2011 The State of Mediacy
"The paintings in this exhibition are based on found images, taken from their original digital contexts either as newspaper images or from the internet, and recreated in the traditional medium of oil on canvas.
The images are chosen rather than invented. Not altered, just re-presented. The people portrayed here have their own particular, individual stories. Without context or knowledge of specific circumstances, they become a touchstone for the wider human experience.
Images like these populate the digital world in their millions, a virtual country populated by virtual citizens. A digital Province. The State of Mediacy."
- Ian Wieczorek (from exhibition literature)
From its inception in the 1830s, the medium of photography rapidly established primacy in the realm of visual documentation, based in no small part on the perceived ability to faithfully record reality due to the mechanical nature of its process. While technological development has sought to improve and refine the quality of this recording process, the past 20 years has seen a new strain of photographic idiom: a digitally mediated form in which internal integrity of image has become subordinate to ‘message content’. It is as likely to see a low resolution image lifted from the internet illustrating a news story or newspaper headline as it is to see a ‘professional’ photographic image fulfilling the role. The mobile phone capture or video still has to a major degree supplanted high quality imagery as the vernacular of reportage and societal experience. In the contemporary idiom, imagery has become a form of ‘shorthand’, illustrative rather than exhaustive, and even more subservient to the vagaries of personal interpretation than in former times. (As William J. Mitchell observes in The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth the Post-Photographic Era, “images are no longer guaranteed as visual truth - or even as signifiers with stable meaning and value.”)
This digitally mediated dissemblance, where meaning and interpretation shift away from the specific towards the open-ended or Pluralistic, is at the core of this body of work. Low resolution portrait-style images sourced from the internet or newspapers are rendered in oils on canvas, a process that attempts to instate them within the traditional canon. The images are presented without reference to their original sources, and the faithful rendering of the found imagery, complete with inherent digitally mediated imperfections, results in works that transcend their original journalistic intentions. Residual, ephemeral and ghostly, they become objects of contemplation open to broader interpretation, assuming more malleable, subjective significance.
- Ian Wieczorek
Citizens of the State of Mediacy:
exhibition in situ at the Linenhall Arts Centre - September 2011