Video Painting The First 10 Years

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Lake Baikal 4, Lake Baikal, 2008 Sarah Turner

A Fragment of Still Life, A Jar, 2010 Alys Williams

The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

CONTENTS Foreword Anthony Haden-Guest


Introductory Essay A Short History of Video Painting

Artist and Artworks George Barber Gabrielle Le Bayon Isabelle Inghilleri Sanchita Islam Hilary Lawson Dancing in the Dark, Gone Tomorrow, 2005 Sarah Turner Alys Williams Tina Keane Jasmina Metwaly Gemma Pardo William Raban


p.08 p.09 p.10 p.11 p.12 p.13 Isabelle Inghilleri p.14 p.15 p.16 p.16 p.17 p.17

Essays The Permanent Spectacle and Panoramas of Eventlessness - Natasha Rees


The DNA of a Movement A response to the Open Prize 2010 - Anthony Haden-Guest



Up to top of bluff, Openness, 2005 Hilary Lawson

Introduction Artwork Series

p.26 p.26

The Future Video Painting: The Next 10 Years - Hilary Lawson



The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

FOREWORD Anthony Haden-Guest

I’ll start with an oldie but a goodie. In the early 19th century photography was a hobby of the rich. It was made generally available by Louis Daguerre who took the wraps of the process he had invented in a presentation to the French Academy of Science in 1839. Upon seeing the first daguerreotypes, Paul Delaroche, the formerly famous history painter declared “From today painting is dead.” The reverse was truer. Aldous Huxley, and I quote from long-ago memory, wrote: To paint a picture, others need All Ovid, and the Nicene Creed. Degas succeeds with one tin tub Two buttocks and a pendulous bub The Impressionists and the early Modernists, those giants amongst men, for the most part had given history the old heave-ho, along with religion and myth. That did, however, mean that their pictorial vocabulary was often pretty much restricted to bottles, guitars and the afore-mentioned buttocks and bubs. Photographs would in due course be put to work as a means of hauling the universe back into the studio. Hello, Bob Rauschenberg! Advances in high and low tech have been pumping energy into visual art ever since. I talked about this with Jeffrey Deitch shortly after he opened Deitch Projects in the mid 90s. “I came into the art world 20 years ago at a point where video was the same kind of rage as cybernetics is now,” said Deitch, who would become a dealer almost compulsively open to innovation. “73, 74 was when all of that started.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

“What it all comes down to is that there is a very small number of great artists. And they tend to work in whatever medium can express what they want to communicate. So some of that video was done by people like Bruce Nauman who was also doing great drawings and great sculpture. Vito’s tapes are worshipped by the younger generation of artists.” – Vito Acconci - “Vito is know for many different things other than that. But those are great works. Those are essential elements of recent art history. They are very rough ... very simple ... handmade. They are like home movies.” Well, that conversation was itself a quarter of a century ago and Video is now enshrined, collected and taught but cybernetics still awaits flowering. Why? Well, art thrives on limitations and high tech can be bewilderingly limitless. Which is where Hilary Lawson was both intuitive and analytic. In Closure, a text published twenty years ago, he took the position that the world is open of its nature, and that “we close that openness with thought and language”. He also wrote “The human condition is to find ourselves on the cusp of openness and closure.” Individual artists, of course, have many drives but Lawson’s proposition was and is that a principal one could be defined as choosing openness over closure. With Video Painting, Lawson set himself to achieve this by creating a perfect paradox. The parameters that he came up with to define the form – the subjectless frame, the static camera – necessitate a visual language as self-limiting as Monochrome painting. And as rich, as nuanced and, yes, as limitless. Anthony Haden-Guest


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years



Orange and Grey, 2002 Hilary Lawson

Some art movements begin with a political agenda, others with a technique or style. Video Painting began with a philosophy. In 2001, Hilary Lawson published Closure. It had taken him twelve years to write. It was the culmination of twenty years grappling with what he saw as the impending crisis of postmodernism. In the mid eighties, Hilary Lawson had declared the end of postmodernism with a book called ‘Reflexivity: the post-modern predicament’ in which he argued that postmodernism was trapped in a vicious self-referential circle. In Closure he put forward an alternative. Closure did not offer a return to the safe havens of realism, objectivity and truth. Instead it proposed that the world is open, and we close that openness with thought and language. The human condition is to find ourselves on the cusp of openness and closure, on the boundary of the openness of the world and the closure of thought and language. Art was reinterpreted, and in part defined, as the attempt to avoid closure and approach openness. “What distinguishes art from knowledge is the acceptance of the failure of closure and the avoidance of an attempt to complete closure.” Hilary Lawson, Closure 2001.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

Night Trade, Nomad (Night), 2006 Sanchita Islam

Aside from his philosophical writings, Lawson had also gained a reputation as a documentary film-maker during the late eighties and nineties. In the wake of Closure he came to see these films, and film in general, as exercises in the completion of narrative and set out to create material that would avoid closure and thereby approach openness. He set up his camera and sought a subjectless frame. After a number of failed attempts, he kept the camera static to avoid introducing meaning, and settled on a section of the sky. On completion, despite its seemingly trivial simplicity, he was surprised to realise that in the many years of film-making he had not come across such material. The following day he viewed the material projected onto a large screen and was at once intrigued by the outcome. In the frame were changes of colour and light so complex and subtle that they defied description. The eye travelled over the surface watching and noting detail that would normally go unnoticed. And in that visual journey, different on every viewing, he believed there was indeed some small step out of closure and into being or openness. Over the following year he sought to explore and understand the facets of this new format which he called Video Painting. In particular he tried to identify the characteristics required of video paintings for them to shift the gaze of the viewer from the identification of narrative and closure to the exploration of what he saw as the unlimited potential of visual space. Having identified some ground rules, he then set out to find others who might share his enthusiasm for this new medium. Working with a close friend and artist, Sanchita Islam, a small initial group was formed which also included William Raban, Isabelle Inghillieri, Nina Danino and Tina Keane. The group met regularly and discussed and shared their work.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

