Cheap, fast and disposable, the debris of our everyday lives is transmogrified into something precious and vital
Today, the pace of information exchange is so fast that, sometimes, it's difficult to take anything in at all. The digital media revolution allows us instant access to information, knowledge and understanding. We have all become connoisseurs, curators, commentators and critics; all of us with our finger on the pulse of what's now and what's news. But it's a snapshot, soundbite culture, where names, pictures and messages stream past us in a blur of text and images, pixels and ink. We absorb everything, but end up knowing nothing. For the artist - the writer, the musician, the film maker - a lifetime's work becomes fodder for weekly 'What's Hot and Happening' lifestyle bulletins. Clocked, consumed and referenced, it's left to silently disappear into the vortex of yesterday's news. We've been there, done that, so what's next? It's a dirty, superficial game, but we love it: a devil's pact struck between a monolithic media machine greedy for profit and our insatiable appetite for fashion and the next big thing. We can't stop it, nor do we want to. Let's face it - it's fast, it's frantic and it's fun.
For Peter Saville, the pace of this electronically-mediated revolution sounds a note of personal resonance. A designer and art director whose work has crossed the boundaries of music, fashion and art for over two decades, his creative energy has always been fed by the fast track of the cutting edge. Would this fickle, all-consuming media machine hungry for the next quick fix chew him up and spit him out like so many others? Or would it provide grist to his mill?
Characteristically, Saville has found a route to satisfy his own particular method. Embracing the challenge, he elects to join the fray - not as a lamb to the slaughter - but as an astute observer and skillful manipulator of the art. Drawing on the very essence of the thing, Saville isolates and utilises the key elements to produce work which simultaneously reflects and celebrates the digitally saturated, information-overladed world we live in. He holds up a mirror, not only to the state of the art itself, but the rich complexities of his - and our - relationship with it.
Made of Waste I and II are digital paintings created by Paul Hetherington and Howard Wakefield, feeding digital images through an infinite number of filters in the Photoshop program to create new compositions of colour, shape and light. Borrowing the name from Jane Atfield's recycled plastic sheets, these paintings posit on the same idea of recycling waste objects - although, in this case, it's waste images - to create things of subtle, individual beauty. Cheap, fast and disposable, the debris of our everyday lives is transmogrified into something precious and vital. The process itself is as quick and arbitrary as the production and wholesale consumption of the media it represents, each click of the mouse taking the image on a wild and unpredictable course until it freezes at just the right stage so the final image forms at a precise and carefully-judged moment. Just as the images we see everyday in print or on screen melt into a blur of memory, so the Made of Waste paintings represent work that has disintegrated into fragments of its past life.
Claire Catterall is co-founder of Scarlet Projects and a London-based curator of design exhibitions including Stealing Beauty at the ICA.