I think it’s interesting to make paintings without any specific visual knowledge of how they progress. It feels as though conscious control is being relinquished, allowing the work to somehow evolve more freely. It also means that when I do step in and attempt resolution, again I am faced with a situation I could not have otherwise prepared. Which in turn leads towards further unanticipated outcomes.
Colour choices are usually impulsive and sometimes based on the memory of ones that have already been applied – either in the painting at hand or in other artworks more generally. Compositional decision-making is therefore constrained to the present tense. The painting becomes an index of decisions, a visual narrative of its own making.
I’m not interested in making paintings of something in particular. I’m not even interested in subject matter. The work itself and the method used to produce it is the subject matter. What the viewer associates within the painting is also the subject, but that’s not something I have to portray in a deliberate, didactic way.
The limits of the picture plane keep a certain amount of my ideas visual. The surface of my paintings are like compressed and stratified versions of the voluminous space that surrounds them. All of my actions and activities get funnelled into them. The plane of contact that is the painted surface must be made to carry so much. In this way, the picture plane becomes a prism of the studio.
What I’m really making is a representation of thought processes. The layers of paint solidify impulses – there’s a transferal of energy there. There’s so much gesture, strength, belief, purpose, direction and evocation laid out in each one, culminating in a kind of palpable resonance.
Try staring at something until it is known intimately from every angle. You can explain it on a theoretical and technical level, yet still never really know why it is. For me, that’s what it’s like to make an abstract painting. Looking at these works, what is felt is what has gone into making them, what they stand for and stand in as.
They are works of resonance.
These paintings hit you like snapshots from a sudden expansion of force. Justin Andrews’s work often does this, but now it is tempered by a zig-zagging bounce and claustrophobic shudder. Angled strips of colour criss-cross each canvas in a frenetic rhythm, like vectors of energy bouncing around inside a metal box. At close range the motion suddenly stops, made implausible by small details that assert the concrete materiality of the object. These details are ciphers that tell us the strips have actually remained still while layers of ground have accumulated over them.
Veiny blooms of pigment bleed from the otherwise sharp edge of the strips, because the masking tape used to create these sharp lines has not been sealed. Andrews knows how to paint a sharp line better than anyone, so this ‘imperfection’ must be there to tell us something specific. Indeed the paint bleeds into the interior of the strips to tell us they have been subtracted from the ground rather than placed on top: that they are trenches rather than platforms. This has an intimidating precedent in Modern painting. The ‘zips’ of Barnett Newman similarly bleed into their interior to reveal that they are negative forms, removed from a monochromatic field rather than added to them. By this subtle inversion the figure and ground relationship is annihilated by a ground and ground relationship.
Andrews links his paintings to the tradition of the monochrome, and he certainly experiences them as such when he makes them. The entire surface is painted one colour before new strips of tape are laid down. Another layer of monochrome is painted over the whole surface before more tape is added. Several layers of this accumulate before Andrews finally removes the banked-up tape to reveal the tangle of strips for the first time. This knowledge turns my initial impression inside-out, and instead I see parallel layers of monochromes made simultaneously visible by rents in their surface. The construction of these paintings is necessarily linear, which presents a temporal aspect simply because one layer must follow another in sequence. It is not temporality as an active process of change, but as sedimentary layers of calcified time.
This is complicated by strips weaving over and under one another, in a feat of masking-tape acrobatics that refutes a linear order of layers. This virtuoso interweaving allows the strips to pop forward again and assert their independence. In Newman’s paintings the figure ground relationship remains intact, albeit rattled by a resonant glitch. Here the strips are able to indulge the Modernist observance of self-contained facticity and at the same time be almost figural in their mobility. This is emphasised by glancing angles as they bounce off each vertical edge. The bouncing action seems to acknowledge the integrity of the boundary, but then the strips zoom off the picture plane in a vector that activates expanded territory beyond.