Surface Effect, Gone Tomorrow, 2008 Isabelle Inghilleri

Watercolour, Transitory Sites, 2009 Alys Williams

The video painting was defined. The camera is stationary. There can be no subsequent editing or manipulation of the image. There is no dialogue, no sound. In the context of this definition, one is reminded of the long almost static shots of Andy Warhol’s non-narrative films such as Sleep (1963) and Gillian Wearing’s 1997 Turner Prize piece Sixty Minutes Silence which resolutely fixed its frame over an almost still group portrait. The traditional limitation of video art – the looped nature of the work – still posed a challenge. In 2003, working with computer scientist William Sowerbutts, technology was developed to enable video paintings to be combined so that they could form collections of work that never repeated and yet had structure. This technology enabled artists to title each video painting and create a series made up of individual video paintings that could be viewed in ever-changing, yet logical, patterns. In 2006, Open Gallery was formed as a platform for the presentation of work by this group of video artists. The first public installation took place in the UK later in the same year. Exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (2006), Sketch Gallery (2007), the Hayward Gallery (2007), Crunch (2008), Shunt (2009), HowTheLightGetsIn (2009), The Miami Ice Palace (2009), the Square Gallery (2010) and the Hospital Club (2010) have followed.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years Since 2006 a growing number of artists have become involved in the project, exploring the potential of the video painting with differing responses to it: from the half seen, half understood mists of Sarah Turner’s collection ‘Lake Baikal’ to the exploration of the transient relationship between nature and architecture in Alys Williams’ works, to the recurring human presence elegantly explored within Gabrielle Le Bayon’s collections and George Barber’s use of random human intervention in his action paintings. Looking back over the last ten years, it is now possible to see a clear progression from early video paintings. Against the backdrop of a visual world of moving images driven solely by narrative and closure, the early work sought above all to escape those narratives. Gradually elements of narrative were restored. In place of the predominantly naturalistic early work, urban material was introduced and the human subject began to play a larger role. Instead of seeking to escape narrative altogether and immerse the viewer in being, video paintings increasingly proposed narratives only to allow them to be undermined. “The attempt to avoid closure cannot be achieved by simply abandoning closure altogether, but requires the suggestion of closure: the offer of closure that is then denied. If insight alone were the defining characteristic of art it would apply equally to the scientist; what distinguishes the artist is the offer of closure that cannot come to rest and so cannot be completed.” Towards the end of this first decade, the breadth and power of Video Painting has gradually unfurled as artists have come to explore the myriad possibilities afforded by these parsimonious rules that on the face of it place excessive constraint upon the artist and their expression. Discovering afresh that our chains can also be our freedom.

I went back to the store. It was almost half-past three, Lilo, 2010 Gabrielle Le Bayon


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years


Butterfly Print, A Jar, 2010 Alys Williams

#haiku, Remarks on Medan (Tahrir Version), 2011 Jasmina Metwaly

A decade after the original rules of Video Painting were created, Open Gallery is proud to have worked with many talented artists who have chosen to engage with and explore the possibilities of the Video Painting medium. Whilst too numerous to include all of these artists and their works in these pages, there follows below a representative glimpse of the stable of artists that have been drawn to the power of the medium. Although their time working within the medium is various, all have made an important contribution to its development and its ability to help us look at the world afresh.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years



I plan to video a series of actions. The inspiration is perhaps Bruce Nauman’s walking around his studio or trying to cross his studio without touching the ground; a straightforward recording of an artistic ‘act’.

Automotive Action Painting, 2006

Biography George Barber was born in Georgetown, Guyana and studied at St Martins School of Art and The Slade. He has been part of numerous programmes at Tate Modern and had retrospectives at the ICA, New York Film & Video Festival and at La Rochelle Festival, France. Early in his career his compilation “The Greatest Hits Of Scratch Video” became internationally known and a highly influential work. The collection created much interest and was featured in many galleries and festivals across the world. His two contributions to the tape, ‘Absence of Satan’ and ‘ Yes Frank No Smoke’ are still screened regularly and are important in the history of British Video Art. His ‘Automotive Action Painting’ (funded by Film & Video Umbrella) was shown at last year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and he has also had an installation of the work at Tate Britain in 2006. In 2008, he had a show of ‘The Long Commute’ at Jack the Pelican Presents Gallery Brooklyn, New York. He has been written about by Paul Morley and Gareth Evans, the Time Out & Vertigo magazine critic and in March Art Forum by Ed Halter and in Art Monthly by Martin Herbert.


Backyard Hum, 2011 5 video paintings, 01:35:00 Edition of 7

Backyard Hum is the magic of staying where one is. The buzz of just walking down the road or going into one’s own garden. Making the familiar de-familiar is achieved by a series of actions or by selecting the frame but the settings are very familiar and commonplace.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years



My work is about looking at the particular elements of everyday life situations in order to reach some understanding of what makes a universal human experience.

” Conversations on a window pane I, Out of Frame, 2008

Biography Gabrielle Le Bayon is currently undertaking her MA in Photography at the Royal College of art. She has exhibited work both nationally and internationally including: Hotshoe Gallery, London; Pulse Miami, USA; Kino-Dinner’s, La Ménagerie de Verre, Paris; Crunch 2010; Strawberry Field, Souvenir From The Earth, Germany; Open Gallery, London; Vidéoformes, France; Presents, George Polke Gallery, London; Intermix 06, Pavilion Leeds, UK. Most recently, her work has been selected for the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in Nov 2011 and she is about to take up a residency at the School of Visual Arts in New York.


Out of Frame, 2008 12 video paintings, 01:02:49 Edition of 7

Out of Frame suggests a reflexive image of a moment experienced, of a past that they’ve lived, of a place they’ve been. It is the first step in exploring the essence of what makes a universal human experience.


