Contextualization of my practice
As a contemporary artist, choosing to work in Print-based media, my practice straddles a treacherous conceptual and material divide. The history of Printmaking, is the history of humankind’s enlightenment; printed matter revolutionized the way in which knowledge and information could, and would be spread. Printing gave birth to the Renaissance. Printing gave birth to democratization of the idea of ideas. Printing gave birth to communication.
With the ability to communicate, comes the unavoidable rise of authority; the Author, the Power, the Fact. Henry Ford is reputed to have pre-dated A.J. Lieblings's famous statement about freedom of the press by saying that “the power of the press belongs to the man that owns it”, and in his folksy way, one almost misses the razor-sharp focus of that statement. History does not belong to the winners of wars, history belongs to whomever can tell their tale to the most people.
This is very heavy baggage to carry around with one’s art practice.
My present work contains reference to this social history of information, power, and authority. Codification of personal-narrative semiotics and strong auto-biographical tendencies toy with my keen interest in the social, commercial, and technical history of Print itself; (Christian) religion, and; popular culture (of which I hold a special place in my heart for rap music). The work can be navigated – somewhat nebulously – by dividing it into four thematic categories: The Technological Reference, The Text, The Polyhedron, and The Receipt.
The Technological Reference
I am a Print-based artist with a deep sense of the mechanical history and importance of my technical media. As such, it is not at odds to say that my approach to Print is progressive in the sense that I don’t maintain a “historical” practice, rather, I embrace the fact that Print has always been about improving (and usually profiting from) its forward-looking trajectory. My work contains – for those who want, can, or choose to look – myriad references to aspects of the history of printed matter; discreet colours and pigments, obvious manifestations of repetition and registration, formal and compositional nods to works of past artists, craftsmen, or industrial innovators, as well as tongue-in-cheek jabs at contemporary “Photoshop culture”, and throwaway media. Notwithstanding the conflict I feel regarding the trompe l’oeil, as well as my own use of it, my current practice attempts to use the medium (typically silkscreen) in a way that no one else can, or has thought to do, combining deep reverence and contextual understanding with a kind of “throw them deuces up” cynicism and disrepect – à la Lil Wayne or Notorious B.I.G. My technical work embraces the agony and the ecstasy.
The use of text in my work is ubiquitous, and if I didn’t love making images so much, it might be the only thing I do. To say that text is easy – in the sense of its ability to make a point that trumps all other attempts at visual communication around it – is to succumb to sloth. Because text can hold centre stage, how I use it (in both conceptual and formal) ways is extremely important. Language is so highly ambiguous that we use experts to decipher rules (lawyers), build machines and software (engineers and coders), and tell us stories (actors and writers, teachers, preachers, and weathergirls); my hope is to engage this practice with equal parts Explicit and Implicit.
To use text is to engage the history of communication. To print text is to invoke synthesis.
Technically mathematical in origin, the multi-sided, hyper-coloured round mass pervades much of my recent printed work. It is said that there is math in all things, which, by my experience means either looking for structure, governance, and truth, or giving up one’s sense of loneliness (or autonomy), in order to situate experience and existence. The polyhedron, then, is not too far from the Sun that gives life and orders all things, and by extension, the notion of a God, who takes things one step further. The polyhedron, in my prints, provides focus, inspires awe and respect, imparts wisdom, and, like the giant boulder in the opening sequence of Indiana Jones, will run-you-the-fuck-down, if you fail to pay it its due.
The “receipts” in my work, function literally and conceptually. Examples of receipts include bus and metro tickets, playing cards, printed music, “fancy” halftone screens, and beat-up book dust-jackets. Receipts, in this way, are evidence of reception; the physical proof of communication. From the earliest days of printing, of course, came the counterfeit reproduction, but there is no proof more powerful than that little slip of paper, or book, or whatever, that some kind of communicative transaction has taken place.
Compounding that point, or perhaps, confounding it altogether, is the fact that current Print-based practice has evolved to conceptually mirror (and indeed, predict) the world of content sharing, appropriation, mis-appropriation, and piracy. The academic world is under attack from stringent copyright regulations, and at the same time, digital locks on consumer media make it more and more difficult to understand what we “own”, in light of “what we are allowed to watch, hear, or experience”. As a Print artist, I have unparalleled access to images, content, and methods of production, but as the world wrestles with debates over ownership and (intellectual) property, I also have a responsibility to re-examine my own role in defining the power/authority paradigm.
At the end of the day, I want my work to ask questions, in the truest definition of what it is to make art. I encode meaning – not to hide – but to incite investigation. In some ways, I hope my work is analogous to the crumpled receipts that emerge, weeks or months old from an unworn jacket, “begging me” to keep them. In doing so, they problematize my seemingly innocuous relationship to the structures that govern my daily existence, and demand vigilant interrogation of my complicity therein. Love is a two-way street.
Regina, November 2011.