Crit show – LSTV2

For the the second crit show I decided to develop my ideas using the platform of a Vlog parody as I felt that this was possibly one of the most successful works I have done recently. Reflecting on my ideas with a tutor I started thinking about what really interests me and makes me create art. It seems that, although this is not currently shown in my practice, what I am really concerned with personally is mortality. I think it is important to realise and come to terms with our own mortality in order to live more fulfilled lives, and I believe that the excessive technological culture that I live in distracts us from these realisations. In my work I want to attempt to capture moments of realisation – the moments where we really realise the futility of life and the unavoidably empty endings we all face. These moments, although surrounded by mundanity, can transform our perception of the world where the problems we face one day seem ridiculous the next as we slowly transform from one mind-set to another.

As the Internet is a big part of this study, I felt that it was most appropriate for me to develop the idea of a vlog parody. I started by editing this in many different ways; having audio layered over one another into a building repetitive rhythm, layering particular moments over each other to create strange movements and sounds and also choosing moments within the 22 minute video to leave in whilst cutting the rest out but leaving the footage the same length. I found the negative space that was created by using this last technique interesting, as I thought about how viewers would interact with this work when it was displayed in a space. Initially it may seem that the TV is just blank, or not working but strange snippets of noise would jump into the space – creating confusion until the viewer happens to see and hear the video at the same time.

I began experimenting with this use of negative space in the video much more until I eventually came up with a mathematical way of editing that left the content that was seen up to chance. I have realised that this is a recurring theme in my work, as I always feel much more comfortable leaving decisions about aesthetics up to chance, in this way the work can relate to the random nature of the world in a more organic way.

The moments of action in this edit were mostly one second in their duration; not allowing the viewer anytime to grasp what is really going on, which I feel reflects the abstract way that humans have to get to grips with this existence. The cuts in-between these moments varied mathematically, for instance the first second of action came in at 1.00 minute into the footage, the second at 0.57 the third at 0.54 etc. Until it gets into the very middle of the video the cuts are very spread out, with most of the video consisting of complete nothingness.

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second performance film still

To contrast and also support this nihilism in the work I filmed another performance. This time I turned the ‘LSTV’ painting around so the strange textures underneath could be seen, covered my face in white paint and rocked back and forth chanting ‘We’re all going to die’ whilst continuing to rub paint over the rest of my body. This was a performance that I had not really planned but instead felt quite compelled to make one day when I got home and realized no one else was in. Whilst recording I felt almost out of my body due to the repetitive nature of the performance and there was certainly a disconnection between what I was saying and doing and what I really felt at the time.

In the final edit of this experiment I cut this footage into the climax of the cuts, editing at a 10th of a second in-between clips. Without the black space between clips this gave the impression that the different audios and performances were happening simultaneously, and through this strangeness, for the first time the words and actions were able to be understood with an almost clarity.

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Editing construction

Because this video is attempting to deal with the concept of the 2D digital world affecting this 3D reality I decided to try and integrate this into the presentation of the work. Instead of having this video put onto the show reel I decided to show it on a bulky monitor on a plinth that was at such a height that the together with the TV it would come to my height. In some ways this made the piece more of a self-portrait than was intended. Because of the amount of time that the video is just blank, the TV set unintentionally became a mirror due to its reflective screen and ergonomic height. Before viewers had heard anything come from the TV set, this is what initially drew them towards it, creating a reflection of the narcissism that happens within the footage, but still I would rather viewers were reflecting on my work rather than themselves aesthetically.

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Reflection in monitor

To show the physicality of the digital dimension creeping into the 3rd dimension I decided to paint both plinth and TV set. I gave both layers of white and on top recreated the pattern of the canvas used as the backdrop for the vlog performance. Repeating this painting process really bored me, I did not measure it out properly and was not as particular with the dots as I was before – this meant I created many more mistakes and by the time I was half way through painting the plinth I felt so frustrated that I gave up and started painting at random. On the TV this process was a little more controlled but I still gave both monitor and plinth another layer of white to conceal the mistakes and textures made underneath – but I did not want to get rid of them completely, this layer felt like an important part of the work but in hindsight it was unnecessary. This use of white paint covering up imperfections underneath is something that is also echoed in the content of the video with the performance of covering my face and body with white paint, I only really half understand the significance of this right now and I feel like it has something to do with the nihilism that I am clearly interested in.

