Enter the Halls of Galeria


This project has been an interesting one, you can go back and read the proposal here, and my early development here if you like. But I will be doing a quick summary of my inspiration and initial methods when building this project up here, so if you’re a bit lazy like I am, I got you.

This project was born of necessity in some ways. This semester has been like no other, I deferred school during the 2020 lockdown, so this was my first experience with total online schooling. While later on in the semester we would get some access to the studios back, for the most part I approached this semester and this project assuming I wouldn’t be back in the studios before the submission date. My plan was to create something totally online, an engaging experience, and something that could be built upon for years to come.

The PrInternet

During the conceptualizing of this project, I tried to think about how a completely online art practice could uphold similar principles to traditional printmaking . A few principles stand out in particular, in reproduction, accessibility, and versatility.

Reproduction is easy to comprehend, if you frame your original digital work as the matrix, an arrangement of information that describes your image, much like a lino block describes your image. Each your website or hosted spaces becomes your press, for taking your original matrix and multiplying it as many times as it is called upon. Finally the end viewers screen becomes the paper the image is ‘printed’ on, each time a new instance is shown on a unique screen.

Accessibility was one of the aspects that originally drew me to print, while you can obviously create thirteen layer reduction woodcuts and run them through a three thousand dollar press with the finest inks and papers, you could just as easily cut some lino at home with cheap tools and hand print them on printer paper. I remember as a young man running a tumblr page, posting MSPaint drawings of my silly jokes that ended up reaching thousands of people, with work on the internet time invested and quality is not always what brings attention, it’s having a keen sense of the ever changing digital zeitgeist. This accessibility also applies to how prints are accessed, where paintings are usually unique objects, a print can be repeated almost indefinitely, meaning it is an artform for the masses, something the internet does almost too well.

Finally versatility, in the adobe suite alone there are dozens of programs we can use to make work, for this project alone I’ve used several programs, and taking the work online the amount of options can be dizzying. In the before times, I was a big fan of screen-printing and fine art digital prints, but have also enjoyed using lino, wood blocks and copper to create work. I think letting the work dictate the medium is the most enjoyable way to work, rather that tunnel visioning on a single medium, and I don’t think this project could be done any other way.

This all might seem like a stretch, or maybe even a bit trite, but I really think framing my work this way has helped me see the value in online digital work. A common hurdle in making work I think is not so much justifying it to an audience, but justifying the effort and time commitment to yourself.

Galeria Born

Originally I was planning for this project to be a lampoon of cooperate art styles, the site even takes its name from the term Alegria, an art style companies often employ to make themselves seem more human and less like dystopian nightmare factories. But as is often the case, anger fades, you see flaws in your approach, and the project shifts. By the time I started working on the project, very little of this original inspiration remained, I no longer wanted to give my time and energy to talking about these obviously shitty companies and their practices. I wanted to make something that would reflect me and the world I live in, I wanted to make all those weird artworks I thought wouldn’t be acceptable in a fine art setting, to create without a sense of ego, or expectation.

So what’s left after you take out this lampooning? Basically an empty world ready to be filled! I started working without any real plan for how I was going to present my work online, except for the vague intent to have it function as a website. I started building each room as a single image, trying to account for the fact that I might want to revisit them. I did this by keeping my layer structure as clean as possible, something I think I only mastered with my latest work. Keeping everything separate and self contained allows me to rearrange items in the room, and even come back to this original linework file and add more items.

After the line work is done, I then move on to coloring. I’ve been using my own photos and free stock images as sources for my textures. It’s a nice throw back to working with collage, but also an art style that I find really appealing, like a kind of digital kitsch. The first way I started doing this was through illustrator itself, there are tools to combine the entire image and use a paint bucket with tilled textures. This is a really convenient way of working, but with my earlier rooms file layout, it became messy and unmanageable. I decided to take the finished linework into photoshop and finish it there, this is an environment more suited for this non-graphic work, but it does have the downside of being rasterized and therefore you really need to be sure on the layout before you commit.

