Brush It In is ‘the beginnings of a post-Photoshop engagement with reality,’ alleges the accompanying blurb at the fine Flowers Gallery in Dalston, which rarely disappoints in its selection of artwork. Unfortunately rarely isn’t never. This exhibition, aiming to elevate the digital editing of images to the status of high art, falls short; I entered quite dubious and left very skeptical.
Richard Hamilton is currently gathering rave reviews at the National for his pioneering use of computer images with paint, among other things; I’ve yet to see it, so can’t comment, but my first reaction to Photoshopping is to shout humbug. Hamilton only turned to it when he ran out of time, almost on his deathbed. Two pieces in Brush It In nearly proved me wrong – Anne de Vries’ Cave2Cave (2010), a two-part piece created by putting cave photos off the Internet into a cardboard box, photographing the photo’s reflections in mirror foil then printing this image onto mirror foil – go girl -, has a cold, eerie beauty, with its muted chromatic colours and surprisingly stony textures, as if the rock refused to lose its essence no matter what process it was put through.
If Vries makes a study of rock, Christine Feser makes a study of paper in Konstruckt (2011). The painstaking process of photographing an individual strip of paper, printing this image, placing another strip of paper over the print, photograph and repeat ad infinitum –double go girl–, until the whole frame is filled, produces a visually solid structure that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Little more than the sum of its parts is Darren Harvey-Regan’s The Halt (2011), a real axe buried into a photo of itself, a screamingly obvious comment on image versus reality that I could knock up myself in about five minutes. Ditto his Grounds of Doubt (2011), a photographic strip of paper, with a rock printed at the bottom, peeling away from its frame. More or Less Obvious Forms (2011) is slightly more interesting, but only slightly. Photos of classical Greco-Roman objet d’art – a vase, an armless statue – are printed with a checkered pattern, making the solid objects flat and oddly two dimensional. Rather than promoting Photo-Shop, this made me think, they looked better before you messed with them.
Antonio Marguet’s Deodorant Games (2011) are meant to be playful, and their brands (Exotic Juicy Tutti Frutti and Santa Barbara New Car Scent) certainly are. The actual images baffled me, because they bore no relation to deodorant ads, unless they’ve started using pink bendy sausages and deflated balloons. I understood he might be trying to ‘subtly reference body parts,’ but the results are downright ugly to view, once again undermining the worth of digital tools.
Also interesting only in their ugliness were Fleur van Dodewaards’ Study for a Black Nude and Nude Studies (2011). Before you get your hopes up, the nudes in question are angular shapes. Joshua Citarella’s 231,639,853 and 126,270,089 (2012) were likewise remarkable only for their blandness, as various shapes and objects are Photoshopped into who cares what.
Citarella’s Intersecting Values of Hue and Brightness (2012), for all its grandiose title, is basically the image you would get if you messed around with the colour tools in Photoshop for a couple of minutes. You, or a five year old child. Hanging it slipping off the wall fails to make it more intelligent. Even the artist knew this one deserved a low price tag.
I was sorry to leave with all my Photo-Shop prejudice in tact; strengthened if anything. Overall the art on display here has exactly the knocked-off, inconsequential quality that I’ve always associated with Adobe’s most infamous product. Brush It In is further undermined by a stunning exhibition downstairs at the Flowers Gallery, by the hugely talented Kevin Sinnott, which is all about pure paint. Look out for my next post….
Brush It In runs at the Flowers Gallery until November 24th.
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