Deskscapes (2016-Present)

An on-going series of abstractions.

Deskscapes (2016-ongoing)

These painting works on their face are laboriously produced, psychedelic images that take their form from the ubiquitous landscape photographs that ship with modern computer operating systems, such as OSX, Windows, Linux and Android. Using the OSX operating system version ’Yosemite’ as a jumping off point, they continue a legacy of the geographical significance of Yosemite National Park, California, in the role of visual technology and language evolution.

Yosemite was has been the subject of art production for a number of centuries, spanning back to the large-scale, romantic painting works of Albert Bierstadt. Bierstadt, of the Hudson River School, having to find new subject matter for economic reasons (the advent of photography dried up the portraiture work for painters in 19th Century New York), embarked on a career in painting Yosemite, El Capitan and the Sierras. These works were shipped around the world, reaching as far as Eastern Europe, and provided those unable to travel to the USA, a chance to experience its simulation through large, immersive paintings. This coincided with the rise in public museum culture, and should be seen as a precursor to cinema, or primitive virtual reality experiences.

Soon after, explorers and photographers such as Carleton Watkins and Ansel Adams would travel this same geographical region. Documenting the area through seminal photographic works, these artists would use Yosemite to lay the ground-work for generations of photographers by laying down the fundamental approaches to landscape photography.

For decades afterwards, the region was to become a pilgrimage of sorts for artists and photographers to participate in a tradition of producing images about the landscape and wildlife of Yosemite National Park. So much so, that the road infrastructure in the area leads visitors to points with names such as ‘Tunnel View’ and ‘Valley View’, making the re-capturing of Bierstadt and Adams perspectives part of the fundamental access to the territory. Later in the 20th century, Captain Kirk would boldly go to El Capitan in Yosemite, for a romantic and cinematic tribute to the location, in the film Star Trek 5.

In the 21st Century, the proximity of the park to the Apple Computer headquarters in Cupertino, California, would give names to their operating systems that shipped with their desktop and laptop computers. Titles such as Mountain Lion, Yosemite, El Capitan and Sierra became the default visual backdrop on the platform most popular with photographers and visually-creative professionals.

Using this lineage, my series ‘Deskscapes’, reconsiders the production of landscape painting in the age of algorithmically-mediated societies. The creative decisions in the production of these paintings have been a collaborative effort between the artist and software. Using the desktop wallpapers/backgrounds as catalyst, the form and layout of the first batch of these paintings engages in a process called ‘image segmentation’. Image segmentation is a term that has appeared from a strand of scientists researching computer vision. It is a process where digital imagery is partitioned into groups of pixels in order to simplify an image for the purposes of analysing its content. In the ‘Deskscapes’ series, image segmentation is used on OS desktop wallpapers in order to map out the formal layouts for the works. Once a desktop wallpaper is segmented into regions, these are transferred to the archival cotton surface and filled with light-fast pigment paint in colours from the optical spectrum. The result resembling something in between modernist optical art and screen-based glitch/GIF cultures. Due to the 100s of hours of procedural work needed for their completion, the paintings are often mistook for machine-fabricated/printed, images. On closer inspection the viewer can understand the visual noise arises out of the hand-made production errors on the surface of the painting, as much as their repetitive psychedelic colour patterns.