These close ups give a better impression of how the textures interact with the linework, the project essentially becomes a coloring book for me to play around with, creating mask layers for each object and then testing several textures until I’m happy. Sometimes, as with the fern and books, adding straight up photographic images to the scene, creating a weird contrast between graphic and reality.

After having created several rooms, it became time to start putting the whole website together. From the start I had envisioned sort of a monkey island style point and click adventure, though very rudimentary, it was nothing I couldn’t learn. As I began looking into hosting a website and building something from scratch, I realized the time and financial investment would be just far too much. Luckily, I already had this WordPress site!

I decided to transition from a point and click to more of a text based adventure with accompanying images, videos and gifs. After deciding this as the avenue I wanted to go down, creating the layout only took a matter of hours, creating descriptions links and connections between the images, to give the impression of venturing through a strange world. Upon arranging the three main images I had made, I realized there was a lot of room for variations. For some pages I added zoomed in portions so people could get a closer look at certain items that are too small to see, especially on mobile. For the library shelf I used a whole stock image with slight variations to represent my writing, and for the hive I decided to quickly make some gifs as a fun little way to expand the world.

Not only is using WordPress easier, It’s also more accessible and recognizable. It already scales for mobile, works on every browser, is recognizable as a trustworthy site. I’m already trying to direct traffic there (here) to my blog, so win win! All in all it feels like an elegant solution, and allows me to test out this format/medium before committing hundreds of dollars in hosting fees.

Terminally Online

Like a lot of people who spend a lot of time online, I have many complaints. I never expected to be a legitimate “back in my day” person, but when it comes to the internet, I was really just at the right age when it’s culture was being formed. In my late teens, thousands of bespoke websites catered too all kinds of weird and wacky things, you spent less time on centralized social media sites, and more time hopping from link to link on recommendations. In some ways, even though there were a lot less people using it, it felt a lot bigger. I know though that this is really just looking back at it with rose tinted glasses, it was also a horrible place that fostered some really terrible ideas, and if not for some good IRL experiences and people, I might have fallen down into some dark corners of the web.

Part of this project for me is bringing back that feeling of stumbling across something unique online, an organic experience not perfected or refined, but something as close to handmade as you can in a digital landscape. Another equally important part is my obsession with that scene in Jurassic park where the girl is hacking the dinosaur mainframe through that bizarre 3d interface.

Streaming has been part of this project from the point I began actually making the rooms, though I did all the busy work of connecting the pages offline. Below I’m going to post a video of my most recent stream, you can skip through and get the vibe, the whole stream is 3 hours with a handful of breaks, some light conversation and a bit of me being flustered when someone called me handsome.

Creating work with an audience is something I’ve talked about in previous posts, but since then I’ve had some more populated streams, and have been able to talk to strangers while working. I’ve found it is not only really comforting, but also increases the amount of time I’m able to stream and the speed at which I make work. It really is like a simulation of the studio environment, albeit one narcissistically revolving around me. I can absolutely see how some people would dislike having people pull apart their work, give advice on how something should look, or talking about unrelated topics as a distraction. For me it’s the perfect environment for my mind to let get into that flow state of creating.

Do blog posts have conclusions?

I’ve said in other posts that I don’t really like to describe a lot of my thoughts behind the imagery in my work, I think once you do you kind of ‘solve’ it for people, and it becomes less interesting. What I will say, is some of the content is very silly, and some of it very serious, but I’m not going to tell you which is which. This project is a reflection of my life, and I hope to build on it for years to come.

In conclusion I did it, I finished a semester during the largest, strictest lockdown in the world, and I didn’t go insane 🥚

Investment

Since I last talked about making wax sculptures of hands for casting I’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve started streaming my art making process on twitch.tv, and cast a few pieces. If you’ve no read my previous post, I explain my journey into twitch streaming and how it fits into my practice, more specifically wax sculpting.

My teacher asked me to look into the symbology behind hands, what they mean, and why i might be so interested in recreating them. So I did the logical thing, made a playlist of videos all about hands, sign language, muscle structure, symbology, and body language, then streamed myself making wax hands while i watched it. Such is a modern art practice. You can find the original stream at twitch.tv/greatjobjake the playlist on my YouTube channel. I’ll touch briefly on the first video on the playlist, which unfortunately I cant embed in this blog, It’s on the symbolism of hands in the Del Toro movie Pans Labyrinth.

