I’ve been thinking about how to depict augmented reality in painting in an intelligent way and I keep coming back to Patrick Caulfield.
When I was a child, my mother would do Ikebana flower arranging classes at the Japanese Community Centre. A decade earlier, this film from 1973 reminds me of this time. Although obviously aesthetic, the rules were more meaningful such as the seven branch format which represented the Buddhist hierarchy of the universe. I am interested in the conceptual ideas of Ikebana as well as the act of idealizing, not trying to copy nature in a small space. The Ikebana arrangement is also not considered complete without it’s alcove (the architecture and placement in the architecture). Ikebana creates an alternative, artificial or virtual landscape that is idealized and structured based on various rules for formats and placement. For my practice, I’m interested in how Ikebana as the creation of idealized landscapes and the codification of nature/landscape mirrors the creation of the same through digital means in video games, virtual reality and computer generated animations.
I’m experimenting with a type of concrete for fine art sculpting. The concrete has additives in it to increase strength and hand modeling qualities and also to reduce weight, drying time and amount of water needed. It has the feel of a silky smooth and moist clay and is weather proof. The advantage is that it air dries and doesn’t require a kiln so is a way to hand sculpt and also make large artworks without special equipment. While researching I found this video from Pathé (always a favourite) of a sculpture from the late 1950’s making some brutalist looking contemporary figurative sculptures.
My interests in digital technology and systems coupled with formative years spent in crafts and dance have lead me to research weaving as a contemporary art form and even, as a form of “textile painting”. My work also leans towards a feminist perspective of the world and thinks about women in the world with agency living their lives in our times on the cusp of analog and digital technology.
My research led me to this article in Vice Magazine from September 2018 about some contemporary female artists using weaving.
Weaving was the purpose behind the earliest form of a computer. The Jacquard Loom used punch cards to determine the pattern the machine was to weave. Punch cards, and the concept of punch cards, were then used by subsequent early computing devices such as the Babbage’s Difference and Analytic Engines. Then Hollerith’s Desk employed a punch card reader to count based on holes in the card. This machine lead him to establish a company that was the forerunner to IBM. The concept of punch cards lead to the realization that they could be used as a storage mechanism or read only technology (Babbage), conditional statements, subroutines (thanks to Lord Byon’s daughter Ada Byron), and read/write technology (Hollerith). The binary way in which punch cards worked, a hole or not a hole in a certain order of location (presence or absence), is the foundation of binary and all computer code (comprised of 1’s and 0’s).
In my practice, I’m seeking to understand how I can use the form and concept of punch cards and binaries to further dialogue about the relationship of the digital to the analog.
I also continue to think about reverse engineering as a way to move between that binary as I make my work. Working backwards from the digital into the analog or working from the analog into the digital is relevant to our contemporary position with technology.
Before I was born, in the 1960’s My parents lived in the Canadian arctic.They lived in Inuvik as members of the local community and taught the local children at the elementary and middle school. I’ve heard the stories of the midnight sun, the necessity for seal skin coats, the skidoo races, dog sleds, and having to slowly and carefully release kids who dared each other to lick metal poles in the middle of winter. (Spoiler alert – their tongues would get frozen to the pole and you’d have to use tepid water to slowly release the ice from the skin without tearing.)
For my entire childhood there were remnants of this life they’d had before children including my favourite which was a traditional, seal skin Ookpik doll.
The story of Ookpik is heartwarming and in the 1960’s this fictitious snowey owl was a viral sensation. “Ookpik” is the Inuktitut word for “snowy owl” or “Arctic owl.”There were books, toys, cartoons, and even a pop song. Ookpik became a defacto Canadian mascot, and the Inuit woman that is credited with first creating Ookpik (Jeannie Snowball in Kuujjuaq/Fort Chimo) turned the doll into a craft cottage industry for her community.
The owl is significant to Inuit culture and spirituality. A source of guidance and wisdom, some Inuit believe that the owl safely shepherds the spirits of the dead to the afterworld. Although different Inuit communities have their own tales and legends about the owl, this creature remains a central figure across oral histories. For many, the owl, like other culturally significant animals, is thought to have an important relationship with both humans and the environment. A revered creature, the owl is featured prominently in many pieces of Inuit art, including Pitseolak Ashoona’s Owls in Spring Snow (1972) and Kenojuak Ashevak’s Guardian Owl (1997).