Portraits From The Back, 2009 9 video paintings, 00:56:20 Edition of 7

This series is inspired by the pictorial element in the background of Renaissance portrait paintings. Through the repetition of a visual structure, the emphasis is given to the diversity of environments experienced in the everyday.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years



My interest lies in the dynamic transition between winter and spring. In Norway, nature is exciting and unpredictable. I find these changes challenging whilst also meditative.

Tectonic Music, Gone Tomorrow, 2008

Biography Isabelle Inghilleri undertook her BA(Hons) at Kent Institute of Art and Design and graduated with Masters from the Royal College of Art in 2005. During her time at the RCA Inghilleri returned to painting and has since participated in several solo and group exhibitions in Norway, London and Germany. Much of her work explores how the interaction with nature and animals is based on control and manipulation in constructed habitats. Isabelle Inghilleri lives and works in Oslo.


Gone Tomorrow, 2005 38 video paintings, 00:04:10 Edition of 7

Inghilleri’s deep familiarity with her subject matter enables her to uncover a world of infinite flux that mixes order and chaos. An observation of tiny and delicate changes followed by massive, powerful shifts in the landscape where the only constant is change itself.


Flashdance, 2008

30 video paintings, 03:38:03 Edition of 7

Flashdance depicts Brighton but it is also a non-specific representation of the sea’s edge and the fragility of the land in contrast to the strength of the sea. Underneath the faded veneer of family fun, and beachfront holidays Inghilleri portrays a more geographic history.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years




Light and movement that is not repetitive and varied is a consistent obsession for me.


Bamboo, Nomad (Day), 2007

Biography Sanchita Islam is an artist, writer and film maker. She has exhibited and screened work in London, New York, Paris, Bangladesh, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Frankfurt. She has filmed in New York, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Barcelona and Miami for Open Gallery. Her films and books, which combine text and drawings, have been funded by Arts Council England, BBC and the British Council. Eight years ago, Sanchita Islam founded Pigment Explosion which specializes in international art projects. Artist in Residence at the Whitechapel Gallery (2003-4), Islam was also Artist in Residence at Open Gallery from 2004 - 2008.


Nomad (Night), 2007 15 video paintings, 01:52:08 Edition of 7

Nomad (Night) deals with the passage of time, exciting and exotic but ultimately endless journeys. The works inherit a common mode of expression which disguises the vast differences in culture and location that are apparent on closer inspection.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years




I am trying to find a way to escape narratives and explore the aesthetics of openness. The cusp of narrative closure and openness seems to me to offer the most exciting potential.


Obscured View, Openness, 2005

Biography Hilary Lawson is a philosopher, film-maker and pioneer of video painting. As a philosopher, he is best known for his for his philosophical work Closure (2001). Closure has been described as the first non-realist metaphysics and is an attempt to overcome the crisis of postmodernism, which he first identified in Reflexity: the Postmodern Predicament (1985). One consequence of his theory is that art is reinterpreted as the attempt to avoid closure and approach openness. Video painting developed directly from this aesthetic theory. Hilary Lawson shot the first video paintings in 2002 and defined and led the collective of artists that developed the medium. His work has been shown at the Hayward Gallery, Sketch, Crunch 2010, and the ICA. Hilary Lawson is currently director of the Institute of Art and Ideas, and vice-chair of the Forum for European Philosophy.


Openness, 2005 41 video paintings, 06:35:08 Edition of 7

Openness is an extensive work which explores the hidden openness within the natural world.


Now Revisited Revisited, 2010 6 video paintings, 00:36:00 Edition of 5

Now Revisited Revisited is a video painting series of a five part installation at Shunt Vaults which explores the nature of the present.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years



I am interested in the fragility of experience and our relationship to environment, and the environmental fragility that is produced by our relationship to it.

Lake Baikal 4, Lake Baikal, 2008

Biography Sarah Turner’s work for Open Gallery builds upon her past explorations of the relationships between internal and external realities, focussing on how this relationship is embodied in the natural landscape. Turner graduated from St. Martins School of Art in 1989 with a degree in Fine Art: film, video and photography, and completed her Masters at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. Turner has curated a series of programmes of experimental film from around the world for the National Film Theatre, the Tate Gallery and the Arts Council of England. Her films have toured both nationally and internationally. She also had a retrospective at Montreal’s Image et Nation festival in October 1997. Turner’s first feature, South by Southwest, was commissioned by the BFI and was subsequently bought and developed by Film Four Lab. Ecology is her latest film project, an experimental film that explores the fractured patterns of family relationships. The film is devised through an adaptation of three internal monologues, staging the encounter of image, sound and language. The use of story and the literary devices within are used as a basis to explore a musical grammar through improvisation.


Lake Baikal, 2008 4 video paintings, 00:57:00 Edition of 7

The work focuses on the dramatic impact of the lake meeting the air and shores. This boundary between the astoundingly deep interior of the lake and the exterior landscape may be a clear one scientifically, yet Turner’s work presents it as anything but.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years



I want to explore the richness of architecture, focusing on buildings that through habitation have a voice, which communicates history and memory, both real and imagined.

Room with a sea, Transitory Sites, 2009

Biography Alys Williams is a multimedia artist and curator. Her work investigates the convergence of performance, object and image and questions a duality of a present or absent human subject. Drawing from autobiographical references, with particular concern for the relationship of architecture and the narratives that arise from this, she explores the poetic qualities of the city, domestic spaces and objects whilst interogating the interplay between moving image and memory. The boundary between the built and natural environment is a reoccurring theme. Williams’ work has been exhibited internationally at venues including the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London; The Jerwood Space, London; Shunt Vaults, London; UMAM D&R, Beirut (Lebanon); Art Container, Talinn (Estonia) and PULSE Miami. In 2010, she set up and now runs the contemporary art space Vitrine Gallery. Artist in Residence at Open Gallery from 2009 - 2011.