Small tangent, this type of video essay might be a little foreign to some, but it’s becoming a more and more competitive genre. I became really obsessed with this style of video at the beginning of Melbourne’s first lockdown through creators like Contrapoints and PhilosophyTube. I really enjoyed how people would break down a topic, attempt to cite sources, and it really just made YouTube feel like more of a reliable source of information. They even have their own version of peer review in the form of referencing, debunking and responding to each others videos.

Something I enjoyed about this video was the constant reinforcing of the position hands took in the film, they use a technique of presenting a simpler version of the answer that is slightly incorrect, in order to help guide the viewer to their final observation on the concept. A common theme throughout all these video, or at least my take away from watching them, was that hands are symbolic not so much in a visual sense, but through our understanding of their versatility, functionality and historical context. For example, the video above references cultures that keep one hand for ‘holy’ tasks such as eating and praying, and the other hand for unclean tasks, like wiping and other sanitary issues.

Another interesting tangent the videos took was that of how body language can change how people perceive us. One video gave three demonstrations ways to address a crowd, and in each he changed how he gestured towards the crowd, but kept his verbal message the same. In the first he kept his palms open and facing upward, gestured softly towards the crowd, and used sweeping motions, this gave a softer more open feeling. People felt inclined to do what he said, in essence because his body language was kind and inviting. In the second, he turned his palms downwards, gestures became sharper and more pointed, the crowd resisted him more with this motion, he explained this body language comes across as an order as compared to the previous ‘pleasant request’. The final gesture was a pointed finger and closed fist, this was above an order, this makes us feel not only directed but small and stupid. These subtle ways we hold ourselves can have a huge effect on how we are received.

These are the first cast pieces I made, you can see they’re pretty rough, but I ended up really liking this look, it gives the impression that parts have been warn back from excessive rubbing. An old photography teacher of mine David Van Royen once told me that if you’re unsure about a photograph, to keep it on your fridge at home so you see it everyday, and have to consider it constantly. I like to take this approach now with a lot of work I make, I leave it laying around in my space, so I have to interact with it and confront it. I did this with the hands, I kept them on my work table so that while I was using my computer, in a zoom call or streaming, I could play with them and roll them around in my hands.

I’ve been doing this for about a week now, and I know it’s super corny, but all I think about when I hold them is how nice it is to hold a hand. When collecting my thoughts about this project I was actually reminded of a song from a band I loved in my early twenties that I’ve posted below. Your Hand in Mine is an incredibly sentimental song, Explosions in the Sky really know how to convey a sense of sincerity through their instruments. Before lockdown I was never really a touchy person, I probably would of told you that i would prefer people never touched me. As devastating as these lockdowns have been, they have absolutely opened me up to the idea of human touch being integral to maintaining good mental health and social bonds. I’ve come out the other side of this event a much more sentimental and physical person.

Following on from these casted pieces, and with that sense of sentimentality in mind, I made a small sculpture work from another set of hands. I was thinking a lot about a potential future outside of lockdown, the prospect of starting a family and feeling closer and more supported by my friends. I also thought about how when making a work about hands, it’s interesting to consider how they’re going to interact with your hands and each other. I really wanted to introduce a sense of tactility with this work, I like the idea of stacking and arranging them, feeling heavy metal sitting on top of more heavy metal.

Finally I sent off three items to get cast by professionals at Lenrose Jewelers, thought I haven’t got these back, I’m pretty confident that they’ll be of a very high quality. With these newest works I was trying to practice and perfect the hand ring and the hand pendant. With the pendants I like trying to make them as realistic as possible in their articulation, while keeping the surface more of an impression of skin instead of an accurate representation. I didn’t take any images before I sent them off, but the VOD of me making them can be seen in my last post.

Overall I’ve really enjoyed this process of working with wax and silver, but while the casting process was interesting I think what I enjoyed most was working with three dimensional mediums. Going foreword I think I will explore this aspect of carving, molding, and shaping.