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Installation view

I would say that this piece has been unsuccessful, but despite this I am still (if not more) excited about the concepts that are emerging in my work. On reflecting on my work in the crit exhibition I have realized that there are far too many contrasts in this work. Firstly, the contrast between the 2D and the 3D which I attempted to make by painting the plinth and TV to reflect the setting of the footage. Secondly, the contrast between ‘nothing’ and ‘something’ – having the long tedious pauses in between flashes of incomprehensible speech or action. Thirdly there is the contrast between the two different performances, where I attempted to subvert the narcissistic mundane with a personal and real realization about mortality which creates an absurdity in the work. I feel that I need to really think about these contrasts and what is actually relevant for what I am trying to do with my work as currently it feels over crowded with ideas.

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Installation view

In crit feedback I have been told that this piece is too confusing. There were questions about why objects had been painted and what the content of the video itself was and I felt that I had to do much too explaining for this piece to have been a success. There is obviously a tendency to become bored with looking at a black screen whilst waiting for something to happen, and even if this may be integral to the ideas I am trying to get across about what we watch online it is not engaging for the viewers, and therefore it fails. I was told that it felt as though the work was giving significance to banality, which I feel demonstrates how confusing the work has become as my aim is to give significance to moments of enlightenment and almost mock the comfort we feel in life’s mundanity.

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Installation view

I have been told that I need to deal with my material and subject in a more direct way, I should think about appropriating existing YouTube vlogs rather than just creating more. Or even, to become more understanding of this subject begin dressing up and performing scripts of some of these vlogs, trying to imitate them completely. From writing down this reflection I have realized that I know what my work is about, but I am just not communicating it effectively. The lack of artists and theory’s that I feel I could link to my work or talk about in conjunction to my work shows that this is an area that I need to focus on now to hopefully create more accessible work that viewers can relate to directly, without confusion.

Post-painting

From painting the canvases for ‘Loading…’ and ‘LSTV’ I had marked a table in my house and whilst scraping it off I began making patterns and working around the different textures that I had unknowingly made. The table was covered in paint quite thick and it was possible to see the imprint of the canvas between the table and the paint, creating a piece that documents the evidence of a performance. If I ever find myself painting another large scale canvas in this repetitive process I will paint a board white to use underneath to capture these accidental marks as I was upset that I could not keep the outcomes of this piece.

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Acrylic paint on vinyl table
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Detail

I used some of my close up photographs of this removal process and the textures left behind by the paintings as backgrounds for new paintings. I experimented with painting over these colourful compositions with white to create new spaces and forms, and to possibly use for the background for line drawings. As pieces on their own I think the use of white is quite interesting for disguising or neutralizing a space, I also experimented with painting AstroTurf white in an attempt at disguising it’s materiality.

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Acrylic paint on A4 ink jet print

Scraping the paint of became easier as lumps of it formed on the sponge I was using, this created very small formations of flaky dried paint. After seeing Tetsumi Kudo’s work at Hauser & Wirth I played around with using AstroTurf as a backdrop to these abstract forms. I noticed that close up they looked like moss or even lichen, and the AstroTurf composition encouraged this comparison.

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Paint form
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Experiment on AstroTurf

Using a macro lens I photographed these forms, cropping them to look much larger than they really are. Blowing these up and printing them on A3 I arranged the images on the wall next to the paint forms. This felt quite resolved in some ways as the comparison between the 2D image that shows the details of the object in comparison to the very delicate form next to it demonstrates the objectivity of the camera. The photograph gives aesthetic insight into the object but does not give us the rational information about its size. I found this comparison visually quite successful here even though this feels rather too polite but still this piece too thinks about the natural and artificial in a new way.

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Macro experiment
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2D and 3D display

I have noticed that in a lot of my work I tend to try and use all outcomes of a process, the marks that are made elsewhere as a by product of making something always seem to interest me, and I often cannot see them as separate from the intended piece of work.

Canvas experiments

Reflecting on my piece for the last crit show I decided to experiment with the possibilities of the large scale canvas that was a part of ‘LSTV’. My first instinct was to stretch it onto a conventional frame that would be 5 x 1.8 metres in scale, but after seeing Avis Newman’s paintings in the Tate, which have been decisively hung directly on the wall, I decided it was more interesting to hang the canvas in this way. This mode of display helped liberate the canvas as it was no longer restricted to the conventions of a frame. The accidents and imperfections of my printing had much more focus here than when the canvas was stretched around the 3D installation of ‘LSTV’, allowing it to be read in the context of painting rather than an object. This flat experiment also reflects the Photoshop plan I had to make of this canvas before actually printing it, creating a dialogue between the technological and the man made when these two images are shown next to one another. Visually this also allowed the viewer to focus on the pattern of the painting, allowing for some interpretation of forms within the repetitive pattern. Looking at the MoMa’s show ‘Forever now’ has helped me think a lot about painting as it exists now in the post-internet art world, and how to use painting to further that discussion.