Douglas Coupland in Souvenir of Canada wrote that Ookpiks “are slightly silly looking, but they’re oddly wise, too, and many Canadians will melt before you at the sight of one..one day they simply vanished. Where? Why? Alas, they burned too brightly too quickly, and paid the price.”
Later on, in my childhood when I was spending most waking hours outside of school dancing and making art at the local art centre I sculpted a simple family of owls that I still have to these days. My owl family which I’ve put back on display in my home were certainly crafted in the memory of my fondness for Ookpik and the stories of friendship and resilience.
I’m circling back on these small sculptures as I take a look at other works I made as a child and remaking them as new artworks.
The Ookpik Waltz by the composer, Frankie Rogers.
I’m thinking about mechanical shop mannequins and the idea of how to create a GIF in real life — a sculpture that also functions like a GIF. GIF is a Graphics Interchange Format (GIF /dʒɪf/ JIF or /ɡɪf/ GHIF), Technically, a GIF is a bitmap image format that is animated by combining several other images or frames into a single file. This single file is encoded as graphics interchange format (better known as GIF) and it was officially developed by a team at the online services provider CompuServe led by American computer scientist Steve Wilhite on June 15, 1987. Interestingly, GIF’s are the number two most common files on the internet. The short, looping format makes them ideal for repetitive animation and humour.
This Pathé video shows the atelier of Bernard Jepson and his wife in 1951 working on several mechanized moving figure sculptures. The figures cast in rubber seem to have a particularly interesting quality to me. Simple, looping movement has a relationship to GIF animation and the strangeness leaves room for some humour or levity.
I’m researching chart types for my data works.
Sankey Diagrams display flows and their quantities in proportion to one another. The width of the arrows or lines are used to show their magnitudes, so the bigger the arrow, the larger the quantity of flow. Flow arrows or lines can combine together or split through their paths on each stage of a process. Colour can be used to divide the diagram into different categories or to show the transition from one state of the process to another.
Typically, Sankey Diagrams are used to visually show the transfer of energy, money or materials, but they can be used to show the flow of any isolated system process.
Parallel Set charts are similar to Sankey Diagrams in the way they show flow and proportions. However, Parallel Sets don’t use arrows and they divide the flow-path at each displayed line-set.
Each line-set corresponds to a dimension/dataset, which its values/categories are represented in each line divide in that line-set. The width of each line and the flow-path that stems from it is determined by the proportional fraction of the category total. Each flow-path can be coloured to show and compare the distribution between different categories.
Parallel Coordinates Plots
This type of visualisation is used for plotting multivariate, numerical data. Parallel Coordinates Plots are ideal for comparing many variables together and seeing the relationships between them. For example, if you had to compare an array of products with the same attributes (comparing computer or cars specs across different models).
In a Parallel Coordinates Plot, each variable is given its own axis and all the axes are placed in parallel to each other. Each axis can have a different scale, as each variable works off a different unit of measurement, or all the axes can be normalised to keep all the scales uniform. Values are plotted as a series of lines that connected across all the axes. This means that each line is a collection of points placed on each axis, that have all been connected together.
The order the axes are arranged in can impact the way how the reader understands the data. One reason for this is that the relationships between adjacent variables are easier to perceive, then for non-adjacent variables. So re-ordering the axes can help in discovering patterns or correlations across variables.
The downside to Parallel Coordinates Plots, is that they can become over-cluttered and therefore, illegible when they’re very data-dense. The best way to remedy this problem is through interactivity and a technique known as “Brushing”. Brushing highlights a selected line or collection of lines while fading out all the others. This allows you to isolate sections of the plot you’re interested in while filtering out the noise.
As known as: Spider Chart, Web Chart, Polar Chart, Star Plots.
Radar Charts are a way of comparing multiple quantitative variables. This makes them useful for seeing which variables have similar values or if there are any outliers amongst each variable. Radar Charts are also useful for seeing which variables are scoring high or low within a dataset, making them ideal for displaying performance.
Each variable is provided with an axis that starts from the centre. All axes are arranged radially, with equal distances between each other, while maintaining the same scale between all axes. Grid lines that connect from axis-to-axis are often used as a guide. Each variable value is plotted along its individual axis and all the variables in a dataset and connected together to form a polygon.
However, there are some major flaws with Radar Charts:
Having multiple polygons in one Radar Chart makes it hard to read, confusing and too cluttered. Especially if the polygons are filled in, as the top polygon covers all the other polygons underneath it.
Having too many variables creates too many axes and can also make the chart hard to read and complicated. So it’s good practice to keep Radar Charts simple and limit the number of variables used.
