Nigel P : I like a puzzle - to be invited to figure out what it is I'm looking at. This image displaying a kind of grid structure with smudges looks vaguely scientific, maybe a series of lab grown cultures or a thermal imaging snapshot looking down on figures moving through buildings. Then there's the areas of colour - layers that sit either in front or between the mesh of the grid - and lastly the area of white space - where the grid stops.
I read the title Versions/Matrix and the description - reprographic print of original paintings - and I realise that there is possibly some sort of cataloguing or indexing taking place - an attempt to map creative endeavour. Futher questions emerge - are the "original paintings" a distinct body of work, a folio, or attempts to make a single work. Does the printing involve reductions in scale, cropping or the sewing together of work by many hands? Is the space at the right there to be filled - or is it that the source material ran out? Did the painting stop?
Looking closely at the more substantial painted areas - are these landscape references or body images; is this some kind of terrain or mark making diary. Some features are repeated - is there a syntax, a language or purely ornamental patterning. What is it thats being recorded and matrixed - haptic motions, accidental smears, meaningful marks?
As a whole the work reminds me of Susan Hiller's works from the 1970s; her reconfiguration of painted works as books, piles of ash and unravelled canvases. Hiller's work has a persistent materiality entwinned with the conceptual endeavour of re-working the status of Painting as prized cultural object. One crucial difference is that Versions/Matrix appears to retain the frontaility of a painted surface. Another is that, viewing the image here online takes away any of the insistent materiality of Hiller's objects. Yet I can't escape the conclusion that Versions/Matrix is similarly a product of ritual, and intense creative self reflection.
Jane Boyer: Wow! Thank you so much Nigel for your comments. I absolutely love what you've written. And to think, my work has raised this many questions is astonishing. The first thing I'm going to hook into is your comment about Susan Hiller's work, which is a real compliment to me to be compared with her. She is a remarkable thinker. Your phrase, "reconfiguration of painted works" is precisely what underlies my work overall and Versions: Matrix specifically. I've come to question the continued use of resources in producing new work, so often now, my work is made by re-imaging, reusing, re-sampling, and recycling older work. This has led to a profound interest in the self and in simulacra, which is what I'm doing my PhD thesis on, and it is an "intense creative self reflection." I'll trace the trajectory of Versions: Matrix which may give you a sense of this depth.
One painting primarily, is represented within Version: Matrix in three different ways. First the background of 'splotches' is a digital re-sampling of the painting to create this sporadic pattern. It was created through countless layering of layers in photoshop. Then the area that is slightly golden in colour and looks kind of like an 'eye' is a digital re-imaging of an excerpted detail from the same painting. I made that image a few years after I made the painting. Finally, the image areas that show a 'cross' is a further digital re-imaging based on another excerpted element from the painting. I'll post the original painting, Token, here on P+L so you can see.
We're looking at a an eight-year progression so far. The original painting was made in 2008, the digital re-imaging happened in 2010, the Matrix series happened in 2014, and in 2016-17 I'm continuing to work from this imagery. In late January, I'll be curating a project exploring this way of working. I've invited nine other artists to join me in taking an original work and translating it into three to five new works. My 'original' is Version: Matrix, which as I've just described is anything but the original work. It will engender a further three to five new works.
The process of actually making Versions: Matrix involved several printing passes through the printer. This infused the element of chance into the work. I could not control how the printer printed on the page, so in essence, the process of making V:M was a unique event in the history of this re-sampling. The very nature of reprography means that, even though it is a digital process of reproduction, I couldn't possibly repeat the process. So while the image is created digitally, and its process is of a reproducible nature, it is a one off and cannot be reproduced except by photographing the work.
I would argue this is not the materiality of a painting, but the immateriality of Being, made material, while at the same time, I think raises questions of the notion of materiality as a physical construct.
Nigel P : Hi Jane Thank you for this deeply interesting account of Versions:Matrix and especially for posting Token - You've described this as the original work, and mention sampling- I'm intrigued by the kind of emerging genealogical relationships between the works in your practice, and the ontology of creative expression in play when you refer to the immateriality of Being. Token obviously sounds like something to exchange, beginning a process, a fast forwarding of molecular transformation, a transubstantiation....
I remember as a student reading Benjamin Buchloh on Richter and idea of painting as synecdote - each new work a representative of Painting while adding to and changing the shape of the medium. Also of course Baudrillard's hyperreal: the always already reproduced - the notion of simulation and the loss of real as referent. I say as a student, because that is some years ago - before internet and smart phone touch screens transformed relations between sight & touch, presence & distance - those visceral markers of connections to a Real beyond discourse.
Looking at Token on screen, reading it's dimensions I imagine it took some physical energy to make - I'm not sure if the darker marks hover or suggest tears, ruptures in an amorphous fabric. Versions:Matrix generates a different kind of depth - you describe mechanical process and digital imaging- and as mentioned there's a sense of something being indexed - charted...
After I stopped being a student (at least in the institutional sense) I eventually owned a PC & scanner- the first thing I did was to gather together slides and notebooks to digitize, transform, to make new sense. For me, technology facilitated reinvention & generated a nostalgia for a possible self. What I see here is also about time - though somewhat more profound and open.
