Thursday 31 January 2019

Revisiting Digital Border

I’m not one from shying away from revisiting old ideas and bring new concepts, techniques or approaches to the work in an attempt to develop my practice in some new direction. I’ve written about this a little before, when making my emoji still-life paintings last year and how they are a continuation of my eBay Morandi project from 10 or so years ago.
I would consider Digital Border to have been a very successful work for me. It has opened a number of doors through exhibitions and awards (it was shortlisted for the 2018 Lumen Prize). This work was an attempt to make some physical objects out of an abandoned interactive game project. The game had just begun to pivot towards using a different tool to create it as I felt that it didn’t fit the narrative or approach that I wanted to fulfil my project: looking at topographies, immigration, Brexit, intergenerational trauma-related stories and modern day issues with conflict areas. So, as I was drawing the experimental stages of this project to a close, I decided to try and make the most out of the scenes I had already created. Although the work was unsuitable for a 3D interactive game, I felt that I had created a beautiful randomly-generated environment, and, through populating it with found in-game objects, camera tricks, rain and ‘atmosphere’, I had made something that wholly captured the mise en scène I was looking for.

After some further investigation, I created digital photographs of my generated environments and had them printed on small gorgeous acrylic/aluminium panels as some kind of miniature votive mobile phone worlds. These were exhibited in a few shows (In Cardiff, Brighton and Nantes) and shortlisted for the 2018 Lumen Prize.

I made a proposal for SWAP Editions latest open call–BREX Kit. I was to make another one-off print to be included in their Brexit artist first aid kit. My proposal was selected and I had to make this new work.

I ran into a few difficulties: It had been some time since I last made one of these ‘digital photographs’ and I had to manipulate some older games in Unity to make it work. I had since made some Digital Border video pieces and also experimented with a dual-screen live projection, resulting in issues with in-game cameras. Additionally, due to this, I had reduced some of the post-processing effects such as vignette, bloom and colour correction. This all had to be reintroduced and was an absolute pain to find my original settings. It’s kind of back to where it should be, but I did keep the wide field of vision from the video work because I liked its drama and it also helped to differentiate this new piece from the previous work.

My other issue was how I was going to produce 18 editions of this work. The acrylic/alu panels are super sexy, but they do cost a fair bit to make and take a little while to be printed and shipped from Germany. I wanted to try some giclée prints after having a few really nice ones made for the South Wales Pipers Club (a musical endeavour close to my heart). We had some giclée copies made of old Irish piper paintings to raise funds for the club and also for people to own them if they wanted. I was thrilled with the results, and so I ordered some Digital Border prints from the same printers.

They've just been delivered to the curator in London, and I am looking forward to seeing how the work will appear in the exhibition and as part of the 'Brexit First-Aid Kit'.

Wednesday 16 January 2019

SHIFT Residency

Last week I started a residency in SHIFT–an exciting new space in central Cardiff.

SHIFT is not long established and is run by Jon Ruddick and Pria Borg-Marks as a workspace for artists to make and test out large scale art. The space is in an old empty shop below the Capitol Shopping centre in Cardiff. I recall the place as a seasonal shop selling Halloween and Christmas stuff many years ago, but it's been vacant for a long time now. It is absolutely massive and an excellent location for new large scale artwork.

I have a few projects that I need to work on during my time in SHIFT. In Spring I will be taking part in SWAP Editions, where I will be creating a new & exclusive piece in my Digital Border series. I’m looking forward to relearning my processes for producing those pieces. I think I can probably work out how to make the landscapes and snapshots from memory and last year’s studio notes. Fingers crossed. My other project is one I have been meaning to investigate for some time.

I’m interested in what it means to be a contemporary Irish landscape painter in this post-internet age. I’m thinking about looking at the written descriptive elements of the Tory Island Painters and how that might feed into the addition of text to images shared on social media. I’ve spent some time wrestling with these two disparate elements and thinking about how they might be combined through my own work. I’ve written a bit already about the Tory Island school, and how they’ve influenced me. I think they represent an independent art school–and one that is uniquely Irish.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to make the most of my time in SHIFT to not only produce some exciting new work but to also develop these two projects in ways that I would not have been able to otherwise. Watch this space for more info when I get a chance to write it up.