Another flaw with Radar Charts is that they’re not so good for comparing values across each variable. Even with the aid of the spiderweb-like grid guide. Comparing values all on a single straight axis is much easier.
Far too late I discovered this TEDx talk by artist Katja Novistkava from 2014 in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. My takeways include that the internet is a form of an attention economy. Content vies for our attention, which is naturally limited. Through it’s form – browsable pages, the internet also flattens and democratizes the content. However certain things trigger our emotions and gain our attention more than other objects and forms (in particular human created objects and forms). Animals, in particular cute or baby animals always trend as attention getting images. Animals, and our attention given to them, predict what the future will need to become.
Animals are the radical technology of the future. They gain our attention and stir our emotions more than any technology can. Mutant forms will arise from the need to evolve for the future ecological changes to the earth.
The real, the virtual, and the constructed.
Augmented reality as a form of constructed identity.
I own a ridiculous number of old fashion magazines. They are stacked deep on my books shelves both at home and at the studio. Every move, and very financial driven downsizing since I’m forced to purge a pile that goes back about 15 to 20 years. A painful exercise when I count up the price tags on the imported British and French titles. One move I’m convinced I threw out close to a small downpayment on a pied-a-terre in foreign rags. I shamelessly love and have participated in the drama of the fashion industry over the years and have subscribed, rightly or wrongly, in my formative years to the glossy, smooth skin of the models in beauty and makeup advertising. However, I’ve never found a satisfying or logical avenue for the expression of this obsession in my art practice.
I’ve followed Sylvie Fleury’s work from a near distance over the years, understanding the “post appropriatism” label and also smirking at her subtle jokes about female consumerism and desire. The chromed Prada shoes and Birken bag that freeze those objects into the canon of the “permanent” sculpture and create a space for contemplation. Her work plays with the obvious way in which women are marketed to in the media with the promise of consumer objects to achieve certain social and economic goals. Fleury’s work is a glossy commentary on consumerism, in particular, the way in which consumerism appeals to female insecurities while also creating the conditions in which female insecurities (body and beauty) anxieties. The other way I think her work functions is to be up-to-the minute in it’s contemporariness (so much so that it can be dismissed by many). Fleury understands that consumer mass-produced objects, even when priced and positioned as luxury are a marker of the everyday; and the everyday can appear banal in the present time because a lens of distance cannot yet be applied to see the shape or the object in the gallery and elevated from the same shape or object at department or grocery store.
Pop art dealt also with this phenomenon. Pop artists “began to look for inspiration and materials in their immediate environment. They made art that mirrored, critiqued, and, at times, incorporated everyday items, consumer goods, and mass media messaging and imagery. Pop artists strove for straightforwardness in their work…favoured realism, everyday (even mundane) imagery, and heavy doses of irony and wit.” (MOMA)
Fleury’s recent makeup palette sculptures (painted, dimensional sculptures) struck a self conscious chord with me. They seem too simple to be “art” yet at the same time are highly meaningful whilst being seductive in form and colour. At approximately the same time I discovered these work, I was going through another library purge. Licking and flicking through my magazine stash in order to downsize, I started ripping out images of perfume, cream, and potion ads. There was something there that resonated for me.
I’m aggressively re-examining my painting practice at the moment, and recognizing a thread in my pursuits that related to the contemporary female experience as filtered through the media and marketing advertising. I have several series of photographic proto-selfies stashed away from the days before smart phone cameras, and I’ve always been dazzled by the fine line between fashion and high art. I’m fascinated with #mirrorselfies and #ootd photos posted by women on Instagram.The me diation of the female experience and most recently, the taking back of the gaze with the use of technology-driven marketing platforms (all the social media giants). We all know that media, in particular social media, is a double-edged razor that can harm as much as it creates a free and open platform.
I’m also aware of entering an age where the depreciation of superficial social value for a woman as young, vibrant, fertile and attractive starts to become noticeable to the woman herself. Many women talk about the “invisible” years where due to a collective, media-driven obsession with ageism and youthfulness a women fades into the wallpaper at social occasions. The straight men with power and or bravado are biochemically seduced by the waft of youthful pheromones and I’m sure similar prejudices can and do exist outside of the standard (and boring) cis gender, heteronormative sphere of play. However, that is an entirely other, fascinating and frustrating conversation about desire, power, attraction, money, sex and influence.
A series of bottle and jar paintings on shaped canvases come from the “hope in a bottle” references I collected. True to my interests, they are also very much about painting and being as painterly as possible with materials.