JONATHAN MORSE

original digital

EXHIBIT/208 ARTIST'S STATEMENT

 

QUALIA: individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. “The quale is directly intuited, given, and is not the subject of any possible error because it is purely subjective.” Lewis, Clarence, Mind and World Order (1929).

 

Color. Without processing in our visual cortex there is nothing to it, nothing there. It pleases me to think that materials (ink, paint, pixels) take on their life when we throw them together like clay on the wheel, molding them but leaving them for completion in the mind’s eye of the viewer whose own subjective experience and past completes the work, at least should the viewer care to engage the work as offered. Neuropsychology frames this as “theory of mind”, so just as Duchamp posited and Erik Kandel, Nobel prize-winning neuroscientist confirms, the artwork is not complete until seen by another (or maybe just yourself, its creator). The sound of one hand clapping, or a tree falling in the woods when no one (or someone) is there...

 

Rauschenberg, the earliest influence on my path of hybrid picture-making, said something like: there’s art and there is life, I function between the two... In my recent work florals and palms competing with digital marks stand in for an evolving struggle between our organic selves and the AI/robotic future we are hurtling towards, despite our misgivings but hoping for the best. In a time when everyone is an image-maker, self-publisher and critic, those of us who call ourselves Artists must step up our game and present our best art-selves.

 

We are enmeshed in a world flooded with images; we have all become directors and producers (in the film and video sense of the words), processing incoming information and (re)structuring outgoing information based on our expanding digital skillsets. To understand today’s world requires knowledge of editing techniques that do not remain static, and our re-mastered digital constructions now serve as objective correlatives of our inner experience. To repurpose the oft-spoken movie-making term, we now can fix our lives in post.

 

I welcome and embrace easy-to-use apps and the uncomplaining assistance of simple self-taught Photoshop tools which enable me to be an image-maker in ways I could never have conceived in my toxic-chemical-filled traditional photo-printmaking days. My digital avatars take my hand and guide me through the digital divide. I accept that I am a cyborg artist, man and machine in collaboration just as tools have amplified our mental and physical abilities for millennia. Digital artistry enables a confluence of visual sources and personal influences and mirrors that process of construction and deconstruction through which the past becomes the new, and through which we literally make our mark. It’s just another pencil, taking its rightful place in the continuum of human mark-making.

 

A traditional (sort of) printmaker with early twenty-first century tools, my layers dissolve, transform and republish themselves into a recombinant vision. For me photography has always been a mark-making medium and I weave its spell back into my images, merging, painting, drawing and distilling. My internal visual history enables connections conscious and unconscious, my few Photoshop tools become my iterative friends, but it’s still all about Ink on Paper. The thrilling complexity and beauty of the lithographic wash still vibrates in my retina. The printed image, fixed in time as printmakers have long lovingly labored to produce, confirms and honors the expanding profundity we aspire to find within ourselves.

 

I wrote years ago that For a long time I have not been comfortable “taking” a picture (those seen images of the world around me I can simply remember), preferring to “make” a picture instead...Our lives are collages of textures and impressions, input from here and from there, pastiches of pleasures recalled and pain endured. My current work too is not-so seamlessly cut and pasted, revised and revisited, and drawn upon from all my experience. Our daily lives may seem routine, so how nice it is to find that in our artspace we can paint caves again, or simply howl at the moon. I’ll leave the real world to those other photographers to place their well-worn rectangles upon, for the visions I assemble become truly my own.

 

Solitude is important. When I work I sit down without intention, without thought as to the final form. "Process not product", Nathan Lyons would say at the Visual Studies Workshop. I let the process surprise and inform me and guide me towards a cohesive whole, one which I will only know when I get there. This does not come easily; given the terrible hardships in the world (Yemen, Syria, the border...) I hesitate to use the words “struggle” or “suffer”, but my need to push my own creative boundaries leaves me adrift in a sea of uncertainty as I lurch towards stasis in this working process. Visual creation exists in that meditative space in-between the deliberate and the random. I let one series evolve into the next, staying thematically connected but always trying to improve, experiment and keep moving. While I’m a digital action painter intuitively whirling from step to step and multiple undo’s, handwork is important and there’s barely a pixel I haven’t labored over during my evolutionary image-building process.

 

It’s not technology or technique, just drawing and painting in the only way I know how; drawing hardwires us to the network of the soul. I try to birth the new while honoring the past in the hope that the concretization of the ineffable becomes clearer and deeper as I persist... why make an image that has been seen before?

 

November 2018