Posts Tagged ‘system’
David Riley makes reductive, abstract, images, in series. They are not paintings, they are digital images and constructions that I think read a lot like paintings. I had seen some online at http://www.revad.com, before getting to see one of them in “hard copy” recently, at the group exhibition Crossing Lines at &Model, Leeds. Our exchanging of comments on this blog alerted me to the possibility of doing an interview, which we agreed to do by email (a lot more difficult than ever I thought it would be, because of the time delays in the dialogue). Here’s the result.AP: I have heard you refer to individual works of yours as “outcomes”, which I think relates to the virtuality of your work, digital images that may get realised physically, have I understood that correctly?
DR: I use several words, ‘outcomes’ is one. You may also find me saying result, or side-effect. Generally, I am focused on the exploration first and the aesthetic of the outcome second. That is not to suggest the aesthetic is unimportant, it is just that enjoyment in the exploration of the idea is of foremost concern. It is also true to say I rarely consider anything finished. An outcome is usually just something I have decided to share along the way. I do flip between the virtual and the real, between digital and analogue. I never try to create a perfect copy between one and the other. Each outcome is new. So, an outcome presented in a virtual-world space is a different outcome when presented in a real-world space, even if both outcomes occur from a similar point in the same exploration.
AP: So, when the enjoyment in the exploration of an idea is foremost, what kind of exploration is that?
DR: Usually, some variation on what has gone before. I make something and then a new trigger event suggests a different path. Sometimes this is along similar lines and at other times it is off at a tangent. My experience is that the exploration involves studying the source of the idea, thinking about how this fits with my experience, and then experimenting with materials to see how I might express the idea in the best possible way (or, more accurately, in a way I find interesting). So, the exploration involves an analysis of the idea, an analysis of how this fits with my experience, an exploration of materials, and an analysis of the outcome. This, analysis followed by action sequence, can be looped many times before I find something I want to share. The loops are recorded in my journal.AP: To what extent would you situate your work within the traditions of abstraction and systems art?
DR: I often use codes as a foundation, as a starting point. I use them to give me somewhere to start. I then generally setup a process and follow that process to see if it leads to an aesthetic outcome, an outcome I find interesting. If I find it does, then I might choose to share it. So, I setup a process or system of working and then explore to see where that might lead, to see if I find something worthy of being shared. The outcomes are a side-effect of the process or system being used. How this fits within any tradition is for others to decide. That is, I am not concerned if it fits or not. However, it would be true to say my aesthetic influences lie in the abstract art produced in the middle part of the 20th Century.
AP: Could you say more about how you use a code as a starting point?
DR: I record connections between ideas using visual codes developed from the Roman alphabet, the alphabet we normally use to communicate our ideas. So the idea starts in a commonly understood code (the Roman alphabet symbols) and progresses through the use of other representations. I realise we don’t often think of the alphabet as a code, but that is exactly what it is. Alphabet explorations, so far, have included using geometric shapes, stretched bungee cord, and colour to represent the alphabet. These ideas are then influenced by my own experience as a systems engineer. Morse Code, Murray Code, ASCII and other communication codes have become important.
I am concerned with connections and components, with how one thing might influence another. As a systems engineer, it was part of my job to try out different boundaries, to generate a more rounded appreciation of the situation, however complicated, familiar or unusual. So, I am used to setting up different processes in order to explore an idea from different perspectives. One constant element in every process is the concept of input, action, output and feedback. My artist statement relates this to the idea of a black-box systems approach.
“In science and engineering, a black box is a device, system or object which can be viewed solely in terms of its input, output and transfer characteristics; and without any knowledge of its internal working. Using this well understood concept, I think I am (in) the black box. That is, I receive stimuli to make work; I apply my interest, experience and passion to making the work; I produce output and I share the output I find satisfying. Over time, we may all be able to deduce more of my transfer characteristics. Although, I am also certain, every new work feeds back and may change those very same characteristics. If I ever know precisely what and why I do what I do (my transfer characteristics), then I will very likely stop.” (See http://www.revad.com/about.htm for the complete statement).AP: I recently saw one of your works “Code” at Crossing Lines at &Model, I find that I relate to this piece as a painting though I know it isn’t actually painted, I might equally use the word “construction”; how would you describe it?
