Posted on 26th September 2009

…Happenstance… a seven and a half hour performance/installation by Shaun Caton at PS2 Paragon Studios Project Space, Belfast, Sunday 6th September 2009.

…shelfed trenches trickle over sills, spindles & curls notch breath & bone dreams layered edges of dust spirals. Dead fingerplay. Broken in two, the shrine mound heaves, slope, quad, spikes, smell of ectoplasm, ghosts living in the bricked up wall. drawings: maps, ancient pathways, lost voices.

‘Happenstance…’ is a unique, site specific, one-off, durational performance by ritual performance artist, Shaun Caton (UK) who has presented 227 live works worldwide since the early 1980’s, participating in many major festivals and showcases of live art. He is one of just a few remaining artists whose work is heavily inspired and influenced by ritual and his work has been described recently as, “epic primordial performance” (tactileBOSCH, Cardiff, 2008) and “genuinely terrifying” (The Scotsman, February, 2009). In recent years Caton has only made a handful of new performances and is very selective about where to site an event, preferring unusual spaces with a lived-in atmosphere, rather than bland,pristine gallery interiors. Typically, he will only make 2 or 3 live works a year now and spends a lot of time in preparation, making hundreds of drawings and evolving into the performance psyche beforehand. He seldom gives interpretation to his work and only acknowledges that it originates from an entered ‘trance state’ during the performance. Much of his work is inspired by the powerful imagery of prehistoric cultures and he has visited numerous caves in France where surviving examples can be seen. However, the performances are multi-layered and often employ complex visual dynamics that interact with both the artist/audience.

In this performance for the PS2 Gallery Belfast, Caton presents the viewer with an enigmatic situation in which tiny drawings are generated from trance made over extended time periods onto scraps of found paper. Using organic elements such as terracotta clay, sticks, twigs, petrified tree mushrooms, twine and genuine prehistoric artefacts as objects with a metamorphic quality, he constructs and interacts with an enclave that exists outside of our time and space. Beautifully visual and richly layered, Caton’s performances resonate with psychological intensity leaving the viewer with a powerful series of living pictures ingrained in their memories.

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