HERMES & THE VEIL – CRYSTAL BENNES
20th January – 5th February 2022
Gallery North (Newcastle upon Tyne)
On the reverse side of the Nobel Medal for Physics, awarded to a man every year bar three since 1901, appears an unusual image: ‘Science unveiling Nature’. One female figure (the personification of Science) lifts a veil to revea the nude torso of a second female figure (that of Nature). The inscription stretching around the edge reads, Inventas vitam iuvat excoluisse per artes or ‘it is good to improve (human) life through arts’.
This image, and its ongoing dissemination, is one point of departure for Hermes & the Veil, a first UK solo show for artist Crystal Bennes. The exhibition consists of work produced in the last three years across a range of media as part of the artist’s practice-based PhD at Northumbria University. Influenced by feminist critiques of science, Bennes explores gendered representations of nature and pervasive problems with sexism in scientific research cultures, particularly physics.
From The Point of the Veil is to Promise that Something is Behind it, b&w hand print, 24 x 30cm
Throughout the exhibition, Bennes seeks to circumnavigate longstanding ‘two cultures’ debates in which arts and sciences are defined either as oppositional or complementary. Instead, she self-consciously acts as a Hermes-like figure, moving between two worlds. Through extensive research and repeated field trips to particle physics laboratories in Switzerland, the U.S. and Japan, Bennes draws together multiple questions relating to objectivity and ‘nature’s secrets’, materiality and surface, and representation and ethical agency in both art and science.