Friday, July 31, 2009

4 postcards from Venice

I heard designer Celia Birtwell on the radio the other day saying how her friend David Hockney often sends her drawings made on his iPhone.  This reminded me of Simon Faithfull, who has made a new kind of plein air landscape art using a personal digital assistant.  According to Mark Godfrey, writing in Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing, the results have 'a stuttering, awkward quality; childlike, but divorced from from childlike themes.  The lines appear either black against a white ground, or vice versa, meaning that no twilight tones can be registered.  There is little shading, and when this does appear, it is not as cross-hatching or rubbing, but as one of a limited number of preset "fill-in" options.  Faithfull also sometimes uses basic animating devices.  He replicates a rippling canal surface with moving horizontal dashes (in the series "4 postcards from Venice," 2003, completed during the Biennale).  These animations aren't particularly dramatic.  Rather, Faithfull seems to emphasize the inadequacy of a new medium to render basic perception or to deliver the spectacular.'  This new take on the Venetian landscape may not sound too promising, but you can judge for yourself by looking at the work in question on his website.

Here is another description of Simon Faithfull's methods, from Donna Da Salvo's essay for an exhibition of sketches made at Dreamland, an old amusement park in Margate:  'Produced quickly using a Palm Pilot and finger, each of Faithfull’s drawings is made from life, and constitutes a map of his walk through Dreamland. Like the modern day flaneur roaming the park, Faithfull captures the momentary pleasure of looking. Some drawings are complex compositions, including views of the undulating landscape of the grade II listed Scenic Railway, or the frenetic movement of a car as it speeds along the rails of the Wild-Mouse, or even a solitary person and a gull on their respective perches by the sea. In others, he offers glimpses of life – a half-empty soda-fountain glass left behind, or the incomplete outline of two figures hidden behind sunglasses. These images can be read as pages from a sketchbook, albeit one that uses software to endlessly reproduce and then reintroduce them back into the world. He has said of them, ‘They are distillations of moments filtered through my head, but not my memory.’'

And finally, here is what he had to say to Sarah Kent at Time Out about the Antarctic landscape, which he visited in 2004-5 on an Arts Council fellowship, traveling with the British Antarctic Survey. 'I was afraid I’d come back with images looking like photographs from the National Geographic, but it’s the opposite of scenic. Antarctica is a huge glacier, which is absolutely flat and cloud-covered, but the light is almost supernatural in strength; its intensity is more than your eyes can deal with. The sun doesn’t set and there’s a weird phenomenon called ‘ice blink’; the underside of the clouds glows white with light reflected off the ice, so there’s complete white-out, which is utterly disorientating. Because there’s no moisture, the air is crystal clear and you can see further than ever before. But because there’s no horizon line, you lose all sense of scale and, instead of a landscape unfolding towards the horizon, there’s literally nothing to see. As you walk you can hear your feet making footsteps, but you can’t see them because there’s no definition or contrast, so it feels claustrophobic – as if everything were folding back on itself. I’d gone all that way to see the wilderness, but there was absolutely nothing to see, except the stuff brought there by people!'

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