Sunday, January 28, 2007

Two Foolish Things

“It would be certainly a very foolish thing: try to the paint the Internet, start making oil-on-canvas paintings out of the computer world.” William Burroughs, 1996.

In the Blow de la Barra gallery on Heddon Street 11 years after Burroughs made that statement I chug my beer and look at just those foolish things. Miltos Manetas has produced two large canvases with the overlaid images of many pages from the internet, the painted impressions of the screens hold those familiar templates that we have grown accustomed to in the past couple of decades, that familiar Microsoft framed world that pulls us in and eats our time. A variety of websites are represented here and are scattered, reframed and overlaid showing us Manetas’ internet world. His intention is to continue to update these paintings as he sees fit, as his personal internet usage changes, as new, important sites of innovation are created or develop and as friends and colleagues place their own mark on the internet with their own websites.

You might expect that viewing Manetas world on screen on canvas would be a representation of the most obsessive cyber geekery but unlike the real world where computer technology insinuates its way into our lives, invades our habits (how much time have you spent blogging or on myspace lately?) and makes us forget life B.G, Before Gates, Manetas paintings return us to the world of craft and the artist. By hand painting these pieces of dotted information rendered on screen and by returning them to a series of hand eye co-ordinated painters works he brings us back to earthier more human senses. The capabilities of the human hand and the way we observe is changing, or at least being subverted by technology. From afar these paintings look familiar in their obvious sense, a computer screen, a website page, even when viewed for the first time is never a surprise, we have become accustomed to these amazing feats of technology and are no longer impressed but when viewed up close Manetas paintings return us to a very human place, that place where the painters skills break down, when the typeface wobbles and distorts under the strain of mental effort or painted sweeps of colour turn from fact to fiction and exact to abstract.

Who would have thought such a throwaway comment a decade ago would result in such a seemingly simple and potentially bland artistic expression only to regain a sense of the infallibly human in its rendering.

From simple beginnings Manetas has provided a most personal view of the modern world and if you look closely through the fog of information you can see it too.


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