That territory is expanded further by the evident reliance on external devices. The strips are a just handful of different widths because they reflect the standard gauges of masking tape and the various forms of extruded aluminium that are used to produce them. Over twenty canvases, the precise reproduction of these parameters becomes a repetitive pulse. This rhythm, along with the bleeding and interweaving, serves as index to a constant and identifiable thing located outside the painting. That thing may just be a banal tool-of-the-trade such as masking tape, but as that tape frantically criss-crosses over the same piece of ground again and again it reminds me that no canvas is big enough to hold the full length of a roll. This offers both a metaphor and concrete expression of the basic drama of Andrews’s work: the irreconcilable conflict between a limited ground and vectors that strain towards endlessness.
Bryan Spier, February 2017
basic processes, difficult tasks
To capture the experience of the present is the aim behind my work. Every single methodological aspect of my work is there to support this. My work feeds on my own witnessing of the world that surrounds me. There’s the world of my work and the world of the real. These are actually one and the same. It’s just that I’m the medium between the two.
These drawings use the circular form. The circle is infinite, evolving, cyclical. It has no single orientation, no beginning, no end. It’s anonymous yet specific and symmetrical. It is an eye, a world, a point, the definition of an area. It is a host for something. The circle is a conceptual structure.
My circular forms are the carriers for the methods and materials used to create them. These two aspects of this work form part of their meaning. These two aspects both point towards time – which surrounds them and is the thing that links the methods and materials that I use. These works use time as a device. These works are about the time taken to make them. These works physicalize time.
Each work is an area of focus, the formation of points from which to move forwards. They are temporal marcations which assist me in working out where to look, how to look, what to focus on, and how to go about representing an abstract idea that has no preconceived form and can only be made specific through production.
The most basic processes can be used to approach the most difficult tasks.
Hold Fast Stay True
I shoot for the stars.
No compromises are made within what I do.
I consciously ignore trends and market exigencies.
Never does style override content.
First order work is what I must make.
I am part of a wider, unfolding story.
I work in a way that shows I know this.
This work is essentially about its own making.
Also about how the internal and the external relate to each other.
So the installation is both literal and abstract.
Made to exist in the material form here and now.
I walk this Earth for a limited time.
My work embodies my views.
It traces my development.
It evidences my existence.
My work is a beacon, a sentinel, a point of light to follow.
For me, there is just the method and the monochrome.
I will always Hold Fast and Stay True.
These paintings have no design,
these paintings have no plan.
These paintings have no clear meaning,
these paintings have their own story.
These paintings come out of their own material logic,
they are images of their own development.
These paintings are of their own production,
they are at once both abstract and a reference.
These paintings point towards their maker,
they situate themselves upon a plane.
These paintings are records of a time now passed,
they are a beacon, a sentinel, and a point of light to follow.
Is Painting a Technology?
In an essay titled the ‘Author’s Introduction’ in the standard edition of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber mentions the invention of the painterly use of perspective in the Renaissance among the series of inventions of Western culture, including the laboratory and experimental observation, biochemistry, psychics, historiography, political science, bureaucracy and capitalism which are each exemplary in the way they illustrate the extension of a principle of rationality to a degree of completeness found nowhere else in world. From this point of view the invention of linear perspective follows the more general pattern of the application of criteria derived from an objectivistic culture, by which calculability, impersonality, logic and empiricism, the measure of the means and the ends, are brought to bear upon the world. On one hand, with the Renaissance, the refinement of the means of realising images of Truth has been accomplished. But on the other, painting comes into its own as a traditional genre for a modern art, from then on to make a painting means returning to the same tools – to cloth and canvas, brushes, varnishes, paints, palettes, wooden frames, etc.
