Sax Impey was born in Penzance, Cornwall in 1969. He completed a BA(Hons) Fine Art at Newport in 1991 and returned to Cornwall in 1994. Since 2005 he has produced allegorical works derived almost exclusively from experiences at sea. A qualified RYA Yachtmaster, he has sailed many thousands of nautical miles in many parts of the world. Impey’s extensive trips at sea have had a profound impact on his life and subsequent development as an artist. Reconnecting to nature through this powerful element has the almost inescapable effect of calling to question some of life’s existential questions. This epiphanic moment of realisation, of revelation, is at the core of Impey’s oeuvre.
EXHIBITION DATES: Monday 16 September – Saturday 26 October
LAUNCH EVENT: Saturday 14 September, 12-8 pm
WHERE: Anima Mundi, Street-an-Pol, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 2DS
WEBSITE: Anima Mundi
Reflecting on and capturing personal moments and making them universal, Impey’s work reaffirms the importance of introspection and confrontation, found specifically when surrounded by the natural world; “A mind can breathe, and observe, and reflect, away from the shrill desperation of a culture that, having forgotten that it is better to say nothing than something about nothing, invents ever new ways to fill every single space with less and less.” Impey has occupied no.8 Porthmeor Studios since 2003, part of an historic studio complex overlooking Porthmeor beach in St Ives.
In 2007 his work was selected for the ‘Art Now Cornwall’ exhibition at the Tate St Ives where he was placed on the cover of the associated publication, the same year he was heralded in The Times as one of the ‘New Faces of Cornish Art’. In 2010 Impey featured in the Owen Sheers, BBC4 Documentary ‘Art of the Sea (In Pictures)’ alongside Anish Kapoor, J M W Turner, Martin Parr and Maggie Hambling among others. In 2012 he was elected an Academician of The RWA.
‘We too will fail, if we persist in blindness – if we keep taking the blue pill’
Whilst maintaining a solo studio practice Impey has also engaged in numerous collaborative projects, including film, theatre, performance and installation works. His paintings are in numerous collections including The Arts Council, Warwick University, The Connaught Hotel and other private collections worldwide.
The work draws upon the unique experiences of the 60 day voyage, including both extraordinary landfalls and the time spent sailing one of the most remote parts of the ocean. The exhibition offers a compelling record, which both witnesses the duration of a long ocean voyage, with its storms and calms, and finds in the fantastic archaeology of Rapa Nui a potent echoing symbolism for our own time and culture.
The artists’ film work, ‘Pacific’, compresses the chronology of 2 months into 1 hour, enabling in the viewer a sense of the duration of the whole, and of certain key passages of time, elements and sea state – a work which, whilst meditative and ruminative, contains a strong sense of the very real jeopardy such a sailing trip entails.
‘All civilisations end, one way or another… only the myopic and the stupid can gaze complacently out from their own and expect an entirely different outcome’
The film, and drawings in the exhibition, also focus on the mariners relationship with the birds of the sea, the welcome encounters with the wanderers of the open ocean, and with those that presage the coming land, and find in the frigate bird a particular, totemic, otherworldly presence, its evocative form so placed between man and bird as to suggest something else entirely.
Many of the exhibition works depict some of the nearly 1,000 monumental statues, or moai, found on the island of Rapa Nui (now called Isla de Pascua, and still known widely as Easter Island), one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. These extraordinary creations stand silently, enigmatically presiding over a history of deforestation, overuse of resources, extinctions and internecine warfare, and, with the arrival of Europeans, slavery and disease.
With our own culture engaged in the same destructive process on a far larger scale, the artist presents us with images which, whilst both mysterious and evocative, contain an urgent and salutary message. The sightless eye sockets of each of the line of towering figures at Tongariki still contain an accusatory, baleful or beseeching warning to us all.
“All civilisations end, one way or another… only the myopic and the stupid can gaze complacently out from their own and expect an entirely different outcome. Rome was eternal, the sun would never set on the British Empire, and no doubt the Rapa Nui people expected the towering figures of their ancestors to gaze over a thriving island for a great deal longer than they did. But deforestation, over hunting, the overuse of resources, the destruction of their own environment led to internecine warfare, and the statues were toppled. The ancestors had failed, and betrayed, and birdman had arrived.
‘Everybody knows the boat is leaking, everybody knows the captain lied’
We too will fail, if we persist in blindness – if we keep taking the blue pill. The corporate construct, with its’ ceaseless torrent, its’ trillions of seconds of advertising lies, day after day, night after night, year after year after year, layer upon layer; this accretion of falsehoods overlays the world as it actually is, and replaces it, creating the conditions for a normalcy which is anything but, where just about everything considered normal is in fact insane, inhuman, inhumane and ecologically catastrophic.
How is one supposed to live in this world, to be, to act, when one knows it to be false – to be so out of step with your own civilisation’s apparent aims and desires that you have never once felt any sense of belonging and shared purpose? How many of us feel this way? “Everybody knows the boat is leaking, everybody knows the captain lied” sang Leonard Cohen. Well it is, and they did. The line of towering figures at Tongariki whisper of what they witnessed, and continue to stare from sightless eye sockets over a world that has gone, with a gaze that contains a prophetic warning for us all.” Sax Impey, 2019