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I also experimented with trying to turn it into a more organic sculpture. As this canvas has not been primed it still folds but is affected by the circles of dried paint and the scale of it creates an intrusive mass. The natural folds of this unidentifiable sculpture contrasts the formulaic way that it was made, but makes it impossible to work out as a painting and becomes more about the physical materiality of the canvas rather than its history and context.

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After being told in a crit that this canvas felt like a ‘internet backdrop’ I started thinking about using this as a performance backdrop. My initial experiments with this consisted of me dressed in all black moving back and forth in the space in different ways. After watching Godfrey Reggio’s ‘Naqoquatsi’ I experimented with editing this footage in repetitive ways in an attempt to create seemingly ever-lasting moments using a loop. Experimenting with perspective I chose to show the video at a different angle to the way it was filmed in, so it may appear that the video is being filmed from below or above, exposing the flaws of 3-dimensional turning into 2-dimensional.

Using myself as the subject of a performance led me to look more into Internet culture, in particular Youtube, where the ‘vlogger’ trend is still at large. I began thinking about the idea of the ‘online persona’ and how we can now crop and edit our lives into deceptive settings. I attempted a parody at a regular Youtube vlog trend ‘What’s in my bag’. Usually in these videos the vlogger will pull an array of sponsored products out of an endorsed handbag brand over the course of a 20 minute video. My own video was 22 minutes in duration, and watching it back I noticed a change in front of the camera from beginning to end. At first I felt awkward in front of the camera and it took me a few tries to start, but by the end I was talking in a lot of depth about each of the items in my bag. In some ways this them transformed into a performance about my own narcissism.

I edited this initially by speeding up the whole video and isolating individual moments that I found funny where I had become very comfortable in front of the camera. In feedback from this piece I was told that one of the interesting parts of this editing choice was that I had left in parts that showed me as human, where usually these would be the parts that would be edited out. To develop this idea of the Internet persona I posted this online on a separate YouTube channel. Creating the YouTube channel ‘flamby’ I attempted to set up a new online personality for myself.

As an experiment I found this process embarrassing, after sharing it on Facebook I became self conscious and deleted the link after half an hour. Even though this video did not reveal what was in my bag or anything really about my personal life I still felt exposed. Potentially I would like to develop this vlog idea further and may experiment with creating more generic vlogs to build up this online persona I could create for myself.

 

‘Loading…’ – For Gustav Metsger’s ‘Remember Nature’

After the October crit exhibition I had the opportunity to be directly involved with Gustav Metzger’s recent project ‘Remember Nature’. As I felt that my last piece did not focus on the natural or the political as much as I’d like my work to, this was the perfect opportunity to introduce these very important themes back into my work. Attempting to use paint in a more conventional way, I painted a leaf in my chosen colour palette of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow to create a contrast between natural tones and
artificially mass produced colour.

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Acrylic painting

Using Photoshop I made a short animation with this painting that imitated a conventional buffering symbol. I experimented showing this on a monitor and thought it would be interesting if the viewer had to see this looped animation at close proximity, reflecting the way that we interact with screens everyday.

Like my previous piece ‘LSTV’, I painted a canvas to conceal the monitor, this time experimenting with using block colour. This decision was made after many different composition experiments and then reflection on Aldous Huxley’s study that “bright, pure colours are characteristic of the other world.” Again this forced viewers to look into the piece through a small hole cut into the canvas, but unlike ‘LSTV’ this hole was much more obvious.

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Final composition plan

This piece aimed to glorify the buffering symbol whilst also demonstrating time wasted on staring at screens. I think in some ways this did come across but here I feel that the canvas was rather unnecessary and was only included because of my previous work. Possibly showing this on a more appropriate screen would have been more successful instead of concealing it as I preferred the canvas as a piece on its own.

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Installation view

Artist statement

I am a multimedia, process led artist based in Farnham, Surrey. My work focuses on the relationship between man and nature in the technological western world, which I explore through photography, installation, performance, print, film, assemblage and painting. My practice is informed by artists such as; Martin Creed, Olafur Eliasson, David Shrigley, Ai Weiwei, Godfrey Reggio, Gustav Metsger and John Cage.

