Andy Owen appropriates the over-familiar, rudimentary visual vocabulary experienced in digital media and advertising bright colours buzz and flicker. Approximations to arrest our attention can be seen on the streets, in fashion, in shops, on the web, on TV and in magazines.
With this connection in mind, it is not unreasonable to expect the work to be made using some kind of mechanical process is it printed?
.. photography? On closer inspection the artist’s brush marks are visible and the meticulous methods of working become an issue for contemplation. These brush marks are not about self-expression, they don’t have substance, or ‘accumulate’ to build up form. In fact they are unassuming in everything except their intent to imitate something else something digitally/technically produced.
An 'auto-pilot' mode of looking is less likely, as nagging questions arise as to the artifice encountered. It is as though a familiar visual experience has been isolated from its cultural function and so denied value, only to be mimicked and fetishized, using the seemingly incompatible medium of painting. Questions of good and bad taste are raised as well as the conflict of perceptions that we have over the hierarchical and social importance of different aesthetic styles.
Whereas Andy Owen’s work strides confidently into our perception, Ian Johnson‘s on the other side of the gallery, has a more tactful character. Chameleon-like, it adapts and changes to both the environment and how we move as we view it. It soaks up and sucks in.
In dim or gloomy conditions, an inky, placid atmosphere is cast and the work quietly gains independence because we are so less aware of our own reflection. However, under the bright lights of the gallery, the viewer reestablishes control and the work does our bidding as we move around to change the reflections and affect our own experience. In places, at times, areas are flat and impenetrable, but the same areas viewed from a different perspective can be full of depth and scattered reflection.
This work has been conceived using technology; machine stamped vinyl stickers and industrially polished aluminium. Nevertheless, there are intimations to painting that should not be overlooked. An expedient modern equivalent of the colourfield experience overlaps with the loquacious diffusion of late nineteenth century figurative painting.
Ian Johnson’s work can also be seen in 'The Liminal Phase' at Highbury Studios, until 3rd Nov.
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