In his influential article, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935), cultural critic Walter Benjamin compares the painter to a magician and the filmmaker to a surgeon. He argues that while the painter/magician maintains a distance from their subject, the filmmaker/surgeon dissects their subject to present a new reality. Applying this theory in our current climate of digital imaging, artist Tiffany April creates paintings that layer both methods. She explores the idea that within the digital plane, human, animal, object and natural elements are all essentially the same: that is, they are compositions of shape and colour, and all built on computer code.
As with a digital image, her immersive large-scale paintings merge recognizable figurative and landscape-inspired forms with abstract motifs. Offering wide expanses of space and small areas of detail, April creates competing depths of space and translucent layers through a variety of painting strategies. She explores the idea of constant transformation, a theme that is echoed in the process of digital manipulation. As one shape leads into and overlaps with the other, she erases perceived boundaries between forms, creating a more accurate representation of humans in relation to objects, both animate and inanimate. Further, she views the digital image and its fluidity, as a metaphor for the potential for human growth, change and adaptation in the twenty-first century.
The Surgeon and the Magician is Tiffany April’s University of Ottawa Masters of Fine Arts thesis exhibition.
In partnership with the University of Ottawa, Department of Visual Arts
Stonecroft Foundation Project Gallery 1
Tiffany April: The Surgeon and the Magician, installation view, Ottawa Art Gallery, 2019. Photo: Tiffany April
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