Simon Isaac, who grew up in the industrial heartland of Wales through the 1980s, is a multimedia artist working predominantly with photography and moving image. His research explores themes of isolation, abandonment, and trauma in the self and society. Such exploration occurs through imagery of place and the relation between sentient beings and location. The idea of future and technology is often used to build the artist’s narratives and artworks.
In this extensive body of work, Simon Isaac expanded his photography practice by incorporating new technologies to build a fragmented narrative of a future that seems, although fantastical, an inevitable future of space colonisation and the possible social and physiological implication of such a narrative.
His vessel for this tale is David whom we meet before the first image is in sight. The message in the title is clear: David is forcefully summoned to return to some concept of home. The title also offers a possible description of three equal parts, one named after each word of this journey, this can also be perceived in connection to a three-act structure, often used in fiction as a narrative device.
Simon Isaac uses artworks as if he were a storyteller or a filmmaker. Each image is constructed using minimal digital intervention leading the artist to visit diverse and remote locations in order to find the landscapes that could build other worlds beyond Earth. For example, the Svínafellsjökull Glacier where the ice planet locations were shot for the movie Interstellar, that can be seen in the artwork ‘Existence 2’. Once the image is created, Simon engages in discovering the best printing method and material for each given scene. The various forms of art printing encompasses traditional paper, transparencies, wallpaper, reclaimed aircraft aluminium and screen. All carried out in the pursuit to build David’s world, including the choice of exhibition space and forms of display. Often fractured – as recollection, memory and even image recording always is – there is an exercise of flexing cultural muscles to unfold David’s story from an array of pop culture, Western cinema and sci-fi tv shows that build ours and the artist’s reference points for space travel imagination. Such references are at times to be discovered, for example in ‘Endeavour 1’ where the astronaut suit worn by David was used in David Bowie’s 2015 video production for Blackstar.
The infinite nature of outer space starkly contrasts with the isolation and loneliness of David. These two positions oscillate between expansion and contraction, also noticeable in the stages where we witness the subject transitioning from open to closed spaces. At times David is unidentifiable lost in vast otherworldly landscapes, his figure blending with his environment. Whilst, other images confront the viewer with enforced intimacy through detailed close ups of the protagonist.
David’s story also find parallels with narratives around migration and displacement, the latter in relation to the artist’s own military discharge after his relationship with another serviceman was discovered. Being gay was a crime in the British military until 2000.
As multi billionaires burn fuel through the sky in their race to space of a global ecological deficit, we may ask ourselves if all faith in the Earth’s future is long gone and that the only means to survive is to escape physically and mentally from our predicament. In this position David is an anonymous totem from an unknown future that reverts, circles back, and returns as if to rediscover Earth and re-infuse it with humanity. This can be seen in ‘Parable 2’ where the growing plants and David find themselves in a mechanical environment imbued with its nightclub pink colours. Organic yet controlled, it is a beautiful and multi-faceted world that still feels hostile.
Ultimately, David guides us through a landscape of places and states. A journey of leaving and returning and thus, discovering what we may be in relation to our environment and ourselves. Simon Isaac builds this world and its emotions with fantastical images and textures in this constellation of artworks.