Transitory Sites, 2009 33 video paintings, 03:02:40 Edition of 7

Transitory Sites explores the boundary between the built and natural environment. The series presents this boundary as a tense and fragile equilibrium between two competing forces encouraging the viewer to consider the ephemerality of the built environment.


A Jar, 2010 23 video paintings, 01:53:28 Edition of 7

Part two of the artist’s enquiry into the boundary between the built and natural environment. The series of works presents this border through a poetic exploration of the window, door and, most pertinently, the hinge.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years


KEANE Biography Tina Keane is an internationally respected artist working in installation, film, video and the digital space. She has shown in galleries and festivals world wide including solo British Council tours of Australia and Japan, the MOMA in New York and the Hayward, Tate, Serpentine and ICA galleries, London. She is a Professor in Fine Art, Film and Video at Central Saint Untitled: Vienna, 2007

Martins College of Art and Design. In the last few years she has shown her work at the Tate Gallery, London, Digital Salon, School of Visual Arts, New York University, New York and Harvard University, Massachusetts. Her work features in the Arts Council collection.


METWALY Biography Jasmina Metwaly was born in Warsaw, Poland. She completed an MA at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, Poland in 2006 and in 2009 completed a Postgraduate Diploma at the Byam Shaw School of Art at Central Saint Martins. She is co-founder of ‘8784 h project’ and XR Gallery in Luboo, Poland. Metwaly’s work has been exhibited international at venues including Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, Egypt (2010); Maktab, Cairo (2010); BWA Wrocław, the 9th Geppert Contest for Polish young painters, Wrocław (2009); Islington Arts Factory, London (2009); Lauderdale House, London (2009); and X-Ray Gallery, Lubon, Poland (2008). Jasmina Metwaly was the winner of The Open Prize 2010 with her video painting ‘Crucification’ (2009). 16


Remarks on Medan (Tahrir Version), 2011 12 video paintings, 00:59:23 Edition of 7

The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years


PARDO Biography Gemma Pardo is a video artist and photographer. She

in the exhibition “Can Art save us?” at the Millennium

lives and works in London. She studied Film and Video

Gallery in Sheffield. She has also exhibited in

at London College of Communication and Fine Art at

Cornerhouse, Manchester; New Art Gallery, Walsall; the

Central Saint Martins. Her video “Congo 1880” was

20th Biennial d’Eivissa, Ibiza; and the Hessel Museum

selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2007

and Angel Orensanz Foundation in New York.

and in 2009 the video “Untitled” was selected for the Latent Talent exhibition, with a touring exhibition in Barcelona, Spain (2010). In 2008, she had her first major commission by Film and Video Umbrella and Nottingham Castle Museum and made ‘Finisterre’, a single-channel video projection. ‘Finisterre’ has been exhibited in a number of locations including Nottingham Castle; Ferens Art Gallery, Hull; Hastings Museum and Art Gallery; and


Around the Shore, 2011 17 video paintings, 01:39:56 Edition of 7


RABAN Biography William Raban has been described as “one of the finest exponents of the genre known as ‘Avant Garde Landscape film.” He has made more than forty films shown widely on television and at film festivals. Senior lecturer in Film at Saint Martin’s School of Art 1976-89, Raban was also Reader in Film at the University of the Arts London.

Fruition, 2005

Major group exhibitions include: Live in your head, Whitechapel Art Gallery 2000, Shoot Shoot Shoot, at Tate Modern 2001 which toured internationally, A Century of Artist’s Film in Britain, Tate Britain, 2003-4, and X-Screen at the Museum of Modern Art, Vienna, 2004.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years



…film constructs very particular spaces: empty spaces or a space whose pieces have no fixed connection.

Gilles Deleuze in conversation with Herve Guibert.

A short essay by Natasha Rees

In the November 2001 edition of Artforum, Alexi Worth, reviewed Wolfgang Staehle’s 2001 (2001) a three part, installation of live web feeds at New York’s Postmaster Gallery. Over the four weeks of the exhibition live video projections were seen of Comberg Monastery near Stuttgart; Fernsehturm, Berlin’s TV tower in Alexanderplatz and a diptych view of lower Manhattan, seen from south Williamsburg, across the East River. During the alleged ‘panorama of eventlessness’ (coined by Worth), Staehle’s footage inadvertently captured the destruction of the twin towers in the heart of New York’s financial district on September 11th, witnessed in real time by Gallery staff and its visitors. What is notable about this work is the fact that it captured the tragedy with a chilling literalness and same regard in which it recorded a crane moving across the sky line of the harbour or a light going off in the television tower, happening upon the spectacular within the commonplace. Like the field recordist who points and records, or the person with the metal detector, one can’t always be certain of what may be captured or revealed. Maybe this is part of the concern that drives the sub-text of non-narrative moving image works such as this, other than mere quantifying or recording of time and place.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

‘I wanted viewers to consider how they experience time... We’re all running around all the time. I wanted to make people feel aware.’ - Wolfgang Staehle - Comburg Part of 2001. The notion that any image can be isolated from narrative structure is of course a moot point. The formative development of language through visual culture is entrenched and sophisticated, and in all its abstractions narrative or narrative fragments, surely persist. Even following the history of landscape painting, through moving image that transfixes upon nature to determine a rolling scenario bereft of any intonation, is debatable. Within the open-endedness of random recording, the eventual capturing of history becomes inevitable…and occasionally, as in the case of Staelhe’s piece, nailing it down. Andy Warhol’s Sleep (1963) and Empire (1964), retrospectively, provide a pivotal porthole through which to gauge an understanding of contemporary, non-narrative moving image. What Warhol applies here is an eye over extremely familiar scenes that render themselves around understandings of form and function – a method that has become ubiquitous in contemporary art practices. Criticised at the time for being ‘anti-cinematic’ what the viewer accesses in Warhol’s films is a sense of time in abstraction (literally in the case of Empire, as it’s slowed down to 16fps) and yet at the same time, the realness of time passing. (Wolfgang Staehle referenced Warhol’s piece with Empire 24/7, another of his live web projections, at net_condition at ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany, 1999). This tradition of open recording or as Warhol put it – “the film (that) makes itself” had a strong presence within other avant-garde film practises, as in Hollis Frampton’s Lemon, (1969) (where the shape of the fruit appears to alter as the (artificial) light source moves around it like a sun); continuing in works like Francis Alys’s Zocalo May 20 (1999), (a fixed view video that sits high above the square in Mexico, surveying its passers by over the course of 12 hours) and Fikrat Atay’s – Rebels of the Dance (2002) (that captures youths performing traditional Turkish dance ‘routines’ next to a cash machine in the foyer of a bank, in his native Batman in Turkey).


