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Paul Cummings

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In this passage of text I will attempt to rationalize the series of paintings that I am embarking on, some are complete and some are yet to be painted. I will give an overall explanation on the context and meaning but also align these paintings to photo-realism and its concurrency to hyperrealism but also how it departs from the latter. I will also rationalize my psychological impulse for creating these paintings and explain to a certain extent the methodology of production.

In this continuing series of six paintings I am working on a documentary and critique of class and social economy. The body of work comments on the irony of the income scale structure that predetermines the habitation of our failed utopias. To compound this further the work demonstrates the pervasive infrastructure that is a persistent reminder of the inescapable dependency from the system we are assimilated into. 

This series has similar notions to Daniel Defoe's A tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain 1724 to 1726 which was a survey of industrial England and re-enacted as a film by Patrick Keiller titled Robinson in Space 1997. The paintings are laden with its suggestions of industry and infrastructure however the paintings point more specifically at the domicile. 

This approach of a documentary style as one would assume seems to follow the same intentions as the photo-realists. This is not the case as this group did not pursue the agenda and was only implied by uninformed critics. However it was the purpose of the photo-realists to depict the immediate social landscape and recreate it explicitly. These paintings follow this concept but with an added attribute of conscious anthropology and the intention with these paintings it to produce procedural bracketing of property value and social economic class. 

The work also attempts to parallel the photo-realists in another ways by accurately depicting its source material, as in the case with the photo-realists all forms of printed media were accessible to them as with the advent of digital media is accessible to us today. David Hockney is who one of the progenitors of photo-realism is exemplifying a move into a new era of digitalism by procuring images using his I-Phone. His attempts have resulted in more of a painterly style than one would expect from the use of technology. The resulting prints are more organic than previous works such as the Splash painting 1967; Acrylic on canvas, which is more pertinent to a rectilinear vector based style of digital graphics. Back then in the 1960's with an increasing interest into photography and his move into acrylics he discovered the relationship of interlocking surface of colours by reducing his painterly approach to merely smooth flat areas. For Hockney this was an achievement as he created a style without style, one that had anonymity of surface.

This reductionism allows for flat areas of colour with some shapes containing gradations that interlock with precise edges that at times are almost uncomfortable to look at. This nether the less creates illusionist planes, distances and objects with an undifferentiated cohesive surface. The skin refers to the flattened frontal surface and adduces to the glassiness of VDU's and Plasmas Screens that are unmistakably flattened and precise. The palette also parallels the screen with its illuminant hues and vibrant saturations punched up the to last acceptable level. Adding further to this illusion is the limited range in the palette that is based on RGB and HSL systems, that do not cover a full range in their gamut.

Inspite of the fact these paintings appear digital they still allude to a certain extent to large format photography with its perspective having parallel verticality, the squared proportions referencing Polaroid's. This photographic quality asserts a link back to photo-realism and is a reminder of the ambiguous and contradictory relationship to the indexical. While photography represents the temporal, a slice of time, a painting of a scene has no relevance to time and is not a captured past but an unfolding present. But with a painting of a photograph in essence short circuits the indexical status of it source. This excerpt refers to The Painting of Modern Life, Ralph Rugoff, and p14 pp2. The digital realm has even more ambiguities by offering any point in time. Therefore the image derived from this space is still an index but at least a selectable and even a reversible one, but this is not like film or video either, that are a sequence of indexes it is more than that. It is truly fourth dimensional where any pocket of time can intercepted and manipulated, forms can also be observed from multiple views at will, forms themselves can change infinatley. But it must be noted that this takes place only in the working stage of the painting, it is eventually fixed like a photograph when it truly manifests as a painting. 

It is also very important to state that these images only simulate reality and they are actually a work of fiction and made to appear familiar and candid. This photographic quality is one element of the trickery and the banality is another. The progressive narrative from photorealism to virtual realism is bridged by hyperrealism, which in essence these paintings are. The methodology practiced here allows for a certain amount of manipulation thus creating a new reality and not just a faithful rendering of a photograph. The intention with this series of paintings is to  go further than hyperrealism and thus create  a  new definiton 'virtual realism', which is still a coherent oxymoron and can be explained as a digital virtual landscape or a re-simulated reality that Umberto Eco discusses in his book Simulation Of Hyperrealism. The painting "Road Side" exemplifies this succinctly as it purely digital in its origins. Lets us not forgot the ordinariness of the subject matter but it is the virtual aspect that glosses over the neurosis and attempts to make the banal more palatable yet it vacillates disconcertingly between these two values never holding onto one indefinitely. 

What is the impulse to create these paintings? There is an uncanny anxiety caused by the observation of the incongruous entropic order systems that modern society has developed into. Visually the modern world appears utterly bland with low aesthetic and high function concepts that society is ordered serve for production and profit purposes. The neurotic impulse tries to sublimate these appearances and to transcend it. This has been achieved by smoothing out the details of reality by eliminating roughness and texture. This has been theorized by Edmund Burke wrote about smoothness in his book titled A philosophical Enquiry Into The Origin Of Our Ideas Of The Sublime And Beautiful' p143. A sense of light and atmospheric moment suffuses a rarefying effect onto these mundane scenes stimulating emotive sensibilities. This rendering temporarily holds back a nervous condition to some extent but is no cure. Humor is also a way out of the melancholic situation by finding the ironies in the failings and idiosyncrasies of everyday environments and situations. Ralph Rugoff states in the book The Painting of Modern Life, p12 pp5. While referring to the photo realist painters he said, "These artist regarded the banal as far from being trivial... Banality is a potentially rich and revealing vein of anthropological data". The contrived has been invented extremely economically and it invokes memories of places and social values that penetrate face value of representation with trivial symbols unfolding with loaded meaning with every aspect of these canvases being readable.



Paul Cummings
2 Crown Mews
White Horse Lane
Stepney Green
London
E1 3NR
United Kingdom
Europe


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