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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.