The idea that modern painting is in essence about the creation of pictorial novelties has to ignore this traditionalism, in the sense that the idea of making a painting always involves, in a way, something that is going to the same. Some suggest that the truth of painting is the unearthing of the ontological condition of the image as “flatness”. Or that the revelation that painting makes possible is the incarnation of a quasi-spiritual realm of pure pictorial forms. But not even the idea of autonomous realm of art can be a made a practical foundation of what a painting should be, if for no other reason than it has to take this ancient technology, a relic, as a given. Other genres and media come and go. There is no necessity to the survival of painting. Moreover, these myths demand new uses of an ancient technology. Sometimes it seems as if, if painting is looked at from this technical, problem-solving point of view, that it is this problem of what to make of the material apparatus that is part of the attraction for the continual return to the genre; as if the idea of painting carries along with it a technology in order to avoid the confrontation with its purposelessness.
But again this purposelessness only appears as such if there is no use for a picture – this is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Justin Andrews says “I call my work art only because I make it to place it into a historical context as well as an expanding dialogue.” This statement touches on this condition of painting; I read it as the recognition of genre, and not as an ontological claim, or an ethical one. And yet artworks require no justification, least of all those, like Justin’s, that have given up trying to “solve” problems.
Michael Ascroft, October 2014
The Infinite Loop
A syncopated synthetic bass pulse sounds continuously, followed by a delayed version: over, and over, and over, and over again…
Imperceptibly at first, the delayed version of the bass pulse becomes greater in strength, the depth of its repetitions increasing: over, and over, and over, and over again…
The delayed signal now mirrors the bass pulse, gradually shifting the emphasis of the rhythm from the former to the latter element: over, and over, and over, and over again…
The initial signal is now completely enveloped by its delayed other, melding with the entire evolving loop, producing a string of running pulses: over, and over, and over, and over again…
The saturation of the delayed output is so great that even all artefacts within the original loop have now been intensified to an auditory level: over, and over, and over, and over again…
The loop itself now resembles an organic rumble, affected signals smeared across the duration of the loop, ricocheting as earlier elements are overridden, then ducking as other new ones spontaneously emerge: over, and over, and over, and over again…
The power of the now continuous stream of sound becomes so great that higher frequencies also feedback into themselves, creating a high-pitched sound that rings out across the bass-driven cacophony: over, and over, and over, and over again…
The signal feedback is so great that the rest of the entire loop becomes engulfed in the high-pitched scream. Ascending higher than the auditory range and seemingly disappearing altogether, it continues its own recursions: over, and over, and over, and over again…
All that remains is an eerie silence as one’s mind and body recovers once again, having perceived the infinite loop…
In the 90s, I spent a lot of time seeing underground bands from the Melbourne metal scene. It wasn’t an angst thing. I enjoyed the visceral sound. I was particularly captivated by the atmosphere created by the modest-sized venues, the small number of devout followers, and the realisation that what was being witnessed was incredibly raw, very immediate and temporary. The memory of these performances has a transient feel.
After I moved away from Melbourne, I made the transition to techno. My favourite producers went under the name of Basic Channel, then later Rhythm and Sound. I was drawn to their work because of the sonic texture of their compositions. Part of their obvious debt to dub and reggae was their use of tape echo and delay. I was fascinated by the spaciousness of their sound and the way that they used eroded samples almost as soundscapes to situate newly manufactured percussion, bass lines, and harmonic chord progressions.
It seemed as though they were engaging with sound as a medium, achieving a level of synergy with their hardware to work through processes to deliver their concept. This tendency to resample, reuse, and push a kind of degradation was also illustrated in the centre label stickers of the BC records. In chronological order with each release, the previous label graphic seems to have been scanned and reproduced without attempting to camouflage any resultant entropic effects. Here too, it seemed as though they were engaging with deterioration as a generative process in itself.
