2018, a review; towards a computational expressionism

After four serious operations, a serious hospital superbug infection and other complications, the year 2018 can’t come to a close fast enough and I hope I can stabilise next year.

At the start of the year my work was still based around the Modern Beauty theme that I do photography under; the solo show of that work at Haslemere was the icing on the cake really and a lovely way to restart my public art career after so many years of making but not showing.

I made a clear decision to channel the anger and depression that so many medical issues and the utter despair that so few people offered me any support, led to, into the work and this is what fuelled my Haunted Selfie work. It started with me taking selfies when I was ill to see what I looked like and I started to look more closely at the selfies that people post.

What’s striking is how social media encourages narcissism on a grand scale. There seems to be two main types of narcissists. The people who post about their “great lifestyle” and the ones who post about themselves as a “brand” trying desperately to be “influential” while never really doing anything at all. These last lot also usually do the humble brag, where they post and expect praise from their acolytes while playing it down, but very loudly. It’s a completely empty and facile condition but an unexpected emergent side effect of this culture. 

Of course life isn’t like this and these people are either sad or ill, so my work has been showing the underlying pain and anguish that is actually the human condition. 

I was in danger of getting mentally ill and ground down that I had to deal with it by rerouting that river to power the turbines of my creativity. I poured the feelings into the work and it’s resulted in some quite striking pieces. 

It’s all visually in the traditions of Munch and Bacon and Goya, with that Northern European intimacy of Rembrandts and Vermeer and I love that intimacy. As it’s developed it’s also taken on aspects of Modern Expressionism. But at the end of the day, taken together, they represent a body of work that explores deep and dark features of one aspect of our humanity. They show what it’s like at 3AM when everything falls in on oneself.

The key thing with it is though, it sits within the new tradition of the selfie, perhaps the defining feature of our culture in the last twenty years and they represent a way of dealing with the prevailing winds of mental health, and it is uniquely digital in nature.

The pieces are created on computer by using a stylus and painting and drawing into them and then processing using filters and stuff. 2019 will see me adding an AR layer as I explore the opportunities that technology affords me.

They have had quite a split reaction. Some love them and some hate them, I’ve even had some abuse, as some have had a go at me for using this channel to deal with the internal pressures building up. I simply don’t care about that though and people can fuck off. The one thing this year has taught me is that things hang by the slimmest of threads and what others think doesn’t matter. 

Helen Mirren was asked what she regretted not doing earlier in life and she said telling people to Fuck Off more. I never thought she’d become my philosophical guru but I’m now 100% behind that and you can see it in my work. 

Next year it’s onwards to Computational Expressionsism. 

I welcome comment.


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