Jane Boyer: Nigel, thank you so much for this intensely interesting discussion. First let me address your question about ontology. You say, “I'm intrigued by the kind of emerging genealogical relationships between the works in your practice, and the ontology of creative expression in play when you refer to the immateriality of Being.”
What does it mean for an artwork to come into being? How can the application and organisation of materials express the essence of being and existence? When is an artwork a synthesis of a life’s experience and all the belief systems, both accepted and rejected, involved in that experience? When is it not? Does time mark the only measure of distance between an artist and the artwork? What can a distance imply, is there ever any actual distance, and what exists in the lacuna, or the gap, of that distance if it is there? And to engage your recent question about your own work, what is an artist seeing? These may appear to be obvious questions, with even more obvious answers, but I think these are the questions at the centre of my practice, and my ontology of creative expression. From these questions, perhaps the genealogical relationship becomes apparent and possibly gives an insight into what I mean by the ‘immateriality of Being’?
It’s really interesting that you mention Buchloh, Richter and Baudrillard. The first two I adore, the third is the antichrist of simulacra! I say that in jest, but Baudrillard’s view of simulacra is the one I’m working against in my doctoral thesis because of its limitations. Baudrillard isn’t wrong, just limited in his scope. I much prefer Deleuze’s view of simulacra as a positive motivator of change, or expressed differently, something that is a difference of difference carrying its own potential for change within it. Another important view of simulacrum, which informed Deleuze, comes from the French novelist Pierre Klossowski, older brother to the artist Balthus. Klossowski saw the simulacrum as an invisible agitation, a deep-seated response that recurs persistently as outward actions and motivations – much like Freud’s and Nietzsche’s ideas, who pre-dated Freud. The notion of synecdoche you mention with regard to Buchloh and Richter is the very thing my supervisor recently suggested I look into, so thank you for that tip. I’ll look up Buchloh’s essay!
With regard to Token, it’s funny; I think of the energy it takes to make all my work as equal. For me, I think of it more as the mental energy of concentration than anything physical, not that that isn’t physical. However, as I approach every work with the same focused attention, I think all of my work takes the same amount of energy to make, which strikes me as an odd way to equate effort, but there it is.
The thing about Token that I personally find so intriguing is the interruption the background texture insists. Every mark in that work is disrupted by the insistence of the background texture. As I worked this became an element, almost an identity of the work. It’s one of those things that parallel experience and we just have to find ways to cope. I found myself approaching that texture in this piece the same way. I wanted to see first, how it affected my intention as I made marks, then what responses it coaxed from me as I coped with its presence, and finally how I managed to synthesise it all together in a coherent whole – or at least a coherency that made sense to me. Others may dispute that it is coherent!
I think then in regard to the translation to Versions: Matrix, it became a question of objectifying the original, making an emblem of it so to speak, which is a further extrapolation of its title as I realise writing this. That was not intentional on my part, but not insignificant. Token became a symbol of its own self, repeated, overlaid, obscured, interrupted, distorted, scaled and changed. It still carries those same original interrogations and meanings, but they have transformed into other meanings of intention, response and synthesis. Within the work, time has become a factor of existence, rather than a factor of expenditure. Through its continued transmutation, Token lives a life of change, chance, and occurrence, just like I do. The question to be debated is whether its life is my life, or whether it is its own?
Nigel P : Hi Jane, I'm spotting a problem with the P+L format - should I be posting under Versions: Matrix or Token. Or may be it's an effect of your practice to make fixing on a single work difficult - feel the curatorial ground splitting and dividing with each iteration?
Much of what you say here resonates with me. I should mention that I've barely entered the foothills of any readings of Delueze but the dynamic idea of becoming, and of desiring production provided a way for me to continue thinking creatively in difficult times. I linked up the idea from Anti-Oedipus (as I understood it) of cultural consumption as generator of psychic meaning (production) to Ranciere's take on the poetry of active spectatorship to overcome the deep sense of guilt that always wells up in the background late at night in the studio, when I sense I should be doing something more socially useful!
I'm moved by what you say about investment in work - "what does it mean for an art work to come into being?". I'm not sure whether here you mean a single object, or the process of becoming. For me I think it is about looking as an imagnative act making the work - creating the poem. When seeing the accumulated effects of all the previous looking you maybe touch life experience: but whose life - is a good question.
Poem - language for me is where the problem starts with my own work. I've difficulty with the relationships between art and discourse in terms of equivalences, of visual literacy and notion of reading works. I'm not sure how words can touch images, except as a kind of prop, or as tracings of a geneological web of possiblities leading back from (in Deluezian terms) the actual to the virtual.
What strikes me from looking at Token, Versions: Matrix, & from your words is how much life and time, as you say "as a factor of existence" is held in the work: could say it's magic, or physics - the differentiation of each resampled image, the escalating frequency of looks; an accumulation of possibilities across space and time present all at once (cubism, a David Jones drawing). Not sure though, that in this process you can say where one life ends and another begins.