When I was an art student, I encountered a dumpster containing books and administrative material. In it, I came across a copy of Art of the Avant-Garde in Russia: Selections from the George Costakis Collection. The book was in poor condition and some of its pages had been ripped out. I’ve always assumed that this is why it had been de-accessioned. I instantly became the new owner of the text. I was very much engaged by the imagery in it – I had never seen anything like it before. I was compelled by the constructive work shown in it. But because I had never seen the actual works, I had no objective knowledge of them in the primary form. I subconsciously attributed to the works an aura similar to that of ancient, other-worldly artefacts. My perception of them was led only by the reproductions. In many cases the black and white images were reprints of damaged photos of works, meaning they were twice removed from their original that was often lost or destroyed. I felt as though I could almost sense the potency of the original objects by looking through the grainy reproductions. To me, the pieces represented had become inseparable from the history and noise they were bathed in. It was obvious to me that these Constructivist works were chronologically and geographically distant as well as de-contextualised in the political sense, but in reproduction they had outlived their makers and transcended their own time.
Most things refer to, or are a reproduction of something else, even if only a bare concept. To me, reproduction is like a passage that bridges the divide between something in its transitory states. In thinking about it, I find myself drawn to the idea of time – the way it passes, the way the present recedes into the past. I’ve found that by making work that refers to present situations that have become past ones in reproduction, the work becomes historical in a way, being ‘about’ something no longer knowable in its original state. The further my work travels along this trajectory from what is to what was, the more abstract it appears to me.
I see my work as being ‘temporal arcs’. That’s the only way I can describe it. As images of independent moments stacked on top of each other, each work becomes a kind of manifold or arc that brings separate events together in a specific way. The role of the work is to visually refer to these different moments instantly – they are composite representations of time, a flattened visual trace of events. What my works are of is not real in the way that reality applies to you or I. They are documentary images of a reality specific to them. They are beyond time.
In Darkness Born
The documentation of Kasimir Malevich’s solo exhibition titled 0:10, The Last Futurist Exhibition of Pictures (Petrograd, 1915) is an iconic image.
21 paintings are visible in the grainy black and white photograph, all of which hang on two adjacent walls.
The paintings are small to medium-sized, and of either square or rectangular proportion.
A chair sits at the base of the right hand wall, giving an indication of scale.
Written notes are also attached to each wall.
Numbering cards are fixed below each painting.
The exhibition appears to be flooded with an even, ambient light which emanates from behind the location of camera.
The walls on which the paintings hang are roughly textured.
The ceiling is ornately-corniced, and of a lighter tone than the wall colour.
The floor is of a dark tone and is finished with a small, functional trim.
All of the visible paintings contain geometric elements set within white grounds.
Most paintings appear to be making contact with the wall along their bottom edge, indicating that they may be hung from a single point on the wall, using a cord of some kind attached to the back of each work.
Hung at the top of the corner between both walls is the painting titled Black Square (1915), measuring 79.5 x 79.5cm.
In his essay The Persistence of Abstraction, Bob Nickas states that:
“This installation not only gave Black Square a far greater authority but also left the distinct impression that it was the source from which all other paintings in the room emerged and by which they were held in place, a “black hole” exerting an intense gravitational pull“.
He also states that;
“Moreover, every painted picture – and this would include a black or a red square – is representational because every painting is ultimately a representation of space.”
Scanner is a site-specific installation consisting of four wall works.
Each wall work is a combination of prepared imagery and wall drawing.
All four works use the same reference material in different configurations.
The black and white photographic component of each work originated as an A4-sized photocopy of a cut paper arrangement. These arrangements of materials no longer exist. The photocopies of the arrangements have been scanned then overlaid and enlarged to finished scale. Such drastic enlargement has amplified the texture of the original photocopies as well as any digital noise created from scanning them.
Through the process of enlargement, incidental information becomes amplified and highly visible. Digital processes are used throughout the evolution of each print, simultaneously highlighting the organic aspects of each image. These material and digital artifacts are the subject of the works just as much as their composition and materials are.
The blue permanent marker component has been drawn over the top of the prints using designs that have been enlarged via an overhead projector. The templates for the permanent marker drawings are based upon a number of random arrangements that also no longer exist, the shapes this time being reversed out of themselves to create diagonal areas of interlocking positive and negative space.
