November 2013 – February 2014
46 DIGITAL ABSTRACTIONS
These works arose as a by-product of an ongoing struggle to extend the world or genre established in the preceding series Decline. Some of my Photoshop methods kept throwing up less legible or obvious images that gave me pause. The abstract option has been present in my work since the early 90s, so it’s not simply a matter of digital means. But as I push my source material a lot more flexibly in Photoshop, a lot of my old assumptions and standards erode. This happened in Decline as well and the black and white format obviously continues some of that bleak mood and nagging doubt.
The notes continue at the bottom of the page.
So it has become harder to rule abstraction out of my project. At first I was just saving them as little ambiguities, things I might use in larger, more figurative compositions. But as I thought about the terms of abstraction here – the various filters and tools at work – it occurred to me that they were like an obscure encoding. In the digital world encryption has become a huge issue for security and privacy of course, and I started to think of the pictures as a form of encryption along with the issues of privacy and security. This accelerated the output considerably. That’s the reason there are so many of them. At first I was attracted by their simplicity after the grand history paintings of Decline and I had in mind the modest sizes of Cityicity 2 and Privacy Paintings, but inevitably some of them grew more detailed and urge a larger scale. As noted, they share a certain funereal mood with Decline, and the ‘crypt’ part of Encryption was possibly encouragement for a series title.
But the more I made, the more mixed my feelings became. On the one hand, a lot of the results will probably seem crude and banal as Photoshop exercises, at best derivative graphics. These are technical limitations, but they are valid when dealing with abstraction. Pictorial abstraction struggles with design and decoration. And when not mere design, the series may equally appear to no more than pace much of twentieth century painting. If the work doesn’t seem distinctive, or to bear much of a signature, it may be my theme or coding is just too broad. The series sweeps across Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Pop and after as a kind of stark and dark summary, but is there any point covering such familiar ground? I hedge, uncomfortably. On the other hand, the dexterity of spanning such a range not only reflects my own development and tastes but suggests an underlying consistency, a way of assimilating all that, depending upon one’s taste for the stark and dark, I suppose.
I don’t see these works as such a departure or as important as Decline. They’re more like footnotes or a coda (!) that remind me of my roots and current insecurities. But that may change.