Select work from the Neo Post Factum series 2014-Ongoing
Guy-Vincent (GV) is an artist who is not defined by the materials, techniques, or even the imagery he employs in his art practice, rather, he is interested in the underlying intellectual and emotional mechanisms by which artworks are perceived and understood, and how they operate in the context of contemporary cultural and artistic discourse.
Since his education at the Cleveland Institute of Art (1983) he has investigated a great variety of modes of expression. An experimentalist by nature, GV has explored traditional media such as paint and canvas, concept-based, performative endeavors, as well as moving images, and photography (or rather photographic imagery that is often found, appropriated, and altered).
In addition, GV has worked with sound – both as primary phenomenon and as music, and most recently, he developed a unique writing system for Twitter consisting of pseudo- or proto-symbolic signs – partly appropriated and partly re-invented characters consisting of glyphs, cyphers, and Unicode elements – 140 character designs he calls Symbol Art, which he uses to investigate the implications of mark-making.
In his recent series, Neo Post Factum, GV explores ancestry and family combining two primal elements of human visual communication: the human face, and its relationship to identity. However, the focus is not a personal connection to the people in the photographs, but the question of how images are interpreted both as depictions and as symbols. The images are intended to create filmic non-linear narratives – visual experiences of the past reconfigured, reinterpreted, and re-understood in terms of the present.
These large-scale works on paper and canvas, combine enlargements of family-album-type photographs with other elements including his Symbol Art creating unexpected narratives and raising questions about writing, it’s evolution, structure, and ability to communicate.
The original photos are scanned, manipulated, layered, painted, and drawn upon. This process sometimes appears deliberate and intentional, and at other times ambiguous, even mysterious, prompting a re-examination of the significance of the mark. The question arises: which marks are the result of wear and tear on the source object, which are intentionally contrived, which are hand-drawn or painted, what's been digitally manipulated – and why; but more importantly: how do the marks interact with one-another and the image, and what is the emergent narrative?
GV’s most recent work is stunning in its scale and presence. It combines many of the artist’s long-standing interests and utilizes the full range of his native talents. All of the intellectual and technical nuances notwithstanding however, he amazes with his natural knack for the compelling image. As an artist, GV functions as a unique combination of philosopher, scholar, inventor, virtuoso, magician, and mad scientist. Much can yet be expected of GV’s art practice, but his greatest work of art so far is the artist himself! It is the artist’s persona, charisma, and presence that is ultimately the true work of art.
The works in this exhibition are easy to apprehend visually and they are unassumingly accessible emotionally, but they are challenging to describe, and even more demanding to interpret. With his most recent series Neo Post Factum, GV explores every conceivable mark-making opportunity in the service of multiple, parallel and mutually exclusive concurrent narratives. Each core-image is carefully chosen and each type of mark is an invitation for semiotic analysis. It is almost impossible to look at these images without experiencing the impulse to break down the marks as symptomatic of a mental state or an implied narrative.
La Città (Transcendence), exemplifies his strategy of description by ambiguity. A comprehensive inventory of possible readings is vast. Just to list all of the marks that are open to interpretation is challenging. Central to the work is the face of the boy, rich in sentiment and mood — an absorbed expression of internal awareness. Who is this little boy? What is his story? Why is his image altered and disturbed in this way? Obscuring half of the boy’s face is a symbol of uncertain denotation. It could be a numeral, a code, perhaps a cryptograph. There is the added ambiguity of which layer of the shallow pictorial space this symbol occupies. Then there is the wall – the substrate of the composition – a thousand different marks and textures bleed though to the principal layers of the image: brick, stucco, chipped paint, a prominent brightly painted vertical line, a dark area behind the head of the boy. This last marking could be both a shadow – perhaps the illusion of 3-dimensions – or graffiti, which defines the picture plane by residing directly on it – a reading that flattens the image. Those equality possible conditions seem both incompatible and existing simultaneously. Also, it is unclear if the picture of the boy is affixed to the wall like a photograph or a ‘missing poster,’ – an interesting possible scenario -- or if it is a projection upon the wall, it could be either physical or imagined. Ultimately, the question arises: is any aspect of this image ‘real,’ and does it matter? It seems that the true purpose of the work is to elicit multiple coexistent readings that give the work depth and an oblique, mysterious significance.
MTS (COURAGE AND GHOST), presents a conundrum of a different sort. The explicit scenario – a strangely ambiguous wedding photo showing three people, is heavily overlaid with Symbol Art with a distinctively vertical alignment over the two male figures that flank the bride in the center. The background shows a peculiarly desolate post-industrial mood. Two structures, a blank brick wall on the right, and a porch with an off-vertical column on the left, frame a gap – an interval – occupied by the oddly stern bride with knitted brows. Which of the two men is the groom? White coat or dark? And why does the bride always marry the groom instead of the best man?
