From the mountaintop

  • Interview: Hiroshi Kobayashi

    Paper Mountain - June 19, 2018

    This is an exerpt from an interview with RTRFM 92.1 on 25 May 2018.

    What kind of ‘techniques’ you are using for your ‘painting practice’?

    All images in my paintings are basically manipulated first on the computer using software, like Illustrator, Photoshop, or, more recently, 3D software and using a 3D scanning technique called photogrammetry. It’s still experimental for me but, Photogrammetry digitally generates 3D image from hundred of photos taken from 360 degrees around the subject.

    This process is based on the concept of duplication of photographic image like photo realism, which is my previous style, but I transfer the images on the canvas in a more mechanical way, using masking sheets that are cut by a cutting machine called a plotter, and a self made squeegee device, and recently an electric dosing controller called a dispenser, through which a syringe feeds acrylic paint continuously onto the canvas.

    I suppose my paintings are kind of assisted-readymade, which is the term that Marcel Duchamp once said ‘all art works are in a way assisted-readymade’, but I also think a positive side of medium of paintings, because it could be records or traces of production process, and they reflect the time and movement—although I prefer the term duration— in the process of making; and through this aspect of time, the work can become slightly different from the original digitised image.

    All the preparation of devices and processes are for making this ‘slight difference’ between the digitised image and the resulting painting. It is more important for me to create this subtle difference, than to create so-called shock value, and that’s why I used the title of ‘Thin gas is in a pit’ which is an anagram of ‘this is a painting’.

    You have exhibited in Asia, Europe and in the United States; how do you think art differs in Australia, particularly in Perth?

    I feel that we, artists, share the same basic knowledge about art history, art theory and also strategy to survive as an artist, thanks to the modern academic system and easier access to information. Partly because of that, there are diverse styles that coexist in different countries, but have similarities. But the emphasis could be different. In Japan, I might have been influenced by a style of labour-intensive representational paintings. In Perth, in my eyes, there are preferences toward geometric abstraction and formalism in paintings. And also there is a straightforward use of industrial materials for art making. It seems to me those are reinterpretations of 60’s art, but in a way, they are different from the condition of culture and visual art in Japan, and also have affected my work, changing it recently in a positive way.

    How did you become interested in working with, and pushing the boundaries of grids? 

    The idea of grids was foregrounded by formalistic analysis towards the flat surface of painting. It defines painting as an object rather than an illusion of depth, and the grids are said to be a reduction of a painting’s quality. But in my personal view, the focus on the flatness of painting is derived mainly from the phenomenological aspect of photography and strongly associated with industrial products. So I see the grids as a sort of readymade to assist, and I could play with them to create even the illusion of depth of a 3D image that once was totally removed from formalist paintings.

    This work represents a change in direction for you. Can you tell us a bit about how this change came about?

    After moving to Perth and working in residencies, as I said, I have been directly or indirectly influenced by the condition of visual modes here, and the major change is, I think, is the positive use of technology or devices, which were less visible in my previous representational paintings. One of the reasons for the change is because when there was an open studio at the residency in Fremantle, people reacted more curiously to my devices rather than what is represented in painting. I thought this reaction or inquisitiveness toward technology seemed natural, and it could be a universal sense when experiencing art work in this digitally-connected environment.

    But still, while I use electric devices in my process, I personally see many possibilities in manual paintings from the movements of early 20th modernism; like the concept of time in Cubism. When you talk about representing time, it sounds it could be more suitable for time-based media like video or movie, but I feel the time represented in painting is not an linear extension of frames, but rather a crystallisation of duration, and it’s much closer to the conception of time within human perception. That must be the main reason I still work in painting.

    Hiroshi Kobayashi’s show Thin gas is in a pit (This is a painting) exhibited at Paper Mountain from 18 – 30 May 2018.

    Paper Mountain
  • Interview: Robyn Bernadt – Paper Trails

    Paper Mountain - April 11, 2018

    In Paper Trails, Robyn Bernadt explores death, immortality, and the realities of our vanishing planet through recycled materials, design, and formal art making. We talked with Robyn about her art practice and the background for Paper Trails.

    Your art seems more gently persuasive in its politics than confrontational. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    The themes in my work are very confronting, but