It is the moving image work ‘Not yet titled’ shown in this intimate exhibition space that has stayed with me and often popped up in conversation as a reference since I saw it. Shown on a large, glossy, flat screen monitor, hung unconventionally portrait and framed by some intricately carved artificially yellow substance, this work uses a peculiar editing technique that allows multiple clips to play at once. Here Sammak has managed to edit out the static parts of found footage, the backgrounds mainly, and thus the video consists only of the moving elements of a series of clips. These clips focus on animals, some times in groups and other times on their own, there are many clips shown simultaneously and as they are all individually quite small in scale, this creates a vibrant and continuously morphing texture on the flat, shiny screen. I was unable to get too close to the monitor as the floor beneath it was lowered and there were other pieces of work in the way, this forced me to view the work from afar and perhaps prohibited me from seeing to closely the shortcomings of this editing technique. In most cases parts of the static imagery glitches into recognition, but from afar this only added to the diversity of movements and colour dominating the black surface of the screen. I think it is the transformation of the sleek digital screen into an organic texture that this work was aiming to effect, as below it there was another screen that had been severely damaged but was still able to turn on and minimally function. Behind the cracks in the glass a strip of white light moved across the screen making unique CYMK patterns with every stroke. The close proximity of these works and the similarity of the screens created a subtle yet irrevocable connection to one another, and to the relationship between the screen and the natural world.
I have also been considering ways of isolating certain parts of footage to focus on animals. For example in my work in progress; ‘Animals adapting to civilisation’ I would like to use a similar technique for each video clip in order to analyse the movements and behaviour of the animals without being able to see their surroundings. In many of the clips the animals are in a zoo or in a home so I think it’s important to look closely at the way in which we restrict animals from their natural habitats and perhaps a successful way of doing this would be by isolating them completely from any recognisable landscape. In this way the viewers are blinded by their sense of sight but I will still keep the full audio to create a frustrating experience for the senses, both of these techniques also mimic the way in which the wild animal would experience these forms of captivity.
Having originally seen Laura Owens work 2 dimensionally in the catalogue for the 2015 ‘Forever Now’ painting exhibition, I felt real confusion when I fist saw one of her works in the ‘Painting after technology’ room at Tate Modern. The combination between printed texture and excessive forms of paint force viewers to look closely at the canvas and then stand back to look from far away again in order to assess what is ‘real’.
This untitled exhibition simply shows a broad range of Owens works, which are not simple at all. The show is accompanied by the web page why11.com, which gives short ‘descriptions’ of a selection of the paintings. Not only was I visually grasped by Owens paintings but it is the relationship between the works, the Internet and the varying forms of description that has a total hold over my interest. These descriptions are sometimes conversations about the work which remember how they were made or their histories, sometimes samples of music that echo the tempo of a painting, an online review of a product used in the painting and some are even short bursts of poetry. Not only does this form of description free the viewer from the limitations of phonetic text, but using the Internet to archive very intimate realisations and reflections about the work creates a humble legacy in the way the work then travels around with you in your pocket. It has a life beyond the gallery.
Up close some of the compositions refuse to make ‘sense’, but after looking at another painting on the opposing wall you may turn around and find yourself looking at that unsure image again and suddenly it will make sense and you are drawn back towards it to find the point where you can see it and where you can’t and AH! It’s an image of two figures between a river and a tree in a tranquil green landscape.
Owen’s practice seems rather far away from my own interests and I’m not completely sure why her work captures me so or how it relates to my own practice. What I think I find most compelling at this stage is her painting’s ability to create physical movement in the viewer. The spectator is forced to perform a choreographed dance in front of each canvas in order to take it in, moving closer to inspect the materials, the weight of the paint can be felt with your eyes and you can smell the oil with you tongue. You move side-to-side to see what is silk screen printed and what has been applied after, and you move back again to take in the whole image. Owens paintings force the act of looking to become a physical bodily performance. A dance of understanding. It is also the ambiguity between the real and the representation of the real that I feel echoes my own interests but with Owens works this is explored through materials rather than with the concept of experiences.