Drawing on influences from Roland Barthes’ ‘Mythologies’ alongside Aldous Huxley’s ‘Doors of Perception’ my practice thinks about the subliminal human experience within the complex mundane of the contemporary world.

I am interested in how we deal with the existential in the post Internet now where a multitude of ever expanding distractions help us to forget about our own mortality. This interest in Internet culture provokes attempts at humour and parody in my practice in a way that aims to understand man’s relationship with the absurdity of Western reality.

This contrast between the constructed virtual world and our own internal realities often forces me to leave stains and accidents in my works in order to expose the flaws of this chance based reality. Maths forms a basis for many of my works, as often the aesthetics of process led and repetitive work is left to chance.

My work aims to interactively relate to audiences who feel just as confused with the absurdity and constant contradictions of the modern world as I do. Through my practice I aim to provoke questions about the way we live in a post Internet society, analysing our subversive relationship with the real and unreal in an ‘atemporal’ world where all times now exist at once.

Oscan Murillo, ‘binary function’ at David Zwirner Gallery 10.10.15 – 20.11.25

Having only graduated from his MA at the Royal College of London in 2012 Oscar Murillo already has an impressive international presence in the art world. Since graduating three years ago he has had work shown at the Saatchi, been included in the MoMA’s ‘Forever now’ show earlier this year and now he has his first solo show ‘binary function’ at David Zwirner’s London Gallery.

tea, HSBC, (grill?), 2013-2015
tea, HSBC, (grill?), 2013-2015

This exhibition is dominated by painting, but not in any conventional sense. Most paintings in this exhibition defy predictable painting methods with many canvases made from what the viewer can imagine is multiple paintings, cut and then sewn together to make whole collaged canvases. Although the materiality of canvas can be seen throughout the exhibition, this show is not exclusive to painting but also incorporates drawing, print, sound, sculpture, installation and film as an example of Murillo’s diverse practice.

L-R: catalyst #3, 2015, material alignment #18, 2013-2015,100% vita, 2014-2015, catalyst, 2015
L-R: catalyst #3, 2015, material alignment #18, 2013-2015,100% vita, 2014-2015, catalyst, 2015

In the opening room of the exhibition viewers will find 4 unusual canvases displayed at such close proximity to one another that from afar one might think they were a whole, but each canvas is named individually creating a universal language between techniques and materiality. Around the corner is a new video installation of Murillo’s where the audience is invited to sit in a mis-match of plastic garden chairs to watch footage of what appears to be a street party. These seats are replications of those seen in the footage, creating a physical connection between viewer and the people that are far away in the time and place that this video captures. The audio of this installation varies between on site sounds and compositional music that changes the dynamic and narration of the piece as it alternates between the two. This audio permeates throughout the whole exhibition extending the narrative to the right now of the exhibition space.

meet me! Mr. Superman, 2013-2015
meet me! Mr. Superman, 2013-2015

On the first floor viewers will be hit with the strong smell of paint and the sight of multiple black canvases that are hung, piled and strewn around the space. Again these canvases use Murillo’s signature technique of being sewn together on a large scale, allowing viewers to appreciate the grand scale of their production. Viewers are forced to walk over these black paintings, creating delicate outlines of their dusty footprints on the black fabric. This interaction creates an unusual relationship between the work and viewer as our physical presence marks and develops the patchwork fabric pieces that are reminiscent of the works displayed on the walls in front of us.

First floor installation view
First floor installation view

In this exhibition Murillo merges the boundaries between painting, sculpture and installation. The curation of this show creates a tension between the intentional and the accident, as both are included on par with one another. Murillo’s works have a sense of ‘more’ beyond them, demonstrated directly in the way he crops and sews canvases, Murillo denies us of viewing all of one but instead a part of many, challenging the viewer with this inclusive/exclusive painting stlye.

Tetsumi Kudo at Hauser & Wirth 22.09.15 – 21.11.15

Walking along the sophisticated streets of Saville Row where humanity hurries from one grey interior to the next, one does not expect to walk through the doors of Hauser & Wirth for their eyes to be transformed into those of a child. The vivid green that curator Oliver Renaud Clément has used to backdrop the most recent show of Tetsumi Kudo’s work, turns the conventional white gallery space into one big installation, merging all pieces together into a playground of diverse colour and absurdity.

