AboutThis week sees the opening of a major new exhibition at The Hospital Club. VIDEO PAINTING: the first decade shows the history of a video art genre which has been quietly emerging for ten years.
Video painting is still very much a contemporary phenomenon. The recession has done many things: sent galleries under, put pressure on mid-range works, cast aspersions on âcelebrity' artists- but it has also thrown into focus more experimental work by emerging talent and made audiences question the intention behind the work. Increasing dissatisfaction with the contemporary scene has made space for edgier figures hunting out substance amid the sugar of the commercial art market.
It was nine years ago that philosopher and documentary film maker Hilary Lawson shot the first video paintings, but it's only been in the past 3 years that the genre has enjoyed wide-ranging and international success.
The growth of video art since the 1960s has been well documented. Concerns about what buying into this art meant- namely wires, screens and plugs- have evolved into questions of copyright and dissemination. Suddenly, video art is everywhere: in galleries, fairs and even fronting advertising campaigns.
Its spread has encouraged new branches to flourish. Video painting, borne out of an attempt to escape the limitations of the traditional video narrative, uses images shot with a stationary camera. They show the world in real time. There is no dialogue, no sound. In contrast to the film and video tradition which has been dominated by the provision of meaning and understanding, the video painting aims to escape our cultural and perceptual closures, freeing the viewer to play in the openness of the image.
Following Lawson's seminal early works, a collective of artists known as the Artscape Project, including William Raban, Sanchita Islam, Nina Danino, Tina Keane, and Isabelle Inghilieri, was formed to develop the video painting medium. Three years ago, Open Gallery was launched in London to represent the collective and remains the only UK gallery dedicated to video art.
VIDEO PAINTING: the first decade features works from 2001 to the present day by seven members of the Artscape Project. If pre-recession art was about frantic buying, statement pieces, brashness and calves in formaldehyde, then post-recession work is increasingly being valued on its philosophy. From Sarah Turner's Lake Baikal (2007) to Alys Williams Transitory Sites (2008-9), video painting shuns the dominant and attention-grabbing power of the moving imagery that saturates contemporary culture, instead exercising restraint and subtlety and stripping back the manipulation and editing increasingly present in the video art genre.
Significantly, the video paintings don't operate on a loop system (an issue that still hinders other video artists). Video paintings are combined into collections and play in intelligent, non random sequences according to criteria determined by the artists. This technology still provides the basis for the presentation of their work today and means that the experience of watching is always subtly different.
The value of this new exhibition is not merely the fact that for many visitors, this will be their first experience of video painting, but that it successfully shows the progression within the genre itself. The two pieces on show by founding artist Lawson, succinctly represent the development of the medium over its first decade. The works contained within Openness (2001-4) are a very pure form of video painting which explores the boundlessness of the natural world, finding wonder and surprise in the seemingly familiar. The literal style of this work brutally exposes the denial of narrative. Now Revisited Revisited (2009), meanwhile, uses video painting as a starting point from which to embark upon a complex exploration of self awareness and human interaction which incorporates elements of performance and interactivity.