubilee, turns out that getting high is just getting high, and that dreams, like water, like pills, through our fingers slip away.
Over the seven years that have passed Damon`s kept working. Improving techniques. Designing and building his own – solvent free – printing press. He’s also recently overhauled his website. Put up a gallery of images that I think you should check.
When I look at the art that comes out of Glass Siren Studio I`m struck by a lot of things. Commitment, care and craftsmanship are right up there. In a world where most “industry” involves pushing information around Damon is committed to creation. Following his process from the hand-drawn sketches, to ultraviolet light-activated stencils, the balancing of pigment tone, the opacity of ink – sometimes for ten colours – from the custom-built printing press, down to the wax stamp-sealed documents that validate the artwork`s authenticity, I`m in awe of his obsession.
It`s a passion sparked by the iconic, tonic sleeve to U-Roy`s Version Galore, and intent on exploring possibilities put forward by Yves Klein`s photo-montages and Bridget Riley`s geometric pointillism explosions. Her Mondrian hallucinations. I find myself fascinated by this labour intensive love, where trial and error are part of the creative cycle. Where no two prints are the same – each telling its own story. Where method shares a muse with serendipity.
Early pieces carry Banksy-esque social commentary. Like A.L.S.D. Pharmacy. Or skeletal trees where a crowd of CCTV cameras sit in place of a murder of crows. Later works appear scientific. Mapping music as sine wave oscillations. Like the peaks of Joy Division`s Unknown Pleasures, or X-rays of 23 Envelope`s pioneering designs for 4AD.
A synesthesia that charts intersections between reggae’s soundclash and acid house`s TB-303 vibrations. Like frozen fireworks they capture and magnify the minutiae of psychedelic altered states. Taking fractal, fantastic voyages into inner space.
Breathing life into 3D abstractions that float like incandescent creatures of colour and shadow. Conjured, uncatalogued from an ocean floor. Unlocked from imagination`s depths.
Painting patterns of symmetry like electron microscope cross-sections of the universe viewed through a lysergic kaleidoscope. Watching metallic, crystalline non-carbon lifeforms evolve. Training a radio telescope on a galaxy built of butterfly effects.
You can find out more about the hard work that goes into, and the art work that comes out of, Glass Siren Studios here.