DR: I would describe ‘Code’ as a wall based installation using: paper, ink, tracing paper, coloured tracing paper, transparency film, binding combs, rebar, steel eyelets; size 33cm x 180cm. Or ‘a mixed media, wall based, installation’ for brevity. Thank you for suggesting “construction”. I like that a lot, very succinct.
“Code” is the result of several coincident ideas influencing my process. A continued exploration of different representations of the alphabet: an interest in using office type materials for fine art production (office materials are an important part of my history); a need to manage the costs involved in getting an idea to and from a fine art gallery situation; and a desire to reduce the storage space required for (relatively) large art works. The idea of connections has been about in my work for a number of years (e.g. Twitter User Names, Facebook Initials Grid, and Connect with this Space). So, the idea occurred for crossing lines I could make a site (context) specific installation and send it to the gallery through the ordinary parcel post, as a small package of materials, with full installation instructions. The gallery (curator) could then install the work, display it for as long as necessary, and then take it down, repack it into the box, and send it back to me through the parcel post. I would then have a small parcel to store. This materials/ packaging idea could then be reused to make context specific installations available for other opportunities. The ‘code [for crossing lines]’ presentation was influenced by all of these coincident thoughts.Thank you David Riley for participating in this interview.
Borrowing its title from the terminology of manufacture and law enforcement, Zero Tolerance at Lion and Lamb Gallery, focuses on the extent to which three contemporary painters, Juan Bolivar, Nick Dawes and Katrina Blannin, employ systematic methodologies, or strict sets of rules, to construct their work. For me, it forms an urgent investigation into an aesthetic, highly relevant to contemporary life, that forms an alternative to the romantic/expressionistic tendency. I think systems aesthetics are being proposed here in other ways too.
In Juan Bolivar‘s painting, Anvil, we have a system of signs, that remind me of a set of nested Russian Dolls, the outer one being the perspex framing device that functions both literally, as a transparent cover for the painting, and also as a signal to read the work as participating in the tradition of constructive art. The painting housed by the perspex frame looks like a postcard of a Mondrian, taped to a flat surface. We are presented with a construction containing a representation of a representation of a nonrepresentational painting. I think it is more paradoxical than ironic: a sign that reads “this is not a sign”.
Nick Dawes’ paintings are sign systems in a more literal sense. He appropriates ordinary road signs as subverted content in the style of the Readymade. Crossings features three gloss black “Level Crossing” signs on a matt black triangular canvas, as much recalling the “Give Way” sign as it does also the shaped canvases of late Modernist abstract paintings by artists such as Kenneth Noland or Frank Stella. Formalist painting becomes content as much as it also becomes analogous with popular cultural design. I am tempted to say that here a formalist abstraction has become a representation of a road sign that resembles a formalist abstract painting. If Clement Greenberg proposed that Modernist painting, in privileging form over content, could be defined as “the imitation of imitation as process”, I wonder whether in Post-Modernist abstraction the process becomes rather “the imitation of the imitation of imitation”.
Both Bolivar’s and Dawe’s paintings, can be situated in relation to wider systems, whether high art or popular culture, just as they can to that other sense of the word “system” as in “systematic”, i.e. following a predetermined path, a procedure. And this is true also of Katrina Blannin‘s work in, I think, a different way. Clearly, Blannin is participating in that other tradition of abstraction that is connected more to Constructivism than to American Abstract Expressionism, the tradition that includes the British Constructionists and the Systems Group where the sense of “system” is a mathematical one. However there is also yet another sense of the word, that I want to explore, at least speculatively, for a moment, in relation to Blannin’s work and that’s the sense of “system” used in cybernetics, where a central concept is that of “feedback”, the process in which information about the past or present influences the same phenomenon in the present or future, forming a chain of cause-and-effect, a circuit or loop: output becomes input.
Viewing Three-piece Suite: Red/White (Double Hexad: Contracted, Root and Expanded + 123/321 Tonal Rotation with Shift), I have an experience close to ecstasy, and I deliberately choose the word for it’s inappropriateness when considering a piece that is mathematical, logical, rational. One of the things that I tend to do whenever looking at work of this kind is to count things. Before ever reading the title on the notes sheet I have counted the system or set of canvases that forms the triptych and then counted the triangular motifs that form the expanded system, noting how the white triangles are contained by a red line and the light grey ones by a black line leaving the dark grey ones unable to be highlighted, thus more readily becoming ‘ground’ or negative space against which the other triangles become ‘figure’. I have noted how the three tone/colours are arranged so that the same arrangement of lines (that also differs across each canvas because the widths of each canvas vary) is “coloured in” such that no colour/shape is repeated horizontally, in other words, there’s a tonal rotation with a shift. So, I’m doing all this counting and working out the logic of the piece and it might all seem so rational, cerebral, cognitive, yet I am using the word “ecstasy” that seems to belong more to our experiences of feeling and emotion.
But after a few moments of looking (and it does require a few moments, and real looking is also necessary, a mere glance will not do justice to the piece) I find that my emotional state has been affected, I have experienced a shift in state that approaches something of what I think we mean by a word like ecstasy. Where else does this happen? Doesn’t counting and emotion get conflated in our experience of anything that has rhythm? I am thinking of music and dance, where mathematical relationships become transformed into emotion. And there’s another context that I think is even closer to what’s happening to me in front of this painting and that’s the context of hypnosis where a trance might be induced through counting.
I could speculate that it’s the tessellating, the shifting of figure and ground, that leads to this shift of state-of-mind, (or emotional state), and this is where I come back to the concept of the “feedback loop”. Surely, it’s not really the object that tessellates at all. It’s a result of what the viewer does in relation to the object. At any one time, I am likely to see a different tessellation than the one you see. The object hasn’t changed, yet I am seeing something different to what you are seeing. It’s this system of object/viewer that Blannin’s paintings emphasise for me, and I wonder if what’s going on is that output becomes input becomes output in this continuous feedback loop and I experience this as fascinating, and even trance inducing.
In all these ways it seems to me that Zero Tolerance is an invitation to “think system”. Unfortunately, my brief review here is a bit late and the show has only a few more days to run. You can catch it at Lion and Lamb Gallery until 22 Feb.
Networked double tetractys…
…divided in half vertically, one half inverted and arranged in opposition.
I am enjoying the book Monochromes, from malevich to the present, by barbara rose
created and edited by Valeria Varas and Raul Rispa, first published on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid 2004.
I tend to feel dubious about a book that starts out with the words “this book takes an innovative organizational approach”. If it’s that innovative surely they don’t need to tell me. Although they make the mistake of bringing my attention to it, it is innovative; it is organised so that it interconnects, like a system.
One organising principle is the use of colours as theme, black, red, blue, gold and white. I like that the cover is reminiscent of Yves Klein’s famous International Klein Blue.
Barbara Rose credits Klein with the discovery of the power of the monochrome to displace attention from the art object to the exhibition space, emphasising the interdependence of artwork and context. This is one of the ways in which the monochrome could be thought of as systemic. Also, artists who make or have made them often employ a systems approach to producing the work.
Many years ago, for possibly a whole year (and painting every day) I painted little else but monochromes. I was young, and some people would criticise me for ‘painting like an old man’ (“this is the kind of painting I would expect someone to do at the end of their artistic career “).
Way back then, I thought I was making ‘content free’ paintings. What became interesting in the long series of monochromes were the subtle differences between each one. The paintings were best seen together (as a system) and those subtle differences started to look less and less subtle after all. The patterns that connected them were as much to do with the differences as they were the similarities. I got into the habit of always showing them in pairs, I can’t believe now that I had overlooked the autobiographical content: being an identical twin myself, I experienced first hand that what becomes more interesting than the similarities between twins are the differences, much more easily noticed when they are together than when they are apart.