Installation view
Installation view

This AstroTurf installation evokes the desire to interact, all Kudo’s works in this exhibition are so physical and playful in their execution it is hard to resist the urge to touch and play in this space. These feelings are very much internalised by the static silence of the transformed gallery, forcing quiet contemplation of the works whilst suppressing the urge to gallop and giggle. This is quite relevant as Kudo’s work focuses on these tensions created between nature and the man made. The melting plastic flowers in his artificial gardens signify the artists realisation that “with the pollution of nature comes the decomposition of humanity” whilst simultaneously talking about humanity’s morphing relationship with technology and mass production.

Human Bonsai - Freedom of Deformity - Deformity of Freedom 1979
Human Bonsai – Freedom of Deformity – Deformity of Freedom 1979

There are several sections in this exhibition, from these free standing gardens where man made materials morph to create rows of bonsai trees mixed with phallic forms, to Perspex structures that home artificial eco systems, and oversized dice that contain melting parts of humanity. Each series presented here imagines a post-apocalyptic world where a nuclear attack has cultivated an unrecognisably synthetic nature caused by humanity’s negligence.

Cultivation of Nature & People Who Are Looking at It, 1970-1971
Cultivation of Nature & People Who Are Looking at It, 1970-1971

Kudo’s use of boxes demonstrates the way we live our contemporary lives, how we rely on architectural interiors that simultaneously protect and trap us. In these interiors we stare at electronic boxes that transport us into artificial worlds of colour that help us to forget the reality of nature, much like the way that this exhibition lets us forget about the cold streets and suits just beyond the windows of Hauser & Wirth. Kudo’s regular use of dice presents natural systems of chance but contrasted with the artificial colours used to realise these boxes we may begin to think about the absurdity of humanity’s ever growing fixation with dominating chance in order to adapt nature to benefit our own unforgiving agendas.

Garden of the Metamorphosis in the Space Capsule, 1968
Garden of the Metamorphosis in the Space Capsule, 1968

Growing up in post-war Japan Kudo understood the brutal reality of humanity’s conceivable evil, and later moving to Paris he was struck by Europe’s ‘’Individualist outlook and eager adoption of mass production.” Ultimately this show of Kudo’s political but still highly aesthetic work, although made 50-40 years ago, seems even more relevant today. In this contemporary society even more dominated by technology then it was in Kudo’s time this exhibition gives space to reflect on our own claustrophobic lives where we naïvely believe we can survive inside these aesthetic simulated worlds that we hold on to so tightly.

Anj Smith; ‘Phosphor on the Palms’ at Hauser & Wirth 22.09.15 – 21.11.15

In terms of contemporary art, the exhibition “Phosphor on the Palms” is a rarity. Entering the white walls of Hauser & Wirth you will notice a certain emptiness that dominates the space. Naturally this pushes the viewer towards the small-scale oil paintings that are displayed systematically across the gallery space, letting us discover the infinity of detail and realist mysticism that awaits us there. This is Anj Smith’s biggest solo show to date with over 20 works made over the past three years.

Installation view
Installation view

Smith’s paintings guide the viewer along a path through the gallery space; each is hung at a perfect height for closer inspection. Within these compositions one can easily be transported into another dimension where every intricacy is executed in uncompromised perfection. Despite the beauty of overwhelming detail these paintings hold, they are just as undeniably nightmarish. With your back turned away from the center of the space your eyes flit from one piece to the next, and your feet can do nothing but follow.

Letters of the Unconcious
Letters of the Unconscious

Although visually similar, the themes that these paintings explore are extensive; using iconography Smith explores, fashion, nature, consumerism, gender, isolation and many more all in a dream like hyperrealism. In an exhibition as rare as this in it’s traditional craftsmanship, there is obviously a continued conversation about painting and technology. Smith has said herself “There’s something about painting now that, because we have so much technology, we don’t have an essential need for. I’m deciding to sit there for hours daily just to create one image.”

Faune
Faune

This is not done in vain. The works in this exhibition make the awe that was evoked by grand oil paintings in the past, comprehensible to contemporary audiences. Not only this, but unlike most contemporary painters Smith avoids expressing her relationship with reality in a visually abstract way. Instead, she takes abstract concepts and transforms them into magical realism. Smith does not attempt to simplify these abstractions but instead embraces them ‘in all their complexities’, in a way that allows the viewer to reflect on the truly absurd times we are living in.