The varying tones and textures of the prints as well as the alternating spaces and translucent colour of the permanent marker allows for a simultaneous reading of both layers of information.
Scanner is an installation which refers to the processes behind its own making.
Scanner uses reference material that no longer exists.
Scanner documents a series of timeframes now lost to the past.
…yet its making and installation is specific to the present and to this space.
The Roland DEP-5 is a digital audio multi-effects unit.
The DEP-5 processes audio using 16-bit DA/AD converters and samples at a frequency of 32 kHz.
The DEP-5 enables complex delay algorithms and spacious reverberation types to be added to an incoming audio signal.
Natural reverberation is simulated via a three-stage process – pre-delay, reflection and diffusion.
Reverb diffusion time can be set to a maximum of 99 seconds on the DEP-5, creating the effect of near endless reverberation.
If such a situation were possible in reality, the sound source to be effected would have to be of a highly sustained frequency, constantly phasing and reflecting off sonically impervious surfaces in an incredibly large area.
Reverberation from a sound source is lineal in itself, but the sonic effects of a reverberation in the above-described space would compound each other via the reverberation of reverberations, creating incredibly long diffusion times.
Delay is used to replicate the effects of an echo – a situation where a sound is projected onto a surface then reflected back to the location of the original sound source. Given the nature of an echo – its clarity, volume, and response time as well as its reflections and repetitions – an echo is determined by the characteristics of the space that it occurs within.
The DEP-5 applies a delay effect by recording the incoming audio signal (via its A/D converter), then routes it back through its output after a set period of time (via its D/A converter). The original ‘dry’ signal can be mixed with the delayed ‘wet’ signal to varying levels. Delay damping may also be applied, to modulate the amount of delay repetition. The timeframe between delay repetition can also be adjusted.
The delay time on the DEP-5 can be adjusted up to 2 seconds. Delayed signal can be sent to the centre of a stereo image, or panned from extreme left to right, or sent to both left and right channels in an alternating pattern. Once again, this means that situations where audio signal bounces off large open spaces can be simulated, creating an effect that ranges from realistic to highly abstract.
It is possible to route a delayed signal through the DEP-5 once again to apply reverberation (and vice versa).
Sagittarius A is a super-massive black hole that exists at the centre of The Milky Way Galaxy.
Sgr A is located at a distance of 26,000 light years from Earth and has a diameter of 44 million kilometres.
It is the source of immense gravitational force.
As it draws stars, gas clouds and planets towards its centre, X-rays are emitted in the process, illuminating the region that surrounds it.
In 2005, astronomers discovered HE 0437–5439, an extraordinarily fast-moving star located 200,000 light years from Sgr A, travelling away from it at a speed in excess of 2.5 million km/h.
It is believed that HE 0437–5439 is the remainder of a binary star system – a pair of stars once locked into orbit with each other.
HE 0437–5439 and its companion star were separated whilst under the immense gravitational influence of Sgr A.
As the laws of physics state that energy must be conserved, HE 0437–5439 received a massive boost in momentum, allowing it to break free of Sgr A’s inexorable control and hurtle away along an outward tangent from the centre of The Milky Way at hyper-velocity speeds.
A painting is a projection surface
A painting is an index of actions
A painting is a form of documentation
A painting is evidence of its own generative process
A painting is a subjective representation
A painting involves narrative
A painting contains worldly reference
A painting is empirical
A painting is a vortex
A painting is a singularity
A painting is a material outcome
A painting is fugitive at all stages
A painting can never be finished
A painting is a product of its cultural context
A painting is a political position
A painting is a reference to history
A painting is an institution
A painting is a provocation
A painting is an observation
A painting is at the least a set of formal ideas
A painting points towards intangible concepts
A painting contains infinite interpretations
A painting is never totally clear
A painting is usually partly unintentional
A painting is beyond textual explanation
A painting leads to another painting