Posts Tagged ‘technology’
The Long Gallery at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery is an excellent setting for sixteen marvelous paintings, seven by Dan Perfect and nine by Fiona Rae. In the adjacent room there are some smaller works on paper by Perfect and collages by Rae along with a video about their respective practices. Curated by Tristram Aver, this must be one of the best shows I have seen in Nottingham for a long time, though we are doing well this year, a Tess Jaray exhibition having just finished at Lakeside and Somewhat Abstract continuing at Nottingham Contemporary until 29 June.
In London, almost a year ago I saw small paintings by Rae and Perfect in a group show at the Lion and Lamb Summer Saloon, and when, around that time, I also heard that the Nottingham show was being planned I thought that the two would make a brilliant combination, not knowing then that the artists are in fact married to each other.
I had been impressed by the Dan Perfect painting Operator, and much of what I admired in that little painting I am seeing again here at Nottingham Castle only on a much larger scale.
I wonder if the operator in the title is the artist, acting upon the materials of canvas and paint, or maybe even the painting itself as it operates upon me the viewer, changing my experience, visually and psychologically. Likewise, the huge painting Transporter, here at Nottingham Castle, affects me, taking me somewhere, similar to the way that a dramatic natural landscape might act upon my gaze, as if I were a passive observer, transported even to some ‘spiritual’ place, when in fact I am the one who is actively constructing the world I see. I am the operator, the transporter or the Generator, another of the paintings here. Then again, maybe the motifs, figures or gestures within each of these paintings take on such agency, painted marks or patterns first creating spaces that they then inhabit. In Generator clusters of atom-like, circular forms, seem to hover in spatial crevices, but take the motif away and no space is now perceived. In Transporter a blue disc atop a meandering line could be read as a wheel travelling along a highway, without the disc the line wouldn’t be a highway and without the line the disc would not seem to travel. Once the highway association has been made I am cued to read the rest of the painting as landscape, with trees and mountains perhaps, even whilst knowing full well that no such landscape has actually been described.
Whilst I may be paying too much attention to the titles and not enough to the objects themselves, I think Perfect chooses his titles carefully, so that when I come across a painting entitled Laocoön or another entitled Cerberus, surely I must be expected to think of, in the first case, the famous statue in the Vatican Museum, and its reference to Greek mythology, or, in the second, of the mythological, gigantic three-headed, creature guarding the gates of Hades. And in viewing the painting Cerberus I start to think that the central white shape might resemble a head of the dreaded creature, and then to wonder what might be guarded, i.e prevented from getting out of the painting into the external world, or vice versa. And even as I am talking to myself about this. I hear Perfect speaking on video about his paintings being abstract in the same sense that mathematics is abstract, i.e. existing in its own tautologous world.
Noting the title Laocoön, I cannot help but bring to mind the article Towards a Newer Laocoön by Clement Greenberg in which he made his (in)famous case for value in abstract painting based on medium specificity. Martin Herbert makes this connection in his essay in the excellent catalogue for this show. He also reminds us, if reminder were needed, that Perfects painting Full Fathom Five, borrows its title from Jackson Pollock‘s 1947 painting of the same name. In Pollock’s famous painting we find bits of the ‘real world’ embedded into the surface, objects such as nails, thumbtacks, cigarette butts, coins, buttons, and a key. The ‘real world’ has changed a lot since 1947, one massive change being the rise of the computer and digital media. Could it be said that embedded in Perfect’s painting are bits of the virtual world, using as he does in his practice, Photoshop to manipulate sketched material, a hard copy of which he then uses as a ‘score’ for the paintings? The digitized image finds its way into the painting. In Full Fathom Five a swirling gesture in the bottom left hand corner changes colour abruptly halfway through its stroke, it looks like a digital edit. Similarly, the very fine circular doodles in Transporter look a lot like digital doodles. I have the sense that I am witnessing a visual conversation between the digital and the analogue.
I think I find a similar dialogue taking place in Fiona Rae’s paintings, only here the digital seems to be referenced more in the synthetic colours and the insertion of manufactured collaged elements from childish popular culture, girly stationery, stickers of cute cartoon pandas, her now familiar mixing of crass pop decor with the tropes of Abstract Expressionism, that continues to have the power to jar, entertain, and provoke.