NI (TRAVELING EASTWARD), employs one of GV’s favored methods of exploring an image in depth. Repetition with slight but significant variations encourages the mind to explore alternate possibilities. One cannot help but compare the images the way that old-fashioned newspaper cartoon puzzles addictively lead us to examine an image in minute detail – searching for dissimilarities like hidden treasures. In this case, each of the variant repetitions, presents an alternative aspect of the subject, perhaps even an alternative reality. As before in La Città (Transcendence), in this work, we encounter the image of an innocent child. This time a little girl. This time the subject’s left eye is looking directly at us and we detect the trace of a smile. Mysteriously ambiguous, we are reminded of Mona Lisa’s smile, betraying secret awareness or knowledge. The scale of the object is significant in this case. A cherished, personal photo, that could conceivably live in a wallet – what could be more intimate? – is expanded to bill-board-like dimensions, entering the public realm. Suddenly, the image feels exposed and vulnerable. The markings obscuring the right eye read like complex codes reminiscent of Chinese ideograms. The painterly markings in the background and obscuring the face in at least one of the repeated images remind us of defacements (literally un-facing). These marks feel like wounds or scars that put the innocent child into an adult context. The image becomes the ‘inner child’ that exists and is visible to us, as ourselves, looking out as it does at the world with one soft and thoughtful eye. We, not the child in the image, are aware of the vicissitudes of a lifetime that have partially obscured the innocence one senses in this face.
Each of these works in this exhibition is silage for in-depth understanding. None of the ideas presented here are ‘true,’ or ‘real,’ or singularly relevant. The genius of these images is that they are open for discovery, and depth experience – open yourself to these works and you might discover yourself.
Robert Thurmer Curator, Artist, Gallery Director
THE DIGITAL FRONTIER: The Work of Guy-Vincent
Artists are generally early adopters of new technologies. Experimentation is a natural part of the creative process, and like science, questions like “what if...?” are drivers of establishing undiscovered territories. The digital realm is one such frontier, with artists playing around like smart, curious children on a playground.
Shifting the metaphor from playground to pool, those that have dipped into the water range from tentative splashing at the shallow end to the reckless spirits leaping into the fray off the high dive. Without delving into the various technical opportunities that the past 30 or so years have offered artists, I’d like to break it down into two prevailing aspects: the digital printing of existing works, and the use of the digital medium in the creation/dissemination of works.
The aspect of printing images of existing works (like paintings) is not a part of this essay, as that has to do with marketing, whereas I’d like to explore art-making in the digital realm, the actual creation of creative content. To that end, I ask you to consider the practice of Guy-Vincent.
Mark-making has always been at the core of Guy-Vincent’s work, whether graphite or paint on paper/canvas, photo-based images printed on a variety of substrates, gold-leaf or calligraphic symbols, or in recent years, digitally generated text-based patterns. This is in conjunction with representational images such as nature, art historical references, or symbols of humanity. His concepts raise questions about the meaning of visual communication, images and language.
The digital medium was an obvious new tool for Guy-Vincent to dissect and explore. With a fair amount of early works having used photo-based elements, taking those further within the digital realm itself was almost inevitable. The mix of real VS virtual is blurred with the process of scanning, re-photographing, manipulating, and re-printing of actual works, the end result being an object of mixed evolution or definition. A paint splatter on a photograph that occurred in reality, then scanned, manipulated and printed as a new large scale photograph, with added splatters of paint defies both traditional definitions of painting, as well as conventional definitions of digital art.
The online world has opened different sorts of opportunities; most artists use the World Wide Web as a marketing tool to carpet-bomb the networks with their images, with the suspended disbelief of being discovered and valued. Guy-Vincent had different ideas. Instead of simply sharing images of his work, he used the new evolving tools to actually create works. He gravitated towards Twitter, where the Unicode symbols could be reinterpreted, sliced and diced, disassembled and rebuilt into new shapes and patterns, while still conveying the logical construction of writing.
Deconstructed letters, diacritical marks, and symbols from a variety of cultures, serve as paint and canvas from which to construct a new visual language. Created using a laptop or mobile device on Twitter and shared freely, Guy-Vincent became a pioneer in what is referred to as Symbol Art. About this process G-V has stated: “Soon, I was discovering ways to open up the Twitter stream with large unexpected negative spaces, creating graphic glitches, and fusing different languages into each post. As a way to describe what I was doing, I decided to create a Symbol Art hashtag. I felt that this term most accurately depicted these evolving explorations...”
Symbol Art is an examination of the nature of communication, language, and the perception of images, both objective and non-objective. Science has demonstrated that the human species is hard-wired for language, that communication is crucial to the Darwinian success of our genes. Abstract reasoning is dependent on both. We don’t have to be able to read the text of an unfamiliar language to understand that the patterns represent a language. And the less culturally familiar, the more intriguing the formal elements of line, pattern, and shape; we can’t read them, so we consider them aesthetically as abstract marks. Marks that humanity has been making in one form or another for tens of thousands of years. And abstract marks possibly predate representational imagery.