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

Adjacently, Tony Conrad produces paintings, (his ongoing Untitled series); where surfaces of unstable paper stocks are covered with photo emulsion and left to yellow and eventually disintegrate over time. These works present a history of the surface (in this case their own), but also of time affecting and altering form, which Conrad equates with the surfaces of time in film. “As Vertov used to say, there are several distinct lives that must be considered together: a life for the film, a life in the film, a life of the film itself etc. In any case an image does not represent some prior reality; it has its own reality.” If an image operates within its own distinct logic as Deleuze states in this citation, then the unfixing of any preconfigured meaning aside from unique surface reality – as with Conrad’s ‘paintings’, suggests that conventional narrative becomes obsolete. However, moving image work can be attested as being an abstraction in the most fundamental sense, and ways of mediating, looking, seeing and analysing through a flattening of surface trajectories and their subsequent abstractions provides yet another complex layer in our understanding of non-narrative language.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

Similarly, if narrative structure is reliant upon ‘event’ (in addition to other formal elements such as sound, editing and a story – albeit in the vaguest sense) what does it become, when there is so called, eventlessness? If we attempt to dismantle the elements of narrative one by one, we are left with a series of unconnected signifiers that register as a documenting, or quantifying form. Further, the absence of sound removes an intrinsic descriptive layer, as we experience sound in a way that images can only refer to, perhaps, and separately sound and image are suggestive elements, but together form a sensorial amalgam that, to some degree, infer meanings and social registers. It can be suggested that due to the prevalence of an increasing panoptic culture, we move through a constant flux of personal and private space from a sublimated sense of being watched and of watching, simultaneously. On this basis how can images – moving or still - be further democratised and concurrently segregated from narrative? Moreover, in 2010, what can it mean to further democratise moving image’s subjectivity? Can the removal of narrative also inadvertently involve removing subjectivity? Can this ever be possible? Maybe time and place are the simple structure that maintain the parameters of a subject, or the understanding of it at the very least, especially as the democratising of images and moving media has become synonymous with the development and subsequent accessibility to new technologies – giving an extra layer of significance to Staehle’s 2001, piece, for example. The act of looking inward remains a mediated and less straightforward concern – a looking out and looking in simultaneously.

“1. Undisturbed state. 2. Disturbance. 3. Struggle. 4. Deadline. 5. Disturbance eliminated.” Matthew Buckingham, Narrative, Vinyl text, 2000.

Natasha Rees July, 2010 References: Two Regimes of madness: Gilles Deleuze, Text and Interviews 1975-1995. Semiotext(e), 2006. Histoires Du Cinema: Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Completed in 1998. Released through Vega Films. Cinema and Modernity: , Polity Press, 1993. Cinema 1: The Movement Image: Gilles Deleuze: Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986. The Undercut Reader Critical Writings on Artists Film and Video. Ed. Nina Danino and Michael Maziere. Wallflower Press (2003)


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years


A RESPONSE TO THE OPEN PRIZE 2010 Contemporary art is, of course, all about liberty, about breaking rules, except that it can also be about making rules, both implicit and explicit. Think of Andre Breton, “The Pope of Surrealism,” excommunicating Salvador Dali with the stinging anagram, “Avida Dollars.” Or Donald Judd policing Minimalism – a term he disliked – issuing Black Spot equivalents to those he didn’t think cut the mustard, like Tony Smith. And you might say that rules are nowhere more likely to play a fruitful part than in the huge, unruly field of the new photography. After all, photographers have been getting their effects from tricksiness and sleight of hand from the very beginning. Eadweard Muybridge, whose time-lapse photo-sequences of a running man, a galloping horse and the like in the 1870s brought a scientific probity to the infant form, was happy to archive one piece of a photograph that pleased him – a shot of, say, the moon - and transferring it from one negative to another. It was to safeguard their collective reputation that news and documentary photographers have, as the phrase cine-verite indicates, always seemed to promise a kind of absolute truth. This was especially the case when the craft was practiced by the secular priesthood of Magnum. Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the founders of that agency, would tape a camera to near-invisibility as he set off on the spoor of the Decisive Moment. If he was spotted snapping, picture-making was over. CarterBresson was so averse to any hint of pictorial dissimulation that he even forswore cropping.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

As a writer I have worked with Magnum photographers from time to time. Their willingness to devote months and years to a project was admirable, sometimes awesome. Don McCullin’s photograph of a thrown grenade sailing unexploded through the air tells you what you need to know about Magnum in general and McCullin particular. And yet, and yet. The shot of the falling Republican soldier taken by another of Magnum’s founders, Robert Capa, has been decisively shown to have been a set-up. So too was Robert Doisneau’s, The Kiss, when a couple sued, claiming to be the lovebirds in the shot, so due a franc or so, and Doisneau produced the contract signed by the actors he had hired for the shoot. Indeed there is a persistent rumour that Cartier-Bresson’s shot of the small boy leaping over a puddle was in fact cropped. But, such lapses aside, Magnum was and is a great enterprise, itself a long Decisive Moment, and 20th century photography would have been lesser without it. Which brings us to the rule-making ambitiousness of Video Painting. The system, which was drawn up less than a decade ago by Hilary Lawson, seem as useful in the deliquescent world of video as Magnum’s principles were in the shadowland of news photography. And the actual rules, which are not dissimilar to those practiced by the moviemakers of the Dogme movement, are simple.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