Uncurtaining the Night
Uncurtaining the Night

These surreal landscapes and portraits do not only sit on the wall as a window into another world, but throughout the exhibition they gradually begin to permeate into the third dimension. Starting with ‘Uncurtaining the night’ a viewer with a keen eye will notice that very small reliefs of paint have been left to dry at the bottom of the composition, creating the physical texture of a forest floor. Smith’s painting seep more and more into the physical world until we are faced with ‘The excreted’, which is so small in scale and so heavily caked in paint that it barely functions as a physical painting and becomes almost fully sculptural.

The Excreted
The Excreted

This show is as diverse in its readings as you imagine it to be, there are monkeys crawling out of paintings along side sad, sunken eyes, scaled creatures and symbols of high fashion. No carefully composed image in this exhibition talks about the same subject as the last, each creates it’s own individual paradigm that parodies everyday consumer culture into alien landscapes, reflecting the multiple aspects of our ever-changing contemporary society.

Gianni Colombo; ‘The body and the space’ at Robilant + Voena

“The body and the space” is a show that brings together a collection of Gianni Colombo’s most significant works made between 1959 – 1980 at the Robilant + Voena gallery, London. On reading the press release I was informed that; “Colombo’s practice aimed at overcoming the traditional notion of art as an object to contemplate, in order to create work that requires the active involvement of the viewer.” So prior to entering the gallery space I felt excitement at seeing work made over 30 years ago that evokes something that is sorely missing from the art world today, a physical relationship between viewers and art.

This feeling of excitement was slowly exchanged with a feeling of alienation as I entered the space. On entering the gallery I was met with a plush exterior of marble and stillness along with an overly polite steward who guided me around each piece with watchful eyes. In some ways this was an alternative gallery space, the beige walls and extravagant furnishings are worlds away from the conventional white cube. But instead of an exhibition curated to evoke relationships between viewers and art, this show successfully separated the audience whilst simultaneously turning kinetic art into conceptual artifacts.

‘Strutturazione pulsante (Pulsating Structuralization),’ 1959

All of the works that use electronical mechanisms, such as; ‘Strutturaziune fluida’ and ‘Robo optic’, to release their kinetic potentials are turned on and off individually by the steward as, of course, they are in a fragile state. This staged interaction transforms works that were originally designed to “[change] the spectator’s conventional relationship with reality, both physically and psychically” into relics held in a very wealthy museum. This dynamic between, viewer, work, steward and space denies the viewer of any reflective or intimate moments with the work, creating an awkward tension and inadequate presentation of the works incredible potential to engage viewers.

‘Roto-optic’ 1964

There was one space in this exhibition where this dialogue is allowed, and that is within Colombo’s immersive installation; ‘Topoestesia – tre zone contigue [itinerario programmato] (which translates to: ‘Topoesthesia – three contiguous zones [programmed itinerary]’). This is where I really felt the effect of what Colombo had designed for me as a viewer, I was transported into an other worldly interior that had disorientated my senses in a way that can only be experienced to be understood. I feel that this theme of wonder and visceral experience would continue throughout the show if the works were shown in the way that they were intended to be.

‘Topoestesia – tre zone contigue (itinerario programmato)’ 1965-1970

Of course, the limited function and interaction of these works is not the fault of the gallery but by displaying these originals instead of re worked productions places too much importance on the artist rather than to the experience of the viewer. It is known that Gruppo T (the kinetic art group that Colombo formed), had their works produced as multiples as a way to “distance the works from the artworld’s cult of the author.” These ideals of Colombo’s is something that I feel that this exhibitions curation ignores, thus creating an exhibition of incredibly exciting work that is made stagnant due to the importance placed on the items originality rather than it’s kinetic potential to evoke real awe and experience in the viewer.

‘LSTV’ and development of work from September – October

As an induction into my Second Year studio unit, in September we were given a project to respond to a piece of Art on display in London, in order to change our way of working whilst expanding our knowledge of artists. I was given Sigmar Polke’s ‘Untitled (Square 2)’, 2003, which is displayed at the Tate Modern in the room ‘Painting after technology’. Although I usually try to avoid looking at traditional methods of painting, within this composition I found an interest in the contrast between fluid and the static because of the layers of different painting technique. The free flowing paint caught under a systematically printed image, and the colour palette of this painting had a great affect on me, I found the metallic and yet dulled hues soothing and complimentary whilst simultaneously dark, generating a sense of mysticism.

