Sunday, November 29, 2015


I AM Am I ? Gouache on paper, Triptych 66 x 30 cm, 2015

I have used text in my paintings for some years, but mainly words, not code. I've listed some of my earlier work  at the bottom of this post. My interest in code entered my paintings, this year, in 2015.
In fact, my last exhibition was called CODE.
Regular readers will know that I have been experimenting with painting binary code as text 'instructing' certain words. But, my interest is not only the words or the code. I am also interested in how binary code can be an aesthetic element that can 'dance', or be juxtaposed, with other visual elements, such as symbols, landscape forms and more. And, in turn, how this aesthetic element can make visible something which is not visible, but incredibly influential in our daily lives. I am interested in how this new visibility, in tandem with other pictorial elements, can translate into re-interpretations of symbols, landscape and more.

I treat the binary code as a seemingly playful element, that the viewer is not initially aware of. The playfulness is achieved by using colour, often multiple colours, for the strings of zeros and ones, forming them into ribbons that evoke bunting, party ties and more. An example from earlier this year is  Unseen [below]. The playfulness, however, is deliberately provocative. I am questioning how unseen code influences so many aspects of contemporary life. Viewers, whilst seeing colourful twirling ribbon-like markings, are initially unaware that these are painted zeros and ones. They need to get up close...a deliberate 'tactic' on my part, as it conveys the necessity to enquire, scrutinise and question. Some viewers do not even recognise the zeros and ones, as code. These reactions mimic [metaphorically] the unawareness many people have of the algorithmic world operating beyond our sensibilities. I've watched people view my paintings, as they move from a distance, to up close, then back again. After seeing my work up close and then returning to a distance, my paintings become something other than the initial first impression. And, then...when viewers put on 3D glasses, many of my paintings separate into layers.

The provocativeness does not end there though. Contemporary new media art uses code, eg: imbedded in computer-based artist tools or, in some cases, where artists may write their own code. I am but a painter of the traditional kind, so cannot 'use' code to help me manifest my work, but I can 'use' it in other ways. By painting zeros and ones, imbedded within larger visual and aesthetic contexts that a painting implies, I make code visible. By painting it with my hands-on technique of brush and paint, I suggest, that I 'cleanse' it of its 'perfection', by messing it up...with colour, uneven brushstrokes and possible mistakes! A kind of reverse engineering?
Unseen Oil on linen 90 x 80 cm 2015

I AM Am I?
My new triptych I AM Am I ? 'plays' with binary code in a slightly different way to some of my other recent works ie: Picturing the Posthuman and Beyond Mortality This new work does, however, echo some of my interests expressed in this recent work. Generally, I am fascinated by the trajectory humankind seems to be where being human is under some kind of re-negotiation, where promises of technological enhancement abound. However, whilst there are pros, there are also potential negatives, recognised and unrecognised, that could mean annihilation of the human species. [Regular readers will know of my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies research.] my new painting I have painted, in the middle section, 'I  AM' and 'Am I', in binary code. There is a recognisable question mark after the coded 'Am I' to create a dislocation between statement and possible question. On the bottom section I have painted binary code that instructs the question mark a ? mark, re-enforcing the need to ask questions. The top section plays with figurative and landscape elements - horizon lines, planetary shapes and my age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life. The tree's roots seem to travel along the horizon line to meet the two figures. The roots then plunge into the 'soil' via the figures' limbs. Yet, the middle binary code section offers another kind of 'soil'. I've even 'watered' it, as you can see from the way the paint has run.

I have deliberately made sure that I AM is in capital letters. Why? I AM means something different to I am. The latter invites a continuation of a sentence, a description of some kind, whereas the former is a statement. Hence the following....Am I?

I have a  lot more thoughts about this work, but I will now leave it for you to 'play' with.

Water Harvesting Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2009
Risk Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm [unframed] 2010
 Planet $ Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm


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