It’s a time-based form, though no time limits are prescribed. Each shot is a single fixed frame. Each piece is a single take. There is no editing, no montage, indeed no hi- or lo-tech jiggery-pokery whatsoever. What the viewer sees on-screen is just what he or she would see with an eye stuck to the lens. And every piece is shot in real time. So there is no spectral sense of an infinitesimally melting freeze, as in Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho or in Alicia Framis’s piece set in the Van Gogh Museum. It sounds rigorous to the point of limiting expressive possibilities. Right? Indeed, when I had got the rules into my head and before I began looking at the actual pieces I rather imagined that what I would be looking at would be … well, pure video paintings. Like slow-moving Rothkos. Or the faux naturama that confronts the audience at the beginning of Soylent Green. Wrong. I should have had more confidence in my feelings about the way that limitations can focus and strengthen. In fact, there is a remarkable breadth and variety in this short-list. I won’t do a bite-sized bit on each, though, just reference a few that suggest some of the different approaches to which Video Painting lends itself.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

Karolina Raczynska’s dark central image is apparently an asexual orifice. But you take your time, you become sensitized, you pick up on clues - Aha! Lip wrinkles! - as you realize just what it is that you are looking at. Which only strengthens the impact, because the spectacle of a human mouth, opening and closing toothlessly, swimming in and out of focus, is a brave and scary thing. Alexder Bates’s Simmer is apparently an abstract image, a surface, that could be extremely close or immeasurably distant, but which is – as the title indicates - boiling milk, So that piece did come fairly close to the slo-mo Rothkos I had halfexpected, except it was more like an activated Robert Ryman. Then there’s the Marc Atkinson piece which swiftly resolves from an abstraction into a streaming windowpane, looking out on … a window-box? A back-garden? Who knows? But beyond is a streetscape in constantly shifting focus, malformed by glass and water into a kind of a Daliesque melt. Rita Ribas thrusts us into a peopled world. There’s a concrete sandwich of a building, clearly on the seaside, deserted, then ebbing and flowing with people, and even when one knows what to expect from a Video Painting, the ordinary human reaction sets in, which is to decode the comings and goings, to search for the missing story or stories, and this gives the piece the galvanic opacity of mid-career Jean-Luc Godard. And finally Olwen Coughlan’ Acedia – the word used in the Middle Ages to describe boredom so deep that it paralysed the will and threatened the immortal soul – seems to stretch Video Painting’s parameters, threatening the rules a teensy bit by including four vivid and spluttery-coloured video screens. So it’s back to those damned rules. Which somehow make sense in that what might have been just a random show of videos at loose in the art world sprawl somehow achieves a focus, the DNA of a movement. Anthony Haden-Guest, July 2010


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

SERIES Video Paintings are not usually shown individually but as Series. Video Painting Series give the artist the ability to explore and develop a theme. In combination with technology that enables the work to be shown according to rules set by the artist in such a manner that the Series never loops, the medium has the capacity to challenge the notion that video art may be compelling viewing for a single fleeting viewing but too repetitive for a permanent location be it a public space or a private collection. Whilst typically created by individual artists exploring a particular conceptual theme through several video paintings, Series also afford opportunities for artists to work together, and a significant body of work has been created by groups of artists working with the video painting medium. The series described here represent some of the most interesting collaborative series from the first decade of video painting. Traces of Dreams (2007) Traces of Dreams is a five hour collection of thirty five

and reach the summit. These video paintings remind

video paintings shot by Alex Bettler, Isabelle Inghilleri,

us where we are, where we have been, and where we

Sanchita Islam, Hilary Lawson and William Raban.

might venture.

These landscapes were shot between 2003 and 2006. Traces of Dreams is striking in its contrasts, from the Black Mountains of mid Wales, to the stark ice fjords of Norway, the undulating tea plantations of Indonesia and orange groves of Valencia. The land is where we come from and where we return to. It grounds us in where we are and in our limitation. There is a time for the picnic in late summer, a time to huddle in the copse against the wind, a time to fight the elements

Couldron of Jupiter Isabelle Inghilleri

Air (2006) Air 2006 is a five hour collection of thirty two video paintings shot by Hilary Lawson. Isabelle Inghilleri and Sanchita Islam. These skyscapes were amongst the first video paintings. The earliest were shot in 2002. The colour palette ranges from blue and white, to exotic oranges and greys. The sky holds our fantasies, our ideals. It is our source of light, of wonder. In it are found the heavens. Often abstract in character, these video paintings seek to escape the everyday, the practical goal, the immediate task, and instead offer journeys to magical lands that echo our hopes and fears, our reflections and our fantasies. 26

Events Hilary Lawson

The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

The Open Prize (2010) This series contains 14 video paintings by the 10 artists who were shortlisted for The Open Prize 2010. These works were premiered as part of a major exhibition in the Nichols and Clarke Warehouse during July 2010. A judging panel of Ziba Ardalan [Parasol Unit], Marc Valli [Elephant & Magma Books] and Hilary Lawson [Open Gallery] awarded the prize to Jasmina Metwaly, and commended Rita Ribas and Karolina Raczynska.

Crucifiction Jasmina Metwaly

After the exhibition, 20 editions of this diverse short list collection were released for sale by the gallery.

Elements (2007) Elements is a five hour collection of forty one video paintings containing work by Alex Bettler, Isabelle Inghilleri, Sanchita Islam, Hilary Lawson and William Raban. The series was shot between 2004 and 2007. The horizon takes us forward eager to find what lies beyond. It heralds the light over the darkness of the land. Elements plays therefore with light and colour, and change. It is dynamic and upbeat.

