GALLERY /// Graphics, social design and ocular illusion feature in an exhibition of new works by Jack Newling.
Fred: "...one thing keeps cropping up is this thing about 'subtext,' songs, words, plays – they all have subtexts, which I take to mean a hidden meaning or import of some kind. So subtext we know. But what do you call the meaning, or message, that's right there on the surface, completely open and obvious...What do you call what's above the subtext?"
Ted: "The text."
Fred: "OK, that's right...But they never talk about that".
--Scene from Whit Stillman's Barcelona
We could describe this exhibition as superficial. Filled with artworks that are pure surface.
Not the formalist ‘surface’ so contested in the history of western modernism (though the work certainly remains in dialogue with some of the key concerns of that discourse). Rather, surface as a series of possible effects drawn from the material, visual and symbolic conditions of the things that interest Jack Newling (stuff like cups, roof and floor tiles, windows and microwaves).
Newling uses high-control techniques like screen and digital printing to make his work. He also draws heavily from graphic and commercial design. The result is a profoundly processed style, one in which the slight of the human hand has been supplanted by a mechanical production standard. With their manufactured feel Newling’s artworks effuse a sort of prior-availability: a visual or emotional familiarity that is accessible to most viewers in one-way or another. However, they never seek to properly represent familiar things. Instead they prefer to ‘stand-inʼ; playing with the inherent pathos and boredom of those things, absorbing and regurgitating their superficiality in order to propose something altogether more distant, awkward and slippery for the viewer to negotiate.
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