‘Possibly analogue possibly digital’ states the seductive voice of ‘the machine is almost pure magic’, a film by Georgie Grace. Articulated through intense flashes of transcribed speech, the film’s narrator draws attention to the tacit meeting point between Grace’s and Kelly Best’s work: the spaces that exist between digital and manual image-rendering.
Titled under the rubric of ‘Encounters’, the exhibition at Jerwood Visual Arts is the first iteration of ‘3-Phase’, a collaborative project between Eastside Projects (Birmingham), g39 (Cardiff) and Jerwood Charitable Foundation whereby two early career artists are given the opportunity to produce new work. Following two solo presentations earlier this year, the second phase of the project brings into conversation film, drawing and printmaking by Best and Grace.
A series of 2D works by both artists begins the exhibition, with two Lenticular prints by Grace and several mixed media drawings by Best. The illusion of depth that is created via Lenticular technology is manipulated by Grace in a subversion of cinematic narrative and gesture. The emancipated spectator-position that the prints require (the viewer has to move from left and right in order to conjoin two textual clauses) inverts the usually static position we occupy when receiving cinematic images. It is through our own movement in space that the picture becomes activated.
There is an element of novelty in Grace’s use of Lenticular printing that is often associated with the kitsch of souvenir gift shop items, and the painterly quality to these prints betrays their ostensibly ‘high-tech’ aesthetic. This tension between hand and machine-made imagery is similarly explored in Best’s three drawings: contained spaces of warped perspective. The manual technique through which each was produced has the effect of a hand-drawn digital image, like the layered patterns of a computer screensaver.
In the next gallery Best expands our view beyond the confines of a 2D frame. ‘Velum’ is a large-scale wall installation onto which the artist has created a ten-metre long pencil drawing. Through the painstaking detail of the graphite lines and the curvature of this freestanding surface, our interaction with the work not only shifts in terms of the image’s scale, but also its perspective: between two and three dimensionality.
Grace’s film, which forms the final moment of the exhibition, is similarly concerned with accessing an alternative perspective and augmented viewing experience. Through a powerful transmission of text and image that recalls elements of Elizabeth Price’s ‘User Group Disco’ (2009), but with the rhetoric of a life coach, ‘the machine is almost pure magic’ acutely expresses the contemporary digitisation of the self and self-help practices.
Through a conflation of the cinematic gesture with an urge to go beyond our plane of reality, the utopia to which the narrator of Grace’s film guides us is at once something to aspire to and also to be aware of. In spite of their contrasting techniques, the encounter between both artist’s works confronts the tension that is embedded within our creation of and absorption into digital and analogue spaces, and the contemporary desire to move beyond the two.