Electric Sea Sanchita Islam


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

Underground (2007) Underground is a five hour collection of thirty six video paintings containing work by Alex Bettler, Isabelle Inghilleri, Sanchita Islam and Hilary Lawson. Shot in 2006 and 2007, Underground takes us into the dark. As Milton first identified, Satan has all the best lines. In the dark there is excitement alongside fear, sexuality alongside emptiness. Unsurprisingly perhaps, White Shoes Sanchita Islam

the Underground collection has a large number of urban pieces and these video paintings explore the city labyrinth, its human contents, and their desires. These are combined with darker, more challenging material from the natural world.

Encounter (2007) Encounter is a five hour collection of thirty video paintings containing work by Isabelle Inghilleri, Hilary Lawson and William Raban. The four works shown are examples intended to illustrate the character of the collection. Shot between 2002 and 2006, Encounter explores our own self-awareness and the strangeness and mystery Summer Dream Isabelle Inghilleri

of being alive. The video paintings in this collection are aesthetically striking and carry an emotional serenity. Encounter collection is reflective and philosophical, but, perhaps for this very reason, also strangely romantic, and uplifting.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

Material Change (2006) Material Change was shot by Isabelle Inghilleri, Sanchita Islam and Hilary Lawson between 2004 and 2006. Fire is intensity, but it is also death. It is the bringer of warmth at the cost of destruction. It is ephemeral, momentary, passing, but passionate and life affirming. The video paintings in this collection investigate this paradoxical state, exploring intensity while watching Ash Wall Hilary Lawson

its consuming force, on occasion juxtaposing the fleeting character of fire with the timeless quality of the earth and sea.

Lone Stand Isabelle Inghilleri

Hot frenzy Sanchita Islam


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years


VIDEO PAINTING THE NEXT 10 YEARS Before reaching adulthood the average child has watched more that 15,000 hours of moving images. Half as much again as the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell has argued it takes to master a skill to an international standard be it as a concert pianist or a leading mathematician. As a consequence we are all in some sense masters at interpreting moving images. Yet our mastery has in large part obscured our ability to see what is there, and has covered up what it is to be alive. This is because our interpretations of moving images are for the most part driven by the search for narrative and more generally the search for closure. The meanings we find, and the closures perceptual and linguistic we realise, obscure the infinitely rich complexity of the open space that is the world we inhabit. The twentieth century saw the moving image develop from black and white images occasionally seen by a few to become the dominant means of communication across the globe. This transition involved all of us learning how to close the complexity of moving visual images into things, people, events and narratives. The development of the moving image in the twentieth century is a history of visual short cuts that enable a story to be told. Although we regard the moving images of television film and internet that we watch today as instantly understandable, for those at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries these same images would have been largely incomprehensible without the knowledge of how to read them for narrative closure. Anthropological studies have shown for example that humans who have never before seen photographs are unable to identify themselves or others let alone complex moving images that construct an extended narrative. So it has been that we have learnt over the last hundred years or so to look for conceptual closure, or meaning, in almost all moving images. Budding film directors are taught that no frame should find its way into the final film if it is not essential to the narrative. And it is not just overall narrative we seek, but also perceptual closure in each and every sequence and frame. So we see a moving image as ‘someone crossing the road’, ‘a town at sunset’, ‘a woman driving a car’. On occasion within the filmic tradition the director can tease the audience with a scene they don’t fully understand or an image that is for a second or two left open. We allow also films that are ambiguous or where the narrative is complex and uncertain - more typical in so-called art movies. But we always seek closure, in the form of meaning and narrative and we are almost always successful in our search.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

The search for narrative and closure has changed our visual gaze. We do not look at moving images as we look at clouds crossing a sky, or the sea breaking on a shore, where our eye wanders across the visual field alighting almost randomly on elements. Instead we identify a subject in the frame and place all of our focus here, tracking development, purpose and the manner in which this contributes to an overall narrative. Video painting began as an explicit attempt to seek to shift this learnt visual gaze and encouraged the viewer instead to look at every part of a frame as we do when we appreciate a natural landscape or a painting. If we look at a Vermeer or Rembrandt we look at all the elements in the image, the way the light breaks on the characters or scene, the composition and the tension between elements in the image, the detail in the foreground, or background. There is no incidental detail as such - we take it for granted that every piece of the image is important, considered, chosen. So video painting began by encouraging the viewer to look at all those things we would, in the context of the usual gaze applied to video and film, ignore: the shapes formed by changing light patterns; the development or repetition of movement; the role of different regions of the frame and their relationship to each other‌while at the same time avoiding any narrative that might close and limit the piece. Implicit meanings involved in panning with the camera or cutting between one shot and another make it almost impossible to shift our learnt visual behaviour. Video paintings hold the camera still and involve no edits to encourage the viewer to alter a gaze that has developed to such purpose over so many hours of tuition. The first video paintings, like ‘Orange and Grey’ (2002) also chose abstract natural images so that the very difficulty of finding a closure for the image forced the viewer to look for something other and in the process to find a lost world hidden by our routine closures. The initial video paintings were not therefore simply about avoiding closure or narrative, they were also an attempt to explore openness, the non-linguistic world which we all have access to through our senses, and to find in the everyday unlimited richness. At its outset, with postmodernist and conceptual art dominant this ran counter to the fashion of the time. We are now well into the second decade of the 21st century and it begins to become possible to catch sight of the 20th. Intellectually speaking the 20th century was dominated, in western culture, by concerns with language. It began with attempts to provide a science of language that would enable us to describe the world correctly once and for all. It ended with a recognition of the failure of that attempt. The first period is linked to modernism and the second to postmodernism.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