Jane Boyer: Thank you Nigel, my apologies, American events have taken my attention. I would like to think that "the effect of my practice makes fixing on a single work difficult," and if that is the case, that is a very great compliment indeed. As you mention curation, this is an important element of auto-curation, or artist/curator practice, which holds significance for me - this idea of division, or perhaps more to the point, subdivision. It's not an idea of division as separation, but more like division as reduction. Let me explain that. As an artist/curator it is my job to curate my own work either on its own, or in conjunction with other artists' work. In order to do this, I must consider the totality of my production and make decisions on where I can 'isolate' images from the context of their making, removing them from their 'set' and immediately initiating the condition that they then represent all of those other pieces which cannot be represented within the scene of the exhibition. In all reality, these are not decision that can be made with any rationale or logic, they are decisions of chance, in that I realise it is equivalent to a throw of the dice: The throw happens (the choice is made), the dice tumble (all unrepresentable associations take effect), the dice fall back from the throw (the work takes its place in the exhibition as member, as place-holder, as emblem, as isolate). The message of the work is no longer just the readable visual, it is all of these things separately and at once. It is the significance of all these things that pose the question, "what does it mean for an artwork to come into being?" So while separation happens in making the choice to exhibit a work, actually what is happening is a distillation and reduction, or maybe a realigning, of meanings associated with the work. I see this as uniquely happening within artist/curator practice. In light of this, it makes complete sense that you would have difficulty 'fixing' on one work. That tells me that I might be right in this notion of artist/curator practice.
I know what you mean, it can be hard sometimes to rationalise the social benefit of making art, but I truly believe without art we are not civilised beings. It's a difficult thing because the effect of art is not quantifiable, but remove it and think of the dire consequences of an existence with no creativity. I don't think our psyches could cope. Posing the question "what does it mean for an artwork to come into being?" is an all encompassing question. It contains the question for the individual object, as well as the totality of a practice in its process of becoming. You touch on the implication of this question when you mention Deleuze and Ranciere above. Perhaps, much like I described about curating one's own work above, the creation of an artwork is a distillation of all the influences and experiences we've had. The artwork becomes a resonance of a life, which then emanates back all that is visible and unrepresentable from that life, becoming something other than the representation of that life.
This is perhaps a good point to address the issue of the relationship between work and discourse, because with such a vaulted view of what an artwork is as I've just expressed, it can be hard to talk about it. For me, the question of talking about art is not one of equating language to visuals, but perhaps more like translating visuals into language. But that isn't in terms of trying to set up any kind of parallel for translation to be able to happen. I think it is just another way of experiencing the visual through the linguistic. Language will always fail in its attempts to describe the visual and the visual will always fail to convey the fulsome meaning of language; they are two different means of experience. But experiencing the visual as language is possible, just as experiencing language as the visual is possible. What I mean is, the experience is uniquely one or the other, but the application of one to the other does not have to be in terms of equivalence alone. For me visual literacy is sort of like knowing how to read clues. It's knowing how to 'speak' through looking, calculate through looking, analyse through looking. The looking comes first in visual literacy.
And finally, that is the point, I like the way you've said this, "...the escalating frequency of looks; an accumulation of possibilities across space and time present all at once." There is no distinction between where one life ends and another one begins in the multiplicity of Being. We fuse with our context, are products of our context, and while we experience our context uniquely, we are so enmeshed in it and with it that it would be impossible to extract an individual from the context. Hopefully, this fusion and simultaneous 'escalating frequency' are what comes across in my work.
Nigel P : Hi Jane
I think I realised when first seeing this and the rest of your folio that there is a lot to unpack from your work - thank you for being so generous in sharing yor thought processes and ideas about making and wider critical contexts for creative endeavour.
You mention events in America at the begining of your last comment. Think that what you say about words and images, the interplay between discursive and visual fields is very relevant to the culture of politics - especially at this moment when values, identity, self expression and the concept of choice are embroiled in such a momentous outcome.
I really liked the way you characterised the choosing of images - auto curation as a sub dividing, a reduction - a distillation. It made me thinks about language and the structuring of sentences - words on the page, works on the wall or on screen; each stream of contiguous elements selected from, standing for all the things not said or shown.
Probably the bit I struggle with most in my own work is the notion of making sense. That the pattern of choices means something to me, and something different to the reader or spectator - the witness or conspirator. And then in what ways is such a meaning understood and sanctioned as valid or real, or contested? There are obvious rules and conventions - much of the discourse about visual imagery draws from the structuraton of words - as in rhetoric of the image - application of devices such as metaphor, trope, synecdote etc.
I'm particularly wondering about public discourse - ideas of value and exchange and how rhetorical conventions might privledge certain choices over others. Many years ago a tutor said to me that 'you can't have socialism in one work' - in that there needed to be an accumulation, a body of material through which a perspective, an orientation could be manifest, be shared...
Versions: Matrix seems to play along these lines - as something that's both one and many; as we said - an accumulation of looks - a vessel of experience. On P+L it also multiplies in the ether - a mirage, a mesh of pixels on the screen. What you show and what you've said are making me reconsider what it is to encounter immanace of art objects and to scrutinise their apparition in cyberspace.