Visual art is increasingly mediated by the computer screen. Potential audiences attend hip exhibitions vicariously, through the obligatory Vimeo clip of the opening night. Google has begun to map international art galleries like the Louvre and MoMA in the same way that it has mapped countless suburban blocks. Closer to home, every halfway respectable commercial gallery has an online stockroom for potential clients to peruse virtually. These developments have brought an unprecedented level of public access to art and art events, while redefining the manner in which an audience interacts with this cultural material.
We're constantly bombarded with visual imagery online. A quick google image search for 'modern art' returns 118 million results, presented without context or curation. The top tier of images at the time of writing this contains a Picasso next to two unknown artists, hanging side by side in a virtual gallery. A direct engagement with this new mode of media is not just inevitable but essential to the development of contemporary art – the internet is indicative of a new mode of visual language that is both infinitely accessible and reproducible.
The work of Melbourne artist Ry David Bradley attempts to address this new state of visual flux. By utilising the aesthetics of the computer he engages with the uncertainty of the digital age. By embracing and refashioning visual fragments with a maelstrom of digital effects – some custom and some defiantly stock – he reshapes the online landscape. Presented on aluminium or under glass, the works physically mimic the appearance of a computer screen. Portions of the canvas space allude to a myriad of web browsers, video stills and screenshots.
His hyper-stylised works often feature the lurid palette of pop-up banners, but the imagery that forms the content of the work is just as likely to be sourced from a seventeenth century Dutch still life. The swirling compositions of Bradley's works mirror the transmission and passage of online data: an anarchic space of absolute expression. The internet does not acknowledge a distinction between high and low culture, it only recognises the demand for content – drawing on whatever is necessary to fill it's vacuous depths.
When acrylic paint became widely availably commercially in the 1950s it was immediately adopted for it's 'flat' appearance on a canvas surface. The painting borne of this era is a revelation in form, marking a rupture in the progression of art history. Arguably, the transmission of images online marks the ultimate triumph of this aesthetic. The screen is the ultimate extension of flatness; compositions flickering in LCD are as distanced as they are accessible, and this paradox is not lost on Ry David Bradley. The artist’s work represents an artistic 'Year Zero' as the traditional lineage of Western painting is disrupted and dismantled, only to be reproduced and disseminated endlessly.
Sean Irving is a freelance writer who focuses on the intersection of visual art and the online world.