Sunday, June 26, 2005

This Modern World

The thing I found interesting after reading the interviews with Jacqueline Ehlis and Joy Garnett was the similarities in their motivations but differences in their conclusions. Both, it seems, are concerned with the state of the modern world- the media culture in particular. But Ehlis responds to this by insisting on abstraction as the only valid recourse, while Garnett chooses to co-opt the media’s images.

Ehlis apparently feels that the “information age” has led to a society where everyone, even artists, are trying to dictate what people should think, and her justification for painting abstractly is a conscious decision to not dictate to the viewer what they should see. I suppose, from my point of view, that this is the only reasonable justification for abstract art. But if you didn’t know her reasoning, it would just be shapes and colors on a canvas, enjoyable perhaps, but never working beyond the level of emotional response to visual stimuli at best and decoration at worst. So her justification, or to use her own word, her rhetoric, is an important part of the works, even as she tries to avoid it.

Garnett, on the other hand, chooses to use the over-saturation of media images available in print, TV and the internet and paint them directly, mostly unaltered from what I can tell. Some of these works can be quite powerful, but it seems this is more dependent on the original image than on Garnett’s handling of it. I admire her strategy more than Ehlis’s in theory, but would rather have seen more of her own subjectivity imbued in the work, either by combining images, changing colors, or some other artistic license.

In all I feel that these artists are both dealing with digital culture, but in very opposite ways, one by disregarding and the other by embracing. I suppose that this will be an issue for all artists now, as it is increasingly impossible to avoid reliance on technology. I feel this discourse will ultimately benefit the art world.

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