If Perfect’s paintings resemble landscapes Rae’s are more like full-figure portraits, at least in their orientation, there is something person-like in their physical scale, but optically it is space that seems to be portrayed. Both artists open up spaces that appear cosmic, Rae’s to an even greater degree, her choice often of blue hues, the inclusion of stick-on stationery stars and her tracing direction lines from their points all add to this impression of the stellar.
Rae’s has an amazing facility with paint, her dramatic swooping gestures look effortless and also delightfully intricate. There’s something Rauschenbergian about them in their faux authenticity, yet with playfulness and a much greater sense of enjoyment than in Rauschenberg. Rae seems to revel in the contradictions of technological culture. The suggestion of personal expression and subjectivity yet also its knowing denial. Her inclusion of geometric motifs, references also the Constructivist strand of abstraction, acknowledging both its promise and its failure. Am I indulging my imagination too much seeing in these paintings a hint at a new vision, an acceptance of where we are now, tentatively hoping for a future that is more than parody, irony and the feeling of being stuck?
In the painting See Your World, a synthetic sky is populated by squiggles, gestures and apparently decomposing cartoon pandas. It’s high-tech Abstract Expressionism-meets-Manga, that I think does reflect the contemporary east/west, post apocalyptic, almost sci-fi world we now inhabit, without quite representing it. Just as the pandas appear both cute and sinister, the technological future might seem both attractive and menacing. I am reminded of the small painting by Rae that I saw at that Lion and Lamb exhibition, Party Time is Coming, it might even be here already, and it’s not necessarily a good thing, even though I do think Rae’s paintings are a very good thing!
Dan Perfect and Fiona Rae’s joint exhibition, ‘Painter, Painter: Dan Perfect, Fiona Rae’, is on show at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery from 3rd May to 6th July. The exhibition, will travel to Southampton City Art Gallery 18th July to 18th October.
Mrs Rick’s Cupboard exists in a time warp. Once the teacher’s cupboard in a Nottingham primary school, now somehow out-of-place, functionless, in the corner of artist Craig Fisher‘s studio at Primary, Nottingham. No longer a stock cupboard, it serves as an exhibition space that seems larger on the inside than on the outside. At least that’s how it appears to me as I view paintings by Louisa Chambers in this setting.
And having created that filter for seeing the work, doesn’t the background of Tent resemble the interior of Doctor Who’s TARDIS, depending on whether you are seeing the spray painted circles as positive or negative shapes? When they are negative shapes, I have the impression that an interior space is being described, when positive then it’s a landscape I am seeing. This perceptual shift allows the painting to be viewed first in this way and then in that way and back again, but can never be seen in both ways simultaneously, though the painting holds both views. Perhaps the artist has something of this in mind, when she envisages the cupboard functioning as a Stereoscope, an optical device in which two separate photographic images that have been taken from slightly different viewpoints corresponding to the spacing of the eye, merge together to become a single three-dimensional scene. The device itself being an object of fascination, two flat photographs becoming three-dimensional only when the binocular viewer is brought into operation.
There are other ambiguities that come into play also in this charming little painting. In one viewing the tent figure itself hovers in space, whether the literal space of the support, or the illusionistic space hinted at by the horizon line. The main figure could seem to hover above the horizon or settle down onto the ground that the low horizon line suggests and/or it protrudes slightly in front of the picture plane, and then readjusts back into the framed space. Another alternating reading also asserts itself: the yellow undersides of the lower row of circles/spheres seem to be attached to the triangular figure almost as if they are its wheels, a reading that can be sustained when focusing on the centre of the base and that falls away when focusing more on the edges. The main figure can be interpreted as a vehicle or as an object like the tent of the title, and then fairground associations are triggered for me, in contrast to the Sci Fi associations when I am reading it is a vehicle: a Robot, a Dalek perhaps or a spaceship. All this is further complicated by the formal(ist) abstract ‘language’ of the painting, warning me not to read content into it at all but to see it only as a formal composition of shape and colour.
Unveil follows almost the same compositional arrangement as Tent, the space being divided more or less centrally by a horizontal, a vertical and by two diagonal lines, resulting in a positive double triangle shape situated in a negative double triangle space, resembling a pyramid topped by an inverted pyramid, the shape of a ‘double tetractys’. The space has more of a sense of different two-dimensional planes than Tent, becoming more of an illusionistic space in the upper triangular area, as if the flat inverted triangle has opened into a portal onto a three-dimensional space in which an impossible figure rotates. Comparing the two paintings the rotating geometrical figure corresponds to the geometrical ‘ring’ figure in Tent. Both add further spacial ambiguity to each whole. In Unveil, flag like shapes might be interpreted as bunting, adding to a celebratory mood suggested by the joyous colours, that could equally be menacing. I am back at the fairground again where the clowns could be both comedic and terrifying. Yet there are no ‘clowns’ here, no human figures, only coloured triangular and circular forms.