Exploration never stops. The kinetic quality of creating works online prompted Guy-Vincent into additional explorations into film and video. The platform of Vine became a perfect vehicle allowing the instant sharing of short 6 second looping videos. This new media tool provided a superb opportunity to create and share kinetic energy-filled bursts of audio and visual sequences. It also allowed Guy-Vincent to dip into his identity as a musician; though the visual medium is his dominant form of expression, Guy-Vincent has written, composed, and performed music for decades. The Vine videos allowed the visual and audio sensibility to seamlessly merge.
Ever the visceralist, the need to actually physically make marks on a tactile surface material became compelling for Guy-Vincent, especially in combination with virtual mark-making, the intangible and ephemeral contrasted or blended with the visceral, sensual, and physical. Inspired by the digital realm of producing work, he has become increasingly focused on integrating the physicality of painting with the inherently non-physical nature of the digital realm.
This is where printing comes in, the tool of how to make the intangible, tangible. ”...As the Symbol Art progressed, I became more and more interested in combining their ephemeral nature into my two-dimensional artwork.” In some early works, images had been printed on steel, vinyl, PVC, wood panels, Lucite, and of course, paper. A new series needed to be identified and defined as a single concept. Which has led to NEO POST FACTUM. G-V: “Neo Post Factum, my current series combines two primal elements of human visual communication: symbols and identity... In order to represent this identity, I’ve chosen to use family photographs from my Grandmother’s collection as the foundation and starting point of each piece. The focus is not on the personal connections to the imagery, but on how we interpret the images, both as depiction and as metaphors...”
The discovery of old albums, distressed photographs representing the trajectory of generations and the roots of ancestry, compelling images which in and of themselves are symbols, inspired the interaction between time-periods. Intimate 2”x 3” sepia toned photos needed to become monumentally iconic. Old technology incorporating vintage camera-produced photos fill our family memories, while the online world has redefined how we share images – and whom we share them with. Generations past would be utterly dumbfounded by our narcissistic Selfie culture, our addiction to compulsively share images online, where documenting and sharing an experience becomes more important than the experience itself.
Technology changes our sense of self, and our relationship to others in both subtle and obvious ways. We communicate, but differently. Online instant gratification distorts our sense of time; something from yesterday is old. So ironically, images generated by another era digitized and manipulated become current. Artists are really good at finding materials and resources; to that end Guy-Vincent met up with Dameon Guess, an avid art supporter, collector, and partner in a highly successful and innovative printing company, Jakprints. The company provides a vast array of printing, design, and creative services for numerous companies both nationally and internationally. With the ability to print large-scale archival ink-jet prints they’ve expanded their expertise towards the fine art realm. This was the genesis from which a project partnership was born.
Not to go into the depths of how much research and experimentation needed to happen, the interactions of two creative minds, how many meetings were held, how many late night drinks were consumed, how many experimental test-runs were done, because once the rich, immersive process of engagement became manifest, what is left is the outcome. The culmination is an impressive series of works; 12 images 84” x 60” on Somerset archival paper, another 12 similarly sized canvases, and a sub-series of 20” x 20” archival color photographs. Plus several large scale photos, and intimate mixed media gestural canvases.
Other than the 20” x 20” photographs, all of the works are mixed-media, incorporating Unicode symbols of various scales, digital manipulations, calligraphic gestures of splattered paint, graphite marks, and the glossy luster of gold or silver-leaf. The final artworks are highly nuanced, obscuring our perception of digital VS real. Close enough to the works to set off museum warning alarms, it’s difficult to distinguish between what is painted, part of the original photo, digitally created/printed, or hand-drawn. The patterns become a mysterious language, indecipherable, as are the images of ancestors out of time. They all become symbols.
Neo Post Factum translates to New After the fact, the title itself blurring the distinction of time periods and the nature of communication. Old becomes new, images redefine themselves through scale and media, shifting from nostalgic references into new contexts where specific meaning becomes elusive, as does specific identity. Many artists are exploring the possibilities of the digital realm; few explore it with the creative vigor and drive demonstrated by Guy-Vincent’s work.
Philosophically, shouldn’t the materials of an artist work reflect the content of the art? Doesn’t the very nature of new media invite creative explorations into the Digital Frontier? Why work digitally if the ideas being explored have nothing to do with the digital tools themselves? Many artists consider these pivotal questions in an acute awareness that the medium chosen to create an artwork becomes an integral part of the work’s content: the medium is the message. The nature of communication, the human need to connect, both today and with the past, the tools we use to make that connection, are profoundly considered in this important series of works.
Essay by: George Kozmon Artist, Lecturer, Writer
Art Antiques Design