Signs of Language
Being a project driven artist, I am quite often inspired to record the subtle complexities of day to day life. A number of years ago while watching an episode of The Simpson’s on DVD with my daughter, the screen suddenly froze and fractured revealing its many pixels. The scene before us was a mixture of past images and future ones. We both continued to watch not immediately realizing that the sound had suffered the same fate. The picture was confusing and unsettling, yet it required our full attention. Only when my daughter touched the screen to indicate that something had gone wrong was the spell broken.
I should say at this point that my daughter has a disability that prevents her from having any spoken language, she may, learn to speak, but for the present she is reliant on gesture, signs, images, and technology to communicate.
This brief incident caused me to wonder. Here was the DVD, a relatively new medium, that was supposed to be the pinnacle of image conveyance, and it had flaws and weaknesses. The parallels with my daughter were obvious, however, not limited by her condition she will grow and learn over time. Time will not be so kind to the DVD, most likely to be cast aside at the first sign of a new and better technological marvel.
In the visual arts world, technology is prevalent, yet fleeting and ever changing. What remains constant, regardless of the means of presentation, is the image.
The Simpson’s DVD seemed to be missing vital information, preventing the picture from being displayed properly. Many levels of images at once shifted apart and fused together. Not unlike a painting that is constructed of layers that move forward in some areas and get scraped back in others, combining new paint with earlier efforts. The end result is a picture that is confusing and unsettling, yet, requires our full attention.
Eventually my daughter and I grew tired of the Simpson’s DVD and moved on to something else. Pop culture, it seems, is replaced as quickly as the medium that carries it.
Eight large multi-layered, mixed media paintings on ply wood panels 73X41 inches.
Each of the paintings contains 6 distinct components.
Component 1. Each painting is made up of 144 panels 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches. This cellular construction is designed resemble a 16x9 aspect ratio display and the many pixels that make up that screen.
Component 2. The first image layer of each painting was routed into the plywood. The routed images are line drawings of American Sign Language symbols depicting single words or short phrases. Once cut into the wood the lines were filled with plaster. These plaster lines were not be revealed again until the very late stages of the project, when the layers of paint that hid them were carefully scraped away.
Component 3. The next image layer is a DVD still from The Simpson’s painted over the plaster filled line drawings in component 2. Stills were selected at random.
Component 4. Panels/pixels from each painting were interchanged with other paintings in the series until the images resemble fractured or pixelated DVD stills.
Component 5. Some individual pixels were isolated and had more focussed images of every day things and symbols painted on them. In addition some panels were realized as wood-cuts. Prints were later taken from these in the second part of the project. Each painting in the series contains a number of these subliminal pixels.
Component 6. Finally text was added to identify the plaster line American Sign Language symbol that was gouged out from beneath the paint. Panels in each painting are bolted together in one unified structure.
The Prints and Video
Part of the production of the paintings included 40 wood-cut blocks that were an incorporated and integral part of each work. Two prints were taken from each of these, first all 40 wood-cut blocks assembled into a unified group and printed as one. Secondly each block was printed individually. These individual prints also served as positives in the formation of 40 silk screens. The screens were used to screen-print over 40 sequentially captured stills from a short video. The captured stills were printed on photo grade inkjet paper then later silk-screened with the wood-cut images. Ultimately I intend to show all of these components; paintings, screen-printed video stills, wood-cut prints and the short video as one exhibition. I realize, however this may not always be the case.
what, give, again, finish, stop, stay, now, sometimes
woodcut print 36x22.5 2008
Video Still #2 Sneaker
Screen Print on Inkjet Video Still 14x10.5 2009
(Collection of the City of Ottawa 2010)
Project funded by