Sigmar Polke, Untitled (Square 2) 2003

From my initial research I became interested in the philosophy of Metaphysics, as I found that in its theories it contains questions I have often asked myself. The basic questions of Metaphysics helped me form my first response to Polke’s work as they gave me a basic reason to make art. These questions are: 1. Ultimately what is there? 2. What is it like? To start generating work I tried to answer these questions visually. My initial response consisted of a black and white macro image of moss, enlarged onto 16 A4 pages. Onto this I projected colour footage of the moss and it’s surroundings. In this way I tried to answer the questions like this; 1. What is there? This piece of moss. 2. What is it like? It is green, growing in a wall, there are bushes growing above it etc. This idea of static and movement was clearly inspired by the layers in Polke’s painting, whilst still trying to visualize the merging of reality and then humans perception of reality. The projection onto the image made it difficult for either element can be understood at all but when they were separated they can both be seen clearly. I find this confusion caused by the layering of the objective and subjective over one another to be an interesting idea – is it impossible for human’s to objectively observe the world around us because we are a part of it?

Initial response to Polke and Metaphysics research
Initial response to Polke and Metaphysics research

I then went on to look at the works of Gustav Metzger, Stan Brakhage, Len Lye and Oskar Fishinger. The contrast between the technological and the organic is what drew me towards Metzger’s work, in particular ‘Liquid Crystal Environment’ (1965/2005). The way his work naturally transforms over the duration of it is display is something that I feel is central to my own way of making work. Not only is his work transformative, but also it is politically engaged and deals with the environmental whilst being extremely physical in its presence.

Gustav Metzger, Liquid Crystal Environments, 1965/2005

Research into Stan Brakhage led me to experiment with out of date film, making gifs with a Nishika camera, creating multiple still images into ‘moving moments’ of distorted colour. I also experimented with digitally manipulating photographs damaged by a broken camera, transforming the colours and visibility within the composition.

Stan Brakhage, Film from ‘Mothlight’, 1963
Nishika gif experiemnts with expired film
Nishika gif experiemnts with expired film

Play with colour and animation led me to look at Len Lye’s films. I was instantly immersed in Lye’s use of repetition and bright block colours. This interest then led me to ‘An Optical poem’ by Oskar Fishinger. The circular forms pulsating and transforming took me out of reality for a few minutes, absorbed me into the screen on which I watched it, creating a mental transgression into the bright and infinite technological world.

Photo manipulation from damaged film
Photo manipulation from damaged film

Len Lye, Rainbow Dance [still], 1936
The colour and forms in these animations and the influence of Polke led me to experiments with paintings. I generated these by making multiple backgrounds at once and then creating layers of varying colour palates and textures on top. After all the layers had dried I would attempt to make sense of the free flowing paint with ink drawings on top. From this I found a colour palette that I wanted to work with; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. This started off as a visual interest and then transformed into a conceptual process. Using the acrylic versions of the printer inks to talk about tensions between technology and painting.

Paint experiments with colour, composition and texture
Paint experiments with colour, composition and texture

I was then recommended to look into the MoMA’s 2015 exhibition ‘Forever Now’. This introduced me to the term ‘Atemporal’ which describes ‘The strange state of the world where due to the Internet, all times now exist at once.’ This helped me think about the cross overs between the tradition of painting and the immediacy of digital/man made imagery. I then looked at different ways of painting and began experimenting contrasting these highly artificial colours with natural marks. I would use the negative space of a burnt piece of paper as a template, transferring the paint onto the paper with a sponge to create delicate but sharp edged forms. I also experimented with layering paints to recreate the spectrum of colours that create images out of a digital printer.

Experiments with Yellow, Cyan and magenta using burnt paper as stencil
Experiments with Yellow, Cyan and magenta using burnt paper as stencil

This influence in our perception of colour and the spectrum bought me to Olafur Eliasson and his study of colour. From his work I became more interested in installation space and was reminded of my interest of audience’s participation as a key aspect of the work.

Olafur Eliasson, Your uncertain shadow (colour), 2010

To develop my work for the October Crit show I began painting in block colours focusing on the form of the circle as this allowed me to easily create patterns and illusions. Reading Aldous Huxley’s ‘Doors of perception’ was also a great influence in my work at this time, especially where he describes the effect of bright colour on our ‘antipodes’; “Bright pure colours are characteristic of the other world”. Despite this Huxley evaluates only a page later “by it’s amazing capacity to give us too much of the best things, modern technology has tended to devaluate the traditional vision-inducing materials.” I felt a real connection to this analysis of colour in the everyday as I have often thought about why we do not feel the complete awe at colour and composition that our ancestors would have done.

Pattern and form experimentation with circles of block colour.
Pattern and form experimentation with circles of block colour.

