Branded Content // Abstract Compression takes as its starting point the conventional distinctions between the virtual and the actual, the digital and the physical, the human and the machine, and uses them as a means to frustrate these binaries. I maintain that such binaries are fluid and changing, and I aim to reflect this in my painting.
Art has throughout history been influenced as much by material reality as by ideology.
In a neoliberal context, brands acquire deep social significance. They’ve become narrowly defined channels through which we are expected to express and represent ourselves to others. This idea motivated me to reflect on the impact brands and advertising have on subjectivity through my painting.
Familiar logos of fashion labels have become iconographs in my latest series. Brands like YSL and LV have carefully crafted public images. As symbols, their logos carry a great deal of weight and are infused with vague affective meanings. They are symbols of luxury. Purchasing and wearing these labels' products becomes a ‘brand’ of wealth and social status. This I've tried to confront most directly in Branded Content III, where the defaced logo is rendered in gold leaf.
Throughout history textiles, dyes, and clothing have been status symbols. But I would argue that the contemporary manifestation of this is quite different. Today we see millions of individuals branding themselves with branded clothing, advertising themselves by advertising a brand. This takes place most evidently on social media platforms like Instagram but is evident in cultural output too: trap music, for example. Branding has now been so thoroughly incorporated into culture and contemporary consciousness that it seems to me our perception of ourselves and others is shaped - at least in part - by corporate branding and advertising. This raises serious concerns for notions of autonomous art and for political critique and resistance in the contemporary world. My recent work (2018) can be read as a struggle to articulate this situation.
I’m concerned with social media's role as a primary path-way through which people are expected to represent and express themselves socially and politically. Social networking platforms are now vastly more than a means of communicating one individual to another. They are involved in the construction of subjectivity and the parameters of discussion, debate, and consciousness. They are corporate bodies with vast political influence, whose function is to accumulate capital through advertising and the collection and selling of big data.
What this means for ‘us’ as a fragmented yet interconnected body dependent upon the internet and social media, is something we haven’t yet been able to articulate for the lack of an adequate vernacular. My painting can be read as a search for a language through which to articulate this new reality.
Taking influence from the form of abstract expressionist painting but frustrating the base assumptions of the period, I posit the notion of ‘abstract compression’; the idea that so called ‘self-expression’ often signifies nothing more than an act of conforming to strict, predefined channels for expressing our subjectivity.
The Branded Content // Abstract Compression paintings tread a fine line: they reflect the ‘compressed’ nature of our capacity for expression by re-imagining lines reminiscent of those in digital imaging software. Are they pessimistic, delusional, or challenging? Are the defaced logos in the paintings articulating something new? Do they, by appropriating logos and manipulating and defacing them, present a challenge to the status-quo? Or do the paintings ride off the brands, and (as Adorno would probably have thought) represent the total corruption of art to capital?
New technology presents us with a dialectic; on the one hand, it offers radically new and innovative ways to produce art, and on the other, its commodified nature presents serious challenges to any notion of art's autonomy and its ability to offer radically new, alternative ways of understanding the world.
How much can be told using a simple digital paint tool?
What does a painted re-imagining of a digital ‘painted’ line say that a digital image doesn't? What distinguishes a digital painting from a physical one?
“It is quite possible to paint like Caspar David Friedrich ‘today’” - Gerhard Richter in a letter to Jean-Christophe Ammann
(Previously published on Fax Magazine)
The Electronic Superhighway exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, London, explores the relationship between art and technology from 1966 to the present day. Artists throughout this period have incorporated technology into their work as medium and as muse, exploring how technology has affected our lives and the difficulties and possibilities it bestows for the present and future. Curator Omar Kholief arranged the works in the exhibition in reverse-chronological order, with the intention of constructing a genealogy of art impacted by technology. Beginning with a diverse range of works from contemporary artists and tracing lines back through art history, the exhibition serves to inform an understanding of art and ourselves in the present.
(previously published on Fax Magazine)
People all over Britain were dumbfounded as they read the morning news on 24th June 2016. Months on they still are. A vortex has buffeted the isles ever since the EU referendum, resulting in widespread disbelief and confusion. David Cameron, the man that led us into this dark hole, immediately abandoned ship, leaving Downing Street and finding refuge in a rented £17m townhouse. A month on and six thousand miles away, trusted friend and ex-colleague George Osborne was seen unloading high calibre rounds from an M-60 into the Vietnamese jungle. We, ‘the little people’ as Farage’s life-sucking rhetoric would have it, watched the mad political blood-bath unfold from a distance, each day bringing new accusations, betrayals, resignations, and revelations, and for some the creeping sense that they had been terribly misled.