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Double Visions

Double Visions

Words by Char Jansen

 

Our experiences today are split in two: whether it’s between our digital life and the real experiences we live or between individual and collective views. The dichotomy of our lives has been heightened by the Internet: we’re all now interested to some degree in reconciling this double perspective. We question ourselves and the divided realities we perceive; we doubt the versions of truths of world events that can change in one click. Meanwhile, we’re conscious of the fact our brains have become increasingly duplicitous as we interact on multiple dimensions at the same time.

Double Visions has been curated for this double-themed issue of Off Black to collate 10 artists whose ideas or aesthetic styles start from this idea of a life that simultaneously looks two ways. This is manifested either in binary visuals – the photograph pairs of duo Rico and Michael, or Ingri Haraldsen’s optical illusions – or in an imaginative dialogue with the conflict or harmony of a dual presence, as in Daniel K. Sparkes’ surreal depictions of machine versus nature.

The 10 contemporary artists featured work in similar environments around the world in the heart of the capitalist metropolis, from London and Los Angeles to Tel Aviv and New York. They draw on a shared appreciation of aesthetics such as 80s comics, horror and sci-fi films, old cartoons and popular TV. Pop-inspired colours and graphic compositions contrast with surreal or enigmatic characters and ethereal worlds, but in a rejection of mass manufacture or commerce, there’s often an interest in working by hand, or in an ephemeral way, or in using organic materials.

Israeli duo WYSE + GABRIELY use the ambivalent texture of porridge in their video-work of the same title (2013) to allude to the suffocating indoctrination of a Matrix-like reality, while New York-based Lori Nix builds complex dioramas fashioning miniature post-apocalyptic scenes inspired by everyday urban life. The tiny scenes are entirely constructed by the artist and her partner, and rather than display the objects themselves, Nix photographs them on film to create the final artwork.

The images presented together here transform the ordinary into the extraordinary: Daniel K. Sparkes approaches his drawings and painting like a magical realist writer, putting man-made materials (cigarettes, processed meat, butchery tools) together with natural matter – inspired by the “hilltop copses, dried-out canals and crumbling taverns” of his UK hometown of Stroud.

VISUAL_ART_01Wyse + Gabriely

’Porridge’

2014

Digital Video Still

 

Wyse + Gabriely

‘Banging Our Head #1′
exclusively for Off Black Magazine

2014
Video
© Wyse + Gabriely

 

VISUAL_ART_0Lori Nix
‘Laundromat at Night’

2008
Diorama

© the artist

 

VISUAL_ART_0Daniel K. Sparkes

‘Self Portrait No.9‘

2013

Graphite on paper

250x350mm

© the artist

 

These choices also arise from artists who belong to two generations, both now in adulthood, who straddle the time before and after the widespread introduction of the web.

Thematically, the crisis of the individual inflicted by Google alter egos, an opposition to the manchinations of capitalism and humanist concern for the natural and social environment, loosely unite these artists. It’s not a question of giving a simple critique of consumerism, but a discussion of the psychology of a post-capitalist society. It’s accepted that capitalism is bad, but looking beyond the consumerist aspiration that’s become an instinct – what happens to beauty and creation, when the end ‘product’ is taken away? What replaces our entrenched ‘object’ ideology? Tracing this conceptual thread through the creative process, these works begin to approach a response to these questions, collapsing everything into a picture of material apocalypse; or in other instances, exploding into a heterogeneous utopia saturated with rainbow colour.

Rather than futuristic, these double visions are expressions of occupying parallel realities in the present. Richard Prince’s undulating hyperreality – as seen in his Gagosian New York exhibition, New Portraits (2014) – builds a mise-en-abyme from the ‘selfie’. Sourced from Instagram, blown up on canvas and then reintroduced to social media, Prince reflects the confused understanding of individuality that’s felt now. Rico and Michael, like Prince, use humour in their explorations of similar themes: their photo manipulations contrast self-projection with reality, their double portraits can be read as a real/fake dichotomy. Aligned with their practice is Ed Fornieles, whose interests in second life and augmented reality are demonstrated in his Modern Family exhibition at the Chisenhale, London. He creates a kind of ‘real time’ collage using different media from different realms (social media, reality TV, mainstream cinema) merging the imagined and real. The effect of all these works is a feeling of deep disorientation, caused by a surfeit of information, possibilities and desires.

VISUAL_ART_0Richard Prince
New Portraits
Installation view
Gagosian New York
© Richard Prince. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. 
Photographer: Robert McKeever
richardprince.com

 

VISUAL_ART_0Richard Prince
New Portraits
Installation view
Gagosian New York
© Richard Prince. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. 
Photographer: Robert McKeever
richardprince.com

 

VISUAL_ART_0Rico Scagliola & Michael Meier
Chris
2013
Digital photo
16 x 21 cm
© The artists and Nicolas Krupp Gallery
Rico Scagliola & Michael Meier

 

VISUAL_ART_0Rico Scagliola & Michael Meier
Jack
2013
Digital photo
20 X 15 cm
© The artists and Nicolas Krupp Gallery
Rico Scagliola & Michael Meier

 

VISUAL_ART_0Ed Fornieles

‘Days of Future Past (Prism Series)‘

2014

Fiberglass, paint

2090 x 800 x 280mm

© the artist, courtesy Carlos / Ishikawa, London

 

Nature, as in classical Romanticism, offers an escape for the ego; the enigmatic landscapes depicted here are double-layered, where the inescapable human presence leaves a soulful imprint. Simon Fowler, a London-based artist who trained as a chef in Tokyo, uses visceral colours (incandescent purples, violent reds) to illuminate his intensely emotional and detailed scenes.

Ingri Haraldsen, who was raised with seven siblings in a remote mountainous area of Norway, draws trompe-l’œil worlds inspired by barren surroundings. Her pencil on paper pieces, neo-psychedelic landscapes, recall the delicate darkness of Japanese Edo period artist Soami.

Hallucinogenic drug experiences break down the barrier between the internal and external; there is a natural analogy between psychedelic experimentation and the feeling of chaos caused by the digital, capitalist world. There are acid allusions in the textures and LSD patterns in mural works by BFC, for example, or in Wyse + Gabriely’s video work, ‘Spitting’ (2013) – its cyclical rhythm and repetition of cacophonic sounds is like a bad trip. It’s also felt in the scrubbed out faces in Deptford-based Doris Day’s paintings of cross-dressing cartoons.

Art has always made alternate lives and fraudulent selves: now more than ever we need visual representatives to try to unravel this suspended space we inhabit, where fantasy and reality co-exist.

VISUAL_ART_0Simon Fowler
 ‘Scorched’

2013
Technical pen on Line Board, coloured digitally using scans of ink washes on washi

200 x 400mm

© the artist

 

VISUAL_ART_0Ingri Haraldsen
‘Circular Story’
2013
Pencil on paper
1220 x 1780 mm
© the artist

 

VISUAL_ART_0Ingri Haraldsen
‘Turbidity’
2013
Pencil on plywood
316 x 400 mm
© the artist

 

VISUAL_ART_0Unga
 ‘(Broken Fingaz Crew) wall painting Tel Aviv’

2011

(colour one)

 

VISUAL_ART_0Doris Day
‘Bugs Bunny’
2014
1700 x 1100mm
Oil on canvas
© the artist
Courtesy The Agency Gallery