Through reflection of this research I decided to make a ergonomically scaled installation that explored painting, colour, technology, the kitsch and human experience of forced perception. This is where ‘LSTV’ was formed. This consisted of an interior and exterior made from Acrylic and pencil on Canvas, black out fabric, Wood, AstroTurf, TV monitor and a Glass mannequin head.

The exterior consisted of a pattern made from the colours Magenta, Cyan, Yellow and Black. This pattern of dot painting had to be strategically planned before it was painted, I first had to plan it digitally on photoshop before I could start physical work. This process echoes that of Michael Williams digital and handmade paintings, whom I found in the ‘Forever Now’ catalogue. I was particularly interested in Williams’ choice of always creating flat imagery because of “the fact that he usually encounters artworks on the Internet or in books, rather than in person.” I wanted to subvert this in my ideas as I wanted to be sure that the viewer was completely present to view my work and in this way it would be impossible to photograph the piece, I felt it was important that the work could only be experienced truly when you are in front of it.

Michael Williams, work from ‘Forever now’ Exhibition at MoMA, 2015
Surface of Canvas painted in Acrylic
Surface of Canvas painted in Acrylic

Again, this work was very physical, the 5×5 meter canvas was much bigger than me so had to be made in stages, using hand drawn grids to guide me to where I should print each individual circle (applied with 10x10cm sponge). These pencil marks on the canvas were not removed once the paint had dried as I felt they became part of the work, these artificial dots sit between man made and mass production and the pencil lines highlighted this tension along with the reality of human error. From afar the canvas still looks as though it may have been mechanically made, but as the viewer gets closer to see the interior of the installation this pretence is abolished.

Canvas detail
Canvas detail

The ideas of over exposure to technology dulling our minds to a point where the ‘other world’ that Huxley references throughout his Mescalin experience is no longer accessible, is where the assemblage formed for the interior of my installation. Here I combined a glass mannequin head, Plastic grass and an old TV monitor stuck on white noise. These objects are all man made but particularly unaesthetic. They are objects whose function is to be the backdrop for other man made aesthetics but when placed all together they create a very bleak assemblage manufactured from evolving technology. This interior installation could only be viewed from one hole cut out of the canvas disguised as one of the painted black circles. This forced the viewer to interact with the piece physically, circling the structure to search for the hole, and then bending down to look through the it. This was followed by a mental interaction in the viewer where the contrast between interior and exterior aimed to transport the viewer to a very different place than the room/time and place that they were viewing my piece in.

Initial experiment with 'technological' assemblage
Initial experiment with ‘technological’ assemblage

In the crit feedback the comments revolved around the effective contrast of the bright and positive exterior and dark and disturbing interior, and how this could symbolize the transformation from childhood to adult hood. The disguise of the hole within the painted canvas also created a real moment of realization within the piece, a realization that there is ‘more’ and that this piece is not static. I was also told that my piece reminded people of advertisement because of the bright colours and positivity of the exterior from far away in comparison to the point where first the hand drawn lines and the imperfections of the circles can be seen, followed by the dark and bleak interior.

I feel that this piece was more successful in its interaction with the audience than ‘ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME’ because of its much larger physical presence. Its height meant that viewers couldn’t see over it, making it obstructive and forcing the viewer to confront it. But I do feel it was also too confusing, there were a lot of things in this piece to try to pick apart, also the disguise of the viewing point made it a secret when the work is meant to be for the viewer, and many did not know that it was there. I am pleased with this idea of transformation that occurs in the work, transporting the viewer from reality to an interior of strangeness using installation and contrast. The change of physical perception is something that I am going to work with again due to the success of this piece, the hole in the canvas allowed me complete control over the physical perception that the viewer had of the piece. Ultimately I want my work to allow moments of realization and moments of change in my audience by giving them a physical space of reflection. I want work to talk about human experience, the fears of death, realizations of something ‘bigger than us’ and other overwhelming moments of realization we face in our lives. These transformative and scary moments can sometimes only be consoled with humour and the absurd, which I feel is also very present in my work. I feel I would be happier about this work if it talked more about the political and environmental and had more influence from the audience. The idea that the audience could physically change outcome of the work was what was more successful about ‘ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME’, it gives the work a sense of immediacy and ephemerality to it, whereas ‘LSTV’ forced the viewers to be more present but did not completely include them.

'LSTV' 2015
‘LSTV’ 2015
'LSTV' 2015
‘LSTV’ 2015
'LSTV' 2015
‘LSTV’ 2015