patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘science

David Manley, Deadly Delicious at Tarpey Gallery

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At Tarpey Gallery, David Manley‘s new paintings on circular (sometimes oval) aluminium supports have a wonderful, shiny gold- leaf quality, a consequence partly of the support and partly of the method of painting in semi transparent layers of different colours. They remind me of icons, but bigger, and it’s diseases they represent not divinities, if indeed they are representations.  After all, the sensuality of the paint and luminosity of colour seem to be enjoyed in their own right, and I cannot easily verify their likeness to the specific viruses of their titles, because not being an epidemiologist I don’t often look at viruses through a microscope. So, I have little choice anyway, but to respond to each image on its own terms.

If I had not seen the title Smallpox nor made the connection to the deadliness of the Deadly Delicious series, it might have been only the deliciousness of this painting I paid attention to, with the informal handling of paint, but then also the careful building up of layers creating this hard, pearlescent surface. And there’s the vibrancy of the colours and the figural similarity to a bunch of grapes. It’s only as I look at the picture with “deadly” in mind that I start to wonder if the colours might be slightly too much, about to tip over into the fluorescence I might associate with dead things or deadly materials, the green of acid perhaps. It’s a feast of contradictions, seeming to celebrate the state of being “in-between”.

David Manley, DDA 1 - Smallpox.  Acrylic on Aluminium, 90cm d

David Manley, DDA 1 – Smallpox. Acrylic on Aluminium, 90cm d. Image by courtesy of the artist

Manley is interested in viruses “because they inhabit a place somewhere between living and ‘dead’ or dormant things”, almost as if they are analogous with the situation of the paintings as somewhere between abstract and representational. The circular shape is “in between” landscape and portrait, or perhaps neither landscape nor portrait, though the miniature portraiture tradition might provide a precedent for reading them as portraits. However, in contradistinction to miniature portraits, in Manley’s deadly delicious series each image gives the impression that it could be turned through 360 degrees and continue to work. This impression is, I think, reinforced by the horizontal ‘flatbed’ orientation of a virus seen through a microscope, the circular supports of the paintings already having supplied the cue to interpret them as petri dishes or lenses.

David Manley, DDA 5 - Swine Flu. Acrylic on Aluminium, 90 cm d.

David Manley, DDA 5 – Swine Flu. Acrylic on Aluminium, 90 cm d. Image by courtesy of the artist

DDA 5 Swine Flu is a diabolical image of coals in an eternal fire. It looks like what I imagine Swine Flu might feel like, not something I want to test! Just as I wouldn’t want to think of this image as a “point of contact” with the represented, as one might have done with a Byzantine icon.  Nevertheless, icons were images of the invisible and surely this painting is also an image of something that is invisible, at least to the naked eye. Except, strictly speaking, the source material for each paintings is already an image, a picture of a microscopic event, which is then flattened out and simplified, or ‘abstracted’ but not beyond recognition for a scientist familiar with the given virus. The colours however, are entirely the artist’s invention. One type of electron microscope operates only in black and white, Manley explains, adding that because the conventions around coloration remain somewhat open ended  “I took a decision right from the start that in this respect I had ‘carte blanche’ and have operated accordingly”.

David Manley, DDA 6 Sin Nombre , Acrylic on Aluminium, 90 cm. d.

David Manley, DDA 6 Sin Nombre , Acrylic on Aluminium, 90 cm. d. Image by courtesy of the artist

In DDA 6 Sin Nombre, the colours are rich blues, reds, ochres, and copper, their crisp edges contrasting with diffused colours in the blue ground, some of which may have been spray painted. And the ‘character’ of this painting (perhaps they are portraits after all) is quite different to The others. This one is calmer, cooler, less frantic than DDA 5 Swine Flu and softer than DDA 8 Measles.

I am interested in the fact that the source images are available to the artist only as a result of technology, and in the implied conflation here of art and technology. The words ‘art’ (‘techne’) and ‘technology’ share the same etymological root, surely. Yet the painterly style suggests ‘free play’, which may be akin to a more primitive approach, often in our thinking the opposite of the technological. In this respect I am reminded of the recent article in the White Review, Techno-Primitivism by Vanessa Hodgkinson and David Trotter, discussing a primitivism mediated by technology in the abstract paintings of Vanessa Hodgkinson and the writing of D H Lawrence.

DDA 8 - Measles . Acrylic on Aluminium, 49 cm. d.

DDA 8 – Measles . Acrylic on Aluminium, 49 cm. d. Image by courtesy of the artist

It may be the case that in a technological society an artist cannot not respond to technology in some way, even if that response is an unconscious one. David Manley is very conscious of the interplay between technology and the handmade that these paintings celebrate.  Jacques Ellul argued that modern art is an imitation of technology or a compensation for it.  The deadly delicious series seems to have elements of both.

David Manley, Deadly Delicious, is showing at Tarpey Gallery until 31 August

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Edge-induced colour spreading

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In Flank transparency: The effects of gaps, line spacing, and apparent motion by Daniel Wollschla, Antonio M Rodriguez and Donald D Hoffman, (in Perception, 2002, volume 31) , they use the term neon color spreading to refer to “the perceptual phenomenon of color that seems to disperse from image elements into their surround, thereby creating a subtle neon-like veil”, explaining that “the observed coloration overcomes `real’ figure boundaries and typically covers an area confined by subjective contours”. Here’s an example:

The authors contrast this classical neon-color-spreading phenomena with edge-induced color spreading as discussed by Pinna, Brelstaff and Spillmann (in Surface color from boundaries: A new `watercolor’ illusion‘ in Vision Research 41, 2001) where edge or flank-induced coloration does not display the neon-like quality and much more resembles pastel surface colours or a watercolour wash. In doing my own drawings I have become especially interested that the area covered by the `diffused watercolor’ can be much larger than the area that might usually be the case with neon color spreading. And I keep asking myself why I have never come across this before.

The light green ‘ground’ in this image is constructed by you the viewer in response to the colours that flank the drawn figures. Note that the ‘ground’ also shifts to ‘figure’, creating an alternative view of the image.

OneThing20: how mind and nature might connect (via itsallonething)

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I keep connecting to others connecting with Gregory Bateson and the pattern which connects. The pattern which connects is itself a pattern, a meta pattern, a pattern of patterns.

It was my teacher,colleague and friend Judith Lowe, who first introduced me to the writing of Gregory Bateson and, if I remember rightly, she suggested that we read it as if it were poetry and let it wash over us, at first, as a way into it. Well, it does have that kind of poetic appeal. Although, strictly speaking, it is science writing it has this amazing aesthetic dimension. I think the film that is embedded in this reblog as well as the writing in the blog itself (just click on ‘read more’), brings out something of his poetic style. The film is a trailer for a one- hour film by Nora Bateson.

OneThing20: how mind and nature might connect Gregory Bateson tells us that we ought always look for the “pattern which connects.” I first stumbled upon Gregory Bateson while a college student and working at a local book distributorship. Our customers were college and university libraries, and one of them had purchased a beautiful hardbound copy of Mind and Nature – a Necessary Unity.  I stood the … Read More

via itsallonething

Here’s a different blog with a slideshow that also reveals the aesthetic style. In relation to content, Bateson insisted that the question “what connects?”  was an aesthetic question. ( I have used this slideshow before, quite recently but it’s so good that I thought it deserves another look ….or two.)

Bateson slideshow at the Rhizome Network