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‘Flatbed Plein Air’, Tristian Koenig Gallery, Melbourne

‘Asemic’, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London

‘New Paintings’

‘New Representation Parts I & II’

New Representation

Interview between Andre Hemer and Oliver Watts (January 2015)

Oliver Watts: Andre I have written about your work before at Chalk Horse for New Painting. In that catalogue I really outlined your working method which mixes the digital with the traditional, the painted material with the printed. In this series you seem to push this even further with the use of dynamic gesture and artificial impasto. What is your relationship to painting? Why do you work through the medium of painting?

Andre Hemer: For me, painting is way of recording the world in a way that connects the intimacy of the creative act with the larger cultural conditions that exist in the time of making. For this reason, I am drawn to painting because of the potential to state something that could not be done in any other form. A painting has its own life—which is materially at least, a very simple one. This simplicity gives it the potential for a kind of cultural longevity—a life and revealing of itself long after the creative act, and without reliance on any technological playback system. So this autonomous existence allows me to filter my own understanding and experience of the world in these objects, and act as an ongoing record within a larger cultural archive.

OW: In the world of digital media and digital transaction what can painting tell us about this world?

AH: Painting tells us much more than we might initially think. It allows us to see a representation of the world in an unashamedly old-fashioned way. It slows us down and makes use reconsider the image and object-hood in a different way from which we now experience much of the world around us. It reminds us that visuality does hold importance in conveying the shifts in our culture and that our experience of the image might once again be able to slow-down. It also provides us with a one-to-one experience—so much of culture is decentralised and experienced collectively, painting becomes an oddity in its ability to bring us back to a relationship between the individual and cultural object.

OW: How do you approach the act of painting in this contemporary world?

AH: At the same time, the way in which we might consider making painting has changed due to the influence of how we navigate a digitally saturated world—and by embracing the transactions between digital and materialised forms we open up new pathways of making. A painting acts a remnant to these transactions, recording them and allowing us to consider them detached from their usual form of distribution.

OW: How does the digital world enable a new mode of representation in painting, the titular question of your show?

AH: It is the aforementioned transactions between the digital world and painting that provide the subject for a new mode of representation. We have moved from a translational use of technology to one which is far more complex and interwoven. It is the complexity of the digital transaction and a process of sampling between many different forms of media that has led to a new way of making—and also potentially of seeing. As the world has changed around us to incorporate the multiplicity and amalgamation of these forms, how we experience those forms has also become fundamentally altered. In reflecting this condition painting is well suited to provoke us into reassessing our relationship to image and object.

OW: I really like the dynamism of these paintings. The notion of the mark. can you say how you are playing with this concept. The gesture is in some places effaced (like a vinyl cut mask) sometimes really obvious and sometimes a photoshop fake. I guess a few questions come form this. What does the gesture sign? What is the dynamic in painting? What about the impasto. The sign of a “painting” as opposed to a print. There seems to be a lot of playfulness and irony here. At IKEA they often have fake impasto on their prints to give that “oil paint look”. Does your work reference this kitsch?

AH: Firstly, dealing with the use of impasto—there is certainly a connection to the impasto now often applied to digital prints such as the IKEA prints that you mention. I do not see them as ‘fake’ however— they seem to me to be an approximation of an idea that the new circulation of images is pulling us away from. Perhaps this is a nostalgia towards painting, or more broadly towards the use of a sense that isn’t as present in our lives. The problem is, that I’m not sure what nostalgia has a greater hold on me—the painterliness of paint or the approximated painterliness originating from digital media? This slippage, of being caught in between, is precisely why I am proposing this new mode of representation. It is anapproximation experience/image/material that moves in both directions—all things affecting one another, rather than a linear distinction of real and copy.

OW: would you say the “fake” gold and silver is in some way similar? They sign luxury and commodity which roles nicely back into art as capital.

AH: The same is true for the use of gold—more than colours, they approximate materials, not as a fake version but as a representation of the idea of materiality. It goes beyond painting in this sense too—its not about a dissection of painting (for paintings sake), but a search for an understanding of more commonplace experiences.

So in these paintings I am trying to combine traces of the different existence of these ideas through various forms. In the same way of thinking about the use of impasto, I’ve used a digital printed canvas in my works for so long now, I don’t think about it being fake in any way—perhaps at one time there was a juxtaposition between doing that and then applying swabs of acrylic paint on top that was integral to the idea somehow. Now, I see this very much as a natural way to use these materials—representing them as they now are in the world. There are of course still differences between all of these approaches—and these differences are vital, it’s just that the distinctions are unclear.

OW: On one hand the work seems hybrid in nature form analogue to digital, abstract and figurative, material and immaterial. On the other hand it is not hybrid in a pomo sense but insists on a return to medium specificity. Do you want to comment on that seemingly paradoxical status of your work?

AH: Post-Modernism is essentially aiming for a democracy that always seems to come undone by the framing of the act as art—watching everyday life from an ivory tower so-to-speak. In this sense I have no illusion as the existence of painting in a broader culture and its own paradoxical life as representational tool and commodity. Provisional Painting recently proposed something similar—presenting failure but through its success paradoxically becoming the most commodified of form.

In relation to the hybridisation of media which is probably more important to this discussion, I understand these forms to be coming closer together, increasing links to one another through a collective understanding of image and object that is not singular—the form of a painting is at once materialised as paint, and dematerialised as image. The creation of such an object naturally also reflects this experience of painting. So it is not so much a complete hybridisation, but a more complex connection between forms. The paintings themselves are an amalgamation of these processes as painting—but the hybridisation is one of the ideas rather than a complete putting together of form. I don’t view painting as special or democratising—but I do see it as expressing this experience in a different way—perhaps enabling us to see the complexities of this relationship more clearly as a result.

I like to think that put alongside one another in a museum of the future, these works will reveal themselves more than they do now—because they will be removed from the nowness that seems as persuasive as ever. For this reason perhaps, I am always wary of work that proposes strongly to know itself in the moment. When I talk to artists in their early twenties I am always surprised how well they seem to know where their work fits in terms of categories—making work that can distributed with five-levels of sub- category hash tags. I paint to record, to investigate. I am proposing New Representation, but I do so while admitting that we may not know exactly what to make of what it is that we are experiencing.