While postmodernism rightly identified the failures of modernism it left us in a world that was all surface. An attack on objectivity, on the possibility of a correct or final perspective, postmodernism proposed a world of plural perspectives. Initially this was liberating allowing a playful engagement in all the signs and images that surround us. Postmodernism removed all depth, and did so intentionally - ‘There is nothing outside of the text’ being one of its catchphrases. Depth in the context of postmodernism was to be despised. Surface was all there was. Video painting challenges this outlook, by encouraging us to look beyond the immediate surface story, or perceptual closure, and thereby to uncover a universe of content lying in wait. In contrast to postmodernism, video painting demonstrates that almost everything is outside of the text. Video painting is one of the ways we can use to explore the ‘outside of the text’, a space that is open and not closed. And in the process of exploring openness we uncover its limitless character. Video painting may have begun with the aim of abandoning narrative and closure, but it is not possible to exorcise closure altogether. It is always present and necessarily so. For example in the way the artist chooses the frame, the length of the piece, and each of the interpretations that the artist and the viewer bring to the video painting itself. Video painting does not stand in openness, but stands at the edge, on the cusp of openness and closure - a site from which the artist can gesture away from meaning and narrative and towards the limitless potential of that which has yet to be closed. Video painting in its first decade inevitably focussed on the re-introduction of openness into the moving image which a century of film had succeeded in eradicating. The early video paintings tended to focus on the natural world, (Isabelle Inghilleri’s Norwegian series being a fine example), because the urban and constructed world carries with it narratives of culture and society and objects with purpose and meaning, making it harder to see through the veil of closure. While the early video paintings were largely focused on gesturing towards openness, it is the cusp of openness and closure that provides the greatest riches and the history of video painting so far has been the gradual exploration of this cusp. It is where narrative is offered but undermined, where meaning is identified but seen to be partial, that the work carries us to new horizons.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

Inghilleri’s ‘Techtonic Music’ (2005) is extraordinarily rich in its surface changes, patterns and colour shifts formed by ice flows in a melting river. But one of its strengths is that it has an overall shape which like a musical composition moves from stillness to chaos only for stillness to return in a different form. Gabrielle Le Bayon’s ‘Conversations on a window pane I’ (2008) offers us an image of condensation on glass which soon becomes something quite other. Alys Williams ‘Room with a sea’ (2009) from her series Transitory Sites, is literally at the cusp of the created and the natural, as the two become one at the sea’s edge. It seems to me likely that the future of video painting will explore further the reintroduction of elements of closure while at the same time avoiding an overall narrative. This means more construction and more evident intervention by the artist but always in such a manner that an overall narrative is avoided. From 2005 video paintings were titled. There were some disputes amongst the original collective of artists about this because titles evidently introduce conceptual closure of some form and could be seen to impose meaning. But they can also be used to unsettle a familiar viewing not in favour of one alternative but to demonstrate the range of alternative possibilities. The interaction between the title and the video painting provides one space for exploration. Artists and poets have expressed interest in collaboration, combining words and images in an art form that has yet to be created. Following on from titling video paintings, the series enabled artists to place together in an order of their choosing, but not necessarily one that repeats, a number of video paintings. These can be used to explore a theme, a visual approach, an idea, a location, a period of time. In combination with the titling of individual video paintings the series was a significant development. Already artists largely create work as series. There is great potential to develop the medium further. In principle video painting series could be ordered into acts like theatre, or a temporal shape like film, while retaining the essential quality of video painting of uncovering openness through the unsettling quality of the individual video paintings. My own series ‘Now Revisited, Revisited’ (2010) is an example of this direction divided as it is into four acts that explore the momentary present through the experiences of an audience watching itself. There is scope to build on this voyeurism through exploration of the human form and human behaviour. Video painting can uncover the strangeness and the potential of the human body and of the living organism.


The Open Gallery Video Painting: The First 10 Years

Other recent work that suggests possible future directions for video painting: winner of the Open prize 2010, Jasmina Metwaly, shot a series of video paintings in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian people’s revolution. It is observational yet not documentary. It shows the complexity of cultural change but avoids any simplistic narratives. Watching this series you know you are in a specific location with imbued meaning but your eye explores and finds in her remarkable images layers of surprise. Here we have evidence of how video painting can uncover events and cultural change without succumbing to the familiar or the reintroduction of narrative. Another area of development is the deliberate construction of scenes by the artist. This might be through the creation of an event, as with George Barber’s ‘Automotive Action Painting’,(2006) or Mark Maxwell’s ‘Electra’ (2010) electroplating of a crucified Christ. What is clear from the shortlists for the Open Prize 2010 and Open Prize 2011 is the remarkable range and variety of ways in which the medium is developing. If pushed it is my guess that although individual video paintings can be powerful, striking, and original, it is video painting series that will be the motor of future development. Video art has struggled to overcome the problem of the repeat. We can enjoy video art in museums and galleries but few want a looped film on their walls. Video painting series have the potential to overcome this traditional limitation of video art because artists can control the way the video paintings are shown in such a way that the order never repeats and yet the order is not random and remains true to the work. And as projection and screen technology develop, the capacity for these series to be part of public and private space is very great and it seems to be highly likely that in time to come, even possibly by the close of the coming decade, video paintings and series or their descendents will be widespread in our culture. While video painting series have great potential both creatively and in culture as a whole, one difficulty for artists to overcome in their creation is the sheer scale and ambition of the work. Authors of books take it for granted that a book may take years to write. Artists, for the most part, see works as having a shorter gestation. To create a video series is possibly more akin to a book than a single painting. Now of course the market has a place in all this. There needs to be a fluid market in video painting series for artists to commit the time and focus needed to create and develop the new art forms that are possible within the medium. For those of us who are excited by the potential, we can only hope that Open Gallery and ventures of a similar type are able to create a vibrant market for such work that can sustain the growth of the medium and the ambitions of a new generation of artists. Hilary Lawson 34

Dancing in the Dark, Gone Tomorrow, 2005 Isabelle Inghilleri

Up to top of bluff, Openness, 2005 Hilary Lawson ÂŁ4