BONNY HILL

 

The formal and conceptual concerns that have driven my recent work are quite straight-forward.

My interest is in the connection between painting and photography, and how changes in technology alter and, in turn, shape our understanding of the world and the way in which we make images in general and paintings in particular. I am interested in using the camera as a tool in making a painting where the photograph- rather than the thing depicted- becomes the subject.

Why make paintings if my interest is in photographic images? The paintings are dependant on photography for their existence but would be very different as photographs. Photography, as a medium, would not allow me to make the images as large as I felt they needed to be to have real impact and would limit greatly the surface interest that I enjoy exploring through my work. Each of my solo shows has included the word “surface” in the title, in fact, not so much in reference to the surface of water (Water Series from Surfaces 2006) or the notion that we invite others to examine our “surface/image” through self-publishing (Surface/Image 2008) but to draw attention to the surface of the canvas; to stress the importance of painting being about applying pigment to a flat surface in interesting ways. I enjoy a painting that the viewer both looks through, in a photo-realistic sense and looks at, in terms on examining the formal qualities of the actual paint and how it is applied. The juxtaposition of enjoying the photographic likeness while being constantly pulled back to noticing the non-objective application of the pigment itself is an important aspect of this work.

The Surface/Image series was begun in 2006 through an Artsnb creation grant. My interest in this series is in how changes in technology are dramatically changing the way that people are taking photographs and in the impact of this revolution in photography on portrait painting. Young people, in particular, are snapping hundreds of shots very quickly, at unusual angles, and in different lighting situations, without planning, wherever they happen to be. There is a huge amount of editing; only the most interesting or most expressive of their desired image are saved and posted on self-publishing sites such as Facebook. The resulting photographs are becoming a very important vehicle for self-expression: a modern sort of diary, documenting the growth and development of these young people. The photographic references are from pictures that my high school students have taken of themselves using simple, hand-held digital cameras and the paintings are clearly referenced from photographs, rather than from direct observation. Some are from black and white or colour-enhanced images and may include reflections or shadows of the photographer, out of focus areas or motion blur, clearly defining them as photographic.

I hope my viewers will begin to think about how we create an ‘image’ for ourselves and use it for communication, and for socialization, and how much information a visual image of our ‘surface’ appearance can convey. My interest in questioning what is ‘real’, begun in the Water Series, continues with the Surface/Image portraits. In thinking about the notion of reality versus perception, I’m reminded of hearing of a parent who, upon being told she had a beautiful child said, “You think he is beautiful- you should see his photograph!”

I Don’t Know Anything about Art. I Just Want Something Nice to Hang Over My Sofa to Match My Living Room.

This work attempts to address postmodern issues of elitism, originality, and authenticity in this digital age when consumers buy their art at the same places they buy their groceries and underwear, and to raise these questions with humour, irony, parody, and paradox. The idea for this work came to me when my mom made the statement that has become the title of this show, I Don’t Know Anything about Art. I Just Want Something Nice to Hang Over My Sofa to Match My Living Room. So I started by painting an image of her sofa which I then hung over it and painted a painting of it and so on until the paintings of the paintings got so tiny that I couldn’t see them anymore. The rest of the work grew from there and is all about starting a dialogue about the idea of being a consumer of art.

Postmodern art often reacts against elitist, avant garde art that is accessible to a very small entitled audience and that makes the rest of us feel left out when we don’t ‘get it’. In pieces like This is a painting This is a pillow I wanted the viewer to realize they really are the same thing- some paint on a piece of cloth- so why, then, is the painting all precious and mysterious whole the pillow is just a common object?

In another pairing, two identical canvases proclaim, This is Art and This is craft. The first piece has painted text and the second is embroidered.

Some pieces raises issues about originality and authenticity: in the Real Winners series I put real paint over big box store giclee prints to turn them into ‘real’ art.

The most recent pieces in this series have been made over fabric stretchers and come with a matching pillow, some of which have been created over water resistant fabrics intended to be hung outdoors. Many have the commercial paint colours listed on the back so the consumer can match the paint colours to their space. In fact, customized ‘spin’ paintings made on a pottery wheel are available to be created in commercial house paint colours selected by the consumer.
Instead of trying hard to make art that matters this time, I have really enjoyed making this SCAM- by Shamelessly Creating Art that Matches.

This work was made possible through an ArtsNB creation grant.