‘Just as psychoanalysis reconstructs the original traumatic situation in order to release the repressed material, so we are now being plunged back into the archaeopsychic past, uncovering the ancient taboos and drives that have been dormant for epochs… Each one of us is as old as the entire biological kingdom, and our bloodstreams are tributaries of the great sea of its total memory’
JG Ballard, The Drowned World
Selected by Lesley Guy
Neil Webb’s audio installations are made using field recordings folded into electronic sounds and musical phrases in the way a painter might incorporate found images into a composition. He takes the known world and transforms it into an imaginative landscape that is vast, uninhabited and unknown. This is a vision of the romantic sublime, perhaps more indebted to Herzog or Tarkovsky than Caspar David Friedrich. Webb uses material from the natural world, birdsong, waves crashing, ice breaking and presents it, at times, in almost overwhelming detail. The listener is then taken on a journey into darker regions, into a psychic landscape not unlike that of Ballard’s 'The Drowned World'.
In his most recent sound piece, 'Far Beneath In The Abysmal Sea' (2009), shown at Vane Gallery in Newcastle earlier this year, Webb’s starting point was the Kraken, a mythical sea creature of gigantic and horrific proportions. He recreates the experience of submergence into the abyss and an encounter with the unearthly. This experience goes beyond an intellectual encounter with an artwork; it elicits an emotional reaction. In this way it is akin to music, it is as if Webb wants to tap into those primal, long forgotten places within us. What emerges is not sentimental but something resonant yet tinged with uneasiness and I am reminded of Nietzsche’s words, ‘if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you'. 
Neil Webb The Breach, 2009
Neil Webb Far Beneath in the Abysmal Sea, 2009
1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil,(London: Vintage Books,1990)s. 146
Lesley Guy is an artist and writer based in Sheffield.
Neil Webb on Axis
Lesley Guy on Axis