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Across the Water - The Nunnery Gallery

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AN EXHIBITION of paintings by Dan Hays, Across the Water. Symbolism in the Digital Wilderness, is on display in The Nunnery Gallery until December 23, 2007.

Modernism’s emblematic grid is now the ubiquitous matrix through which we perceive digital information. The grid’s ambiguous nature, offering a sense of the scientific at the same time as the metaphysical, is now virtually all we have. And it’s become almost entirely subliminal.

Collectively entitled Colorado Impressions, Dan Hays’ paintings are concerned with the intentions of Impressionist painting and the mechanics of digital image compression down to the pixel level.

An interest in the immateriality of digital imagery and the screen, combined with painting’s traditional focus on the paradox of representing light in coloured substance is at the core of the project. These meticulous and mediated reproductions of low quality images are necessarily flawed, claiming back for paint fragments from the infinity of digital photographs on the Internet.

The title Across the Water suggests many things. In the context of previous work, it most directly refers to the land of the New World across the Atlantic Ocean. Another Dan Hays, living in Colorado USA, was discovered through an Internet search in 1999.

His website consists of numerous photographs of the Rocky Mountain landscape surrounding his home, as well as a live web-cam. With his permission a series of oil paintings derived from this imagery was embarked on, exploring the distortions of low-resolution and image compression.

Visual material is now collected from across the whole of Colorado, and it’s essential to the project that it has never been physically visited. Colorado is a mythic place, the land of colour. Indeed, it is from a metaphysical and romantic standpoint that recent work has increasingly engaged with the subject.

The paintings in Across the Water have elemental associations with the flood of images generated by the Internet (the digital wilderness, to romanticise it). They aim to navigate the fluidity of space between the virtual and actual.

Below the shimmering surface of the screen there are a multitude of invisible agencies in the generation of what comes to our perception, suggestive of the spectral realm. These range, for example, from the complex and often arbitrary cataloguing processes of search engines down to the abstracting effects of data compression and corruption.

Veracity, transience, expression, timelessness, physicality, uniqueness, and all qualities that are used to explore the entwined relationship of painting and photography are dissolved by a medium that can both simulate painterly effects and function as an impartial collector of information.

The digital realm is a shadowy, ethereal, parallel world – an endlessly refracted trace of humanity. We can only engage with a few fugitive images that emerge, half frozen, from this endlessly reproducible, unverifiable, and immaterial source. The analogy is memory.

We are lost to the garden, removed from nature, and painting operates as a technique to reconnect to the primal, a way of transforming representations back into physical objects.

The Nunnery, 181 Bow Road, London, E3 2SJ.

Times: Friday to Sunday, 12.00 to 5.00pm.