Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shifting Dimensions

Over the past few years, I've become increasingly dissatisfied with painting. Part of it is physical: nearly every day for ten years, I've stood bent over a wide timber or canvas frame and inhaled acrid, carcinogenic enamel fumes as I've strived to create flawless, glossy surfaces that betray no trace of being 'hand-made'. Part of it is dissatisfaction with the medium itself. As much as I love painting, I've come to think of it as a medium constrained by its history and in an age in which we're inundated with images, most of them moving, more and more in 3-D, at risk of becoming as anachronistic as opera or drama in verse.
My work is inextricable from my everyday curiosity about the way our expectations and, ultimately, our identities are shaped by entertainment and advertising. For a time, I painted large, Pop Art-inflected, figurative enamels in series – recently, 24 paintings with the same figure in the same pose but in different colors, with different clothes and props – as a response to the insistent, serial nature of advertising (think roadside billboards or mail-order catalogues or blocs of TV commercials). But I began to realise that what I was really striving for couldn't be contained within the two-dimensionality of a painting. I wanted to touch, hear, smell, and feel what was in my imagination. I wanted it to respond to and change with interaction.
People can be deeply affected by a painting, no question. I just wanted to take them further.
A breakthrough came when, in response to an invitation to put together a small exhibition of new work for a commercial gallery presence in Renault New Generation Art at Art Melbourne, in 2007, I created my first 'installation'.
Titled Sex Tourist (video), it was a forensic reconstruction of a hotel room, littered with evidence of everything that had taken place inside it during the course of a single stay. Memories of this stay were documented in works on paper and photographs hung on the temporary walls. Visitors could also sit on the bed, rifle through drawers and personal notes spilled on the bed and read the labels on empty bottles of prescription pills. They could pick through a make-up bag and even try on the lipstick and smell the perfume. Some lay on the bed to look at the images, others to take Polaroids of each other – squealing when they accidentally trod on 'used' condoms dropped on the floor – which they added to the pile I'd left of myself participating in various, real-life sexual acts.
In short, they were able to experience fragments of what I had painted instead of just looking at it in two dimensions. It might have been hastily conceived and flawed but it was an unarguable success, as well as something of a scandal.
Sex Tourist
turned me onto the possibility of 'mediated spaces' – part-installation, part-theatre, part conventional exhibition – that allow direct, multi-dimensional interaction between not only the viewer and the work but the viewer and me. If there's one concept that has the capacity to re-ignite my imagination after the long, cold winter of my madness, it's this.


Anonymous said...

Some kind of sound track would work well in this installation room experience I think. Maybe head phone sets to make it more intimate...?

ArneA said...

just looking at it in two dimensions
Is more than enough for me.
Excellent works.

rino said...

even if you only wrote about art, I'd still follow this blog. ie your ideas are insightful, well expressed and worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a play i saw called HOTEL which was staged in an actual hotel room. The audience was very small for each performance and we sat/stood against a wall like ghosts while a couple who were joined by another person later, displayed an evening in their lives. It felt very real, as if we were witnessing a very private drama unfolding.


artistlauralynch said...

wonderful ideas about mediated spaces... part installation part theater part conventional exhibition ... a hybrid... an all multi media inclusive work... it's definitely something to strive for... i've been thinking and longing for something similar... i once had a partner who always questioned my work and why didn't i just do something like water colors or something that could be rolled up or wrapped up and shipped off quickly, economically and that would be that... and of course i dismissed it... because i knew he was just plain tired of helping me move my work around as heavy and cumbersome as it is and he really never got it ... and so that was that ... he's gone but i'm still here and my work is still here ... and i have come to another crossroad where i am questioning the very object that i have produced... when i would ship my work off or drive my work up and down the coast of california all the while realizing that that very work i was producing was about environmental stewardship ... what the hell am i doing? ... i'm not walking the talk ... i'm still part of the problem that my work is addressing ... so for sometime now i have avoided and purposely not entered into artist calls that may require that i ship my work.... or travel to deliver my work... as it comes right back at me... and i'm still always considering or questioning the end product and what i'm left with... does it have to matter or exist at all ... this object... to express what i want to convey... i do have some hope in the internet or some other media that would be a conduit for this work... in my heart it still does matter about its physicality and it's construction and its objectness ... as it really is about some kind of reconstruction of my own existence and social construction as a human being in this world ... and that manifests itself in what is most accessible in my immediate environment; found objects... gathering and gleaning the shoreline and collecting. economics is a crucial consideration in the end product... we do with what we have... and if the end product is environmentally sustainable, insightful and useful at the same time and maybe even a prototype or process for what one can do with nothing... or what one can do with anything or what one can do with what's left over or what's just around ... then shifting dimensions might very well be necessary or required not just for our survival as artists but for the mere survival of the planet.