Entheon: A Sanctuary of Visionary Art– Illusionaries, London

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Artists: Alex Grey and Allyson Grey

The bustling metropolis of Canary Wharf, East London’s financial hub, may not seem like the most obvious place for an LSD-fuelled meditation on the human spirit. But that’s what Illusionaries, the experiential art gallery with Crossrail Place, is offering with its latest exhibition.

Husband-and-wife team Alex and Allyson Grey approach spirituality and humanity with art forms that complement and enhance each other. Through a series of projections and digital screens, Entheon takes us into the kaleidoscopic realm of their worldview.

Each of Illiusionaries’ galleries offers a different immersive take to appreciate the Greys’ work. In the first, projections on all four walls encase us in an ever-evolving animation. There is a recurring motif of a three-faced godhead (which also exists in solid form in the corridor connecting the galleries) based on Alex Grey’s Net of Being. That picture’s sense of infinite recurrences of the godhead form extending off in all directions is one that really benefits from the movement and perspective that the immersive projections afford.

Among the ever-changing artwork here come also Allyson Grey’s rainbow mosaics, pulsating and rotating, adorned by characters from the Secret Writing, a 20-character alphabet revealed to her during an LSD trip in the early 1970s. Each glyph is constructed within the same square shape, with the blockiness suggesting connections to Greek and Egyptian heritage, among others. There may not necessarily be literal meaning behind each word or sentence constructed in this language – the Greys are more concerned with eliciting the same emotional connection that one might feel when witnessing artefacts from ancient civilisations.

The digital imagery in the second gallery only takes up one side of the space, but with mirrors on the other three walls, plus the floor and ceiling, there is a sense of infinite recursion nonetheless. Here, the artwork is dominated by Alex Grey’s human figures, inspired by depictions of human musculature and circulatory systems. With skin stripped away, we see how the whole body is connected – and how we are to each other. Lovers connect, exchanging passages of light that traverse from heart to heart; a suckling baby on his mother’s breastfeeds on milk that seems to be generated in the mother’s hypothalamus.

Throughout, there is an eye motif based on the “third eye” that’s often depicted on the forehead to denote some sort of extrasensory perception. That shows up in the anatomical depictions of adults, but the eyes appear all over the place—most disturbingly, on a single fertilised embryonic cell as the animations depict a growing foetus.

If all the brightly lit animations and the drones and drumbeats of the New Age soundtrack get to be a bit much, another gallery offers a peace garden-style environment. Rock-shaped bean bags sit on a gravel floor, with an overhanging tree, as more projections play out on a 3D representation of the three-faced godhead. There are still recurring elements from Alex and Allyson Greys’ other pieces, and the music continues, but there is much less sensory overload.

A connecting corridor also includes static artworks by the couple along with some explanations of their methods, inspirations, and beliefs. The couple has a fascinating take on life, even if it may not align with one’s own. And while the trippy digital animation and CG manipulation of their artworks may seem overblown at times, Entheon is a very different experience from the utilitarian aesthetic in the rest of Canary Wharf.

Entheon: A Sanctuary of Visionary Art opens on 14 June and continues until 31 August 2024

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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