Andres Manniste: Some Notes on my work 2

In 1999 I invited people to my studio for Les Journées de la Culture. For most of my guests, it was their first experience with oil paint, brushes and a piece of primed canvas. By the time they had left, I had a disorganised surface that kind of resembled graffiti. Suddenly my curious pointillism made sense to me. The marks covered the under painting while at the same time, allowed traces of it to remain. My work was partly anti-theory and partly research into experience. Painting is thinking about what I am doing. The art that occurs helps me to determine the questions to ask when probing the big questions like where I came from and where I or any one of us might ultimately go. (Creation du savoir, 2003)

Through a computer processor thinking itself can be explored, taking shape as virtual memories and metaphors. On the network this circulation itself becomes the work of art. Knowing that I could instantly create for a vast and unknown network made the scale of my paintings in the studio seem somewhat limited. Although I remained attached to the physical and conceptual activity of painting, I no longer felt that I needed to respect a frame, a physical space or a client.

I began the painting (me_me_2007) with a blurry photograph of my forehead. The forehead represents what is going on in my mind. I was working on the internet asking myself, what is it that I'm thinking about when I am thinking about making art? I knew that my computer monitor was a reflection of my subjectivity and would mirror that reality. The work developed into a self-portrait, but not of my corporeal self but rather a representation of the contemplative process. At the same time that I was working in the studio I was doing a web-film dealing with similar issues. The on-line work, me_me_2006 opens to a grainy picture. Clicking engages sounds, melodies and films. In one frame a voice is trying to tell me something but I'm too busy thinking about other things, and I don't seem to care because I'm being intuitive and so on … and all of these experiences were being translated simultaneously into a painting that, when it was exhibited wouldn't even fit into the gallery so I took a pair of scissors and cut off a piece from the top to make it fit. With the internet piece freely available and the painting adjustable, I realized that my work was less about objects than about lived experience.

In 2006, the Dawson College shooting shook me up considerably. I made the internet work "(Supercolumbine)" immediately after. It is pretty direct and raw but somehow incomplete.

It did however lead me to consider Greek mythology that crystallised into the character of Penthesilia, the Queen of the Amazons. The strength of Greek myth comes from their distinction between reality and illusion. In antiquity gods came from the imagination while farming and fishing were rooted in the reality of the land and the sea. In our present time, this difference was challenged first through photography, then film and now through information technologies. As the network and technology evolves, interaction between the imaginary and concrete is common with demarcations becoming ambiguous. Identity, gender and physical appearance are misleading on a network as there is no way to distinguish a true dialogue from a false, a being from a mythical entity or an authentic voice from an impostor. Illusion is perceived as reality. The metaphor that was Penthesilea is replaced by a representational surrogate like Wonder Woman or Lara Croft and in the process, the meaning of myth is displaced by fashion, entertainment and consumption.

(Penthesilia) is a painting made of fourteen panels, a book, an interactive wiki website and several associated projects. It was accessible on the Internet as I worked on it. I invited people to alter its progress through blog software that recorded comments and revisions as well as a history of the project.

My most recent work in the studio deals with my presence in a world that has changed considerably since 1999. I am aware that I belong to a historical period that was before Facebook and Tumblr. I have none of the experience of the people that I teach. I am working with photographic images, many of them anachronisms that I choose dependent on a particular mood, as if my age and experience somehow allows that sort of discretion. I paint the works very carefully, as if I was printing a four colour separation. I make them very large as to make it difficult to look at them as discrete images. Close up they make more sense because you participate in the experience of making the paintings by examining them for their visual and tactile properties. As my paintings become more recognizable, I proceeed to cover them, to bury them in random layers of paint until the result is a half recognizable, partly obscured image that speaks more of the experience of being in a studio, of coming from a particular historic time when the studio was important, from a time when the computer monitor was still a wonderous thing.




Creation du savoir (2003)
click on image to enlarge






Akhilleus_Penthesileia, 2011