Monday, February 28, 2011

Art As Islands

"Television is becoming a collage - there are so many channels that you move through them making a collage yourself. In that sense, everyone sees something a bit different."
– David Hockney
When I first started painting, my most urgent desire was to attract attention.
I mean this in the most fundamental sense. I wanted my work to impose itself on the viewer, to take up as much of their field of view as possible. The canvases were large, the surfaces glossy and vividly colored. The figures in them were nearly always alone, without context, and reaching out from the frame. It was if I wanted to isolate the figures from a pervasive background 'noise', to strip away all possible distraction, so they might actually be 'seen'.
This suggests several possible metaphors. But the simplest is probably the truest. I was a young woman struggling against shyness and insecurity to be recognised. Over time, the figures became more recognisably 'me', bolder, brighter, but still protected by a hard shell of enamel which enabled me to don and discard disparate identities without giving away too much about my real self.
Tellingly, for almost ten years, all my canvases (and later, timber boards) were custom-built to the same dimensions, 100cms x 150cms, aping the 3:2 ration of a 35mm film negative, a double-page, A4-sized magazine spread or a roadside billboard. The influence of advertising imagery was unmistakeable. So was the product I was trying to sell.
In some ways, I had realised in my work an idea J.G. Ballard described, in an interview with English edition of Vogue magazine, 34 years ago: "We may see ourselves, at the turn of the century, each of us the star of a continuous television drama, soothed by the music of our own brain waves, the center of an infinite private universe…"
The images in my paintings are still largely solitary – and are still, with some recent exceptions, hyperbolic renditions of myself, even when I am using someone else as a model. But instead of reacting to the influence of media on my identity, I am now also interacting with it, if not actually communicating much within it.
Whether in paintings, drawings, photographs or video, my work projects a relentless series of individualised moments that I share with others. These mediated fragments of my experience are inevitably distorted during their transmission, both as they're 'sent' (when I create them) and as they're received (the viewing and interpretation of them), but each remains, for me, an expressive but singular, context-less piece and not an attempt to connect, to be understood.
I am not even sure that 'connection' interests me, although recently, I empathised with Freeman Dyson, the noted theoretical physicist, when he wrote in his review of James Gleick's new book, The Information: A History, A Flood for the New York Review Of Books, that we are drowning in a "flood of information".
As Dyson saw it, "The immense size of modern databases gives us a feeling of meaninglessness. Information in such quantities reminds us of Borges’ library extending infinitely in all directions. It is our task as humans to bring meaning back into this wasteland. As finite creatures who think and feel, we can create islands of meaning in the sea of information."
Islands of meaning in a sea of information
. If my works were no more than these, I'd be happy.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I REALLY Luv that first image on the left. :-)

Sincerely,
-Malcho

Anonymous said...

Freeman Dyson... Haven't heard his name for a long time... I used to make him mandatory reading for my design students!

What oversight and breadth of thought!

Best

Hugh

Monique said...

In galleries, museums, etc. I've often felt like I was on auto pilot switching through various channels on a TV as I viewed work after work after work.. seems as though there is very little to actually capture my attention anymore. It's all been done. I suspect this is in direct correlation to my own disconnection and disenchantment with art - from others and in some respects my own.