There’s something Kandinsky-esque about this painting. Again I want to refer to the formal ‘language’ but I am wondering if the word ‘technology’ might be better, the means employed being derived from the technology of modernist abstraction, and in so far as content is suggested, we have objects and landscapes that are neither natural nor societal but rather technological, which I think I also find in Kandinsky.
in Non-Stop Radio and Over the Hill the geometric shapes, like paper cut-outs waving in the air of an unspecified urban park landscape have been anthropomorphised, as if they were dancing figures, with wide shaping at the topline contrasting with the close contact at centre, narrowing down to the feet that look only just strong enough to support the swing and sway above. These constructions could exist only in a painting, whilst looking like they could be fabricated in three dimensions I suspect that an attempt to do so would soon show their impossibility.
Looking at them, I sense the artist’s enjoyment in imagining them, as well as in painting them, with the lightness of watercolour, the paint handling seems so congruent with these fluid geometries, precise enough, yet never uptight.
Timer could be a painting of a real object, something similar to an egg timer, but it isn’t. In fact, it’s an impossible construct, which again I would love to attempt to build. For a start, it looks much too large to be an egg timer, even without paying attention to the differing geometries of the four horizontal intersections. I know I am in danger of coming across like a die-hard Doctor Who fan if I say that it reminds me of the control mechanism of the old style TARDIS, but I just cannot help making that connection. I feel confirmed in my interpretation when I read in the gallery notes that “Chambers’ paintings present alternative universes where impossible science fiction/architectural structures comment on conflicts between our inner dream worlds and the technological robotic control on our everyday lives”. I’d go further and say that our “inner dream worlds” have been technologised, and Doctor Who could serve as an example of that.
Maybe it’s a response to the impossibility of the constructions within the paintings that has led to Chambers’ recent experiments in three-dimensions: Rotating Shape Side I and Side II, Shelter and Monument, all of which are here in the cupboard. Shelter and Monument are like nets in the moment of converting from two to three dimensions and Rotating Shape is literally that, a geometric painting on shaped card that can be both rotated and reversed (hence Side I and Side II). However even these constructible paintings have unconstructability in them, tessalating shapes, bending the space as they shift from one arrangement to another, introducing time as well as space into flat, motionless surfaces.
Although Stereoscope closed on 6 December, other paintings by Louisa Chambers can be seen at The Midlands Open at Tarpey Gallery until 11 January and at Crash Open Salon 2013, at Charlie Dutton Gallery from 11 December to 11 January.
The ultra-Taylorist Soviet utopianism of Aleksei Gastev (including Gastev’s landmark book <i>How to Work</i>/<i>Как надо работать</i>)
Brilliant exploration of the patterns that connect industry, technology, scientific management and modernist art.
Including Gastev’s landmark book
How to work/Как надо работать
Image:From the USSR to America,
the chronometric revolution (1925)
Download Алексей Гастев – Как надо работать (1923) [Aleksei Gastev – How to Work]
The following are excerpts from my thesis on the scientific management of labor and psychotechnics in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s.
The Constructivists’ goal to rationalize artistic labor and thus enter life can be traced to the early Soviet intellectual fascination with the Taylorist industrial theory of scientific management. As was covered in the previous section, American Taylorism exerted an influence throughout the European world of modernist art and architecture. However, the especially central role it played through its reception and dissemination in the Soviet Union warrants further contextual reflection. For the Soviet architectural avant-garde did not simply absorb the influence of Taylorism through its mediation by the Constructivists…
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Rachael Pinks asks an important question and comments on the relationship between what in NLP and Self Relations we might refer to as ‘cognitive mind’ and ‘somatic mind’.
It could be argued that technology separates cognitive thinking and somatic doing, attempting to mediate them by inserting ‘controlling’. Capitalism arranges them hierarchically, with thinking at the top, doing at the bottom and controlling in the middle. ‘thinkers’ have power and wealth, whilst ‘doers’ generally lack both.
I want to say that art integrates thinking and doing, though I am aware that it is not always the case, take conceptual art for example, are not thinking and doing often separated along exactly the same lines as in capitalist production?