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Painting must be accountable to its time. When I am in the studio, I not only ask myself what is worth saying, but how my voice can be socially responsible. I conceptualize the process of painting as being an equation with formal, conceptual, social, cultural, political, psychological, emotional and other variables relating to each other in order to solve the equation so it feels true and meaningful to me as an individual and in the context of my relationship to the world.

It is a belief, a conviction, an idea, a question, a voice to be heard that drives my painting process. It is an urgency to communicate that makes me shepherd each painting to its conclusion and then start another. I work in series or projects; sometimes I stay with related questions for years, paint one thought, one image after the other. To support the concept, I change whatever is necessary in the configuration of the painting, whether this means materials (oil paints, graphite and ink, artist pens, etc.), the size and support of the work, formal concerns, or entire visual syntax. A new series can start whenever new urgency occurs, although it does not necessitate ending the previous series. I am continuously pursuing concepts and methods whereby drawing and painting is revitalized as a palpable, fluid catalyst in an ever-changing present.

Password: Sign Disintegration Series

As a continual psychological investigation of the contemporary human condition, my paintings examine the modification of my cognition and experience of the world in the engulfing presence of technology. Spending more and more time in the realm of information screens, sometimes I am unsure of where I stop and the world outside me begins. Screens take my passive body anywhere within seconds while passwords open windows through which arrows direct my mind. Duality of being - my experience of presentness and remoteness, predictability and randomness, order and chaos - is conveyed in my paintings as a visual negotiation of a new paradigm.

This body of work called Password: Sign Disintegration is a contemplative allegory about contemporary psychological shift in a technology-driven, information-dependent, overstimulated society. My desire is to expand and complicate these ideas with images that are suggestive of naturally occurring shapes and patterns (nets, maps, neurons, stars, globes…) in dialog with shapes generated from the human-produced, artificial world (passwords, data bodies, computer symbols, pills, networks…). The symbols on my computer, a continuous and endless number of clicks, dots, circles, lines, crosses, and arrows, depart onto canvas and disintegrate to become a psychological map, a hand-made network of a presence in time, a mark. I repeatedly render perfect, utilitarian, and timeless signs by hand to access the imperfect, contradictory, time-bound being on the other side of the screen.

Recent information science posits that our body patterns are the optimal design for building supercomputers. In the very near future technology may model itself on DNA-based evolution and create its own next generation without human intervention. Deeply interested in the visual unfolding of this scientific theory, my paintings function as environments for envisioning threads of this theory while finding my own voice in relation to predictions of the future.

My practice requires alchemical painterly innovation including the laborious preparation of a gessoed surface on canvas over panel. Using graphite and ink allows me to alternate multiple layers of drawing with thin applications of gesso while retaining a smooth, paper-like surface. A diary of daily overlapping entries results in the appearance of complicated perceptual depth.

To-Do Lists: Survival of Art Production Series

One of the defining features of contemporary artistic production is the struggle to keep an art practice alive despite financial and scheduling pressures as the artist’s role expands ad infinitum into adjacent professional spheres. The overwhelming volume of engagements, responsibilities, and volunteer labor raises questions about the sustainability of art practice and the well being of artists and other art laborers. My recent paintings make visible the necessary yet mostly invisible activities accompanying the production of art. Visual data for the paintings consists of “to do” lists, calendars, reminders, hand-written or computer documents collected from my artist friends. Overlapping hand-copied layers of these private documents create configurations that function as a record of a dizzying schedule of social engagements, a critique of popular assumptions about art production, and a personal data portrait of a contemporary artist.

The title of this series, To-Do Lists: Survival of Art Production, refers to the ongoing dialog concerning the creative labor of artists and other art professionals in their day-to-day struggle with current economic and socio-political conditions. Due to a scarcity of financial resources, debt from costly degrees, and cultural institutions that fail to adequately compensate creative workers for their labor, artists (specially emerging and mid-career) are continuously faced with a persistent desire to create and its impossibility.

This work communicates in a language of compositional structures, color relationships, transparency, and surface texture. I primarily work from snapshots or scanned records projected directly onto gessoed panels to preserve the authenticity of the documents. Every document was treated with the materials (graphite, color pencils, permanent inks and pens, pastels, and oil paint) necessary to achieve the likeness and character of the original. More than just laborious tracing, the process of learning new handwriting has become an empathic practice of replicating the choreography of hand gestures.

These records of artists’ lives reveal their strengths, ambitions, resourcefulness, and extreme organizational skills, as well as their vulnerabilities, longing for acceptance, and ‘creature comforts’. They bear an uncanny resemblance to my own materials; I jot down my daily and weekly activities in the same Moleskine notebook, keep track of deadlines on a similar color-coded Google calendar, and keep a separate sketchbook for thoughts on art. These commonalities evoke a strong sense of identification with my subject, a sense of mutual purpose and camaraderie.

Despite our miraculous survival skills, the majority of the general public still shares popular misconceptions about artists’ bohemian working habits - we work only when we are struck by that arcane, otherworldly occurrence of inspiration. In an attempt to demystify the production of art, my work exposes a different portrait of the contemporary artist. Upon close reading of the artists’ schedules the idealistic notion of art production is replaced by the day-to-day reality of multiple jobs and endless responsibilities where art making has to be scheduled in whenever possible.

Wallet: Desire Project

This project is based in my personal experience and informed by readings such as David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years, which posits that debt is the foundation of our culture.

For the last 10+ years I have been collecting the mailer credit cards that I receive from various banks and financial institutions in hope to ensnare another debtor. I started collecting them when I was separating from my former spouse, fearing that I might need them soon. Since all our mutual bank and credit card accounts were closing, banks figured out that we are financially separating. Female and financially insecure screamed across their predatory radar.   I used to get 3-5 bank and credit card offers per week. I saved them all. Because they were pretty. Real plastic. Sleek design. Colorful. With blue oceans. Palms. Dolphins. Because they might save me from being a single mother and homeless. I have collected over 400 cards. None of them ever fulfilled their perfect lure to become real, real money, real debt.

My project Wallet:Desire is a testimony to a personal struggle yet it is also a testament of oppression; financially vulnerable individuals at the mercy of absurdly wealthy institutions. In my installation I usually display majority of my card collection in a glass case - years of slightly changed designs of American Express (Gold, Platinum, Business..), City, Capital One, Discover, cards with celebrities like Sylvester Stallone, with American flags, doves, four leaf clovers, with offers you can’t refuse. Cards that will bring you all that you desire.

Some cards I alter with drawings and paintings to transform them into wallet paintings. My alterations include icons from my personal language of digital symbols as well as one-square-inch close-ups of absurdly expensive paintings sold in recent history such as, When Will you Marry? by Paul Gauguin. My choice of imagery points to the way the value of specific artworks has skyrocketed while support for contemporary artists continues to diminish.

The cards are affixed to an offer letter that invites viewers to apply for the Wallet:Desire Card and receive a wallet painting of their own. The format and the text of the offer letter is only 5% changed from the original Wells Fargo Bank card offer. For example, “It will make you feel better and better” slogan on Wallet:Desire Card invitation is verbatim to Wells Fargo’s.

Wallet: Desire project also has its own website – walletdesire.org, where potential customers/clients (in this case ‘art collectors’) can apply for a Wallet:Desire Card of their own. There is also an on-line shop page for special edition prints with various compositions where cards are arranged in pyramidal, rainbow, horizon, and pillow shapes.

Wallet: Desire project also has its own website – walletdesire.org, where potential customers/clients (in this case ‘art collectors’) can apply for a Wallet:Desire Card of their own. There is also an on-line shop page for special edition prints with various compositions where cards are arranged in pyramidal, rainbow, horizon, and pillow shapes.

walletdesire.org

 
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Indira Martina Morre

Indira Martina Morre