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OPENING | Interrupting the Interface
September 7, 2017 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
The language of our time is the image. The current culmination of our social media age is Instagram.
No other medium has the visual acuity to present the world to the world one view at a time. With 500 million monthly users and 40 billion photographs and counting, the sheer volume and reach of this medium is making Instagram ubiquitous, societally and culturally. Foraging through the volume of information is a formidable challenge, one that Vancouver artist David Wilson has undertaken in preparing for this exhibition.
One of Instagram’s essential successes is the capability for anyone with a smartphone to take an image and enhance the ordinary to the extraordinary, by way of the “filter”. Most digital photographs have visual elements added via filters for the sake of appeal. Those that do not, come with the added hashtag #nofilter as a note of rarity and credibility. The minority of ordinary is now competing with the expectation of extraordinary.
By definition to “filter” is to remove, block or separate specified elements from a subject, as a coffee filter removes the grains. However digital filters perform the opposite function: they add something new. Through his series, Wilson proposes that our reality is subverted and substituted via alteration; we insert, even impose, our ideals. We beckon a perception that flatters our self-image more than the photograph’s. Yet ironically, Instagram filters are named after their creators’ various experiences, not our own. We appropriate others’ memories into our own and onto the viewers’. We peddle a faux-nostalgia, replacing the truth of the moment with an indiscriminately generated ideal.
There are further levels of questionable cosmetics. Even before we stop to post an image we are applying our personal filters: our own life experience, our mood, our location and even the image we have chosen weigh in on our visual culling. In spite of the apparent spontaneity of posting and viewing in Instagram’s design, each posted image has undergone a selection. Scan through any profile and its own unique aesthetic shows its owner’s particularity, or more accurately, a constructed projection of their public persona. However conscious or intuitive the process is, the digital array of a life personified is one that is curated. Moreover, curated from only a narrow selection of seconds of that life. We too, have become filtered.
In building this body of work, Wilson scanned thousands of photographs on Instagram and selected the images he felt compelled to work with. Then it was a matter of copying, pasting, further filtering for his own painting references. Most of the selected images identified with water or fluidity, a pervasive theme throughout Wilson’s work.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, renowned for its unenviable yearly rainfall, one often develops an unavoidable and polarizing connection to water. Its overabundance informs much of what David Wilson creates. In spite of potential negative connotations, there is a universal appeal to rain soaked city streets that evokes something entirely visceral. So often this is found in the film industry, in the pains it takes to recreate that wet and rain-saturated aesthetic. Those slick streets reflect so much of ourselves back at us it is like peering into a distorted mirror. A mirror that reminds us of places we inhabit, both imaginary and real.
Throughout Wilson’s work, water is identified explicitly in content and implicitly in form. The paintings become a chaotic kaleidoscope of light and colour infused with what we know and what we think we know, or remember. Although memory is elusive, Wilson approaches the process of his paintings as layers of memory, lying one over top of the other, eventually resembling something recognizable. Whether it is true or false matters less than speaking to a collective understanding, or recognition, of what is seen.
Interrupting the Interface navigates through the real waters of our surroundings and the unreal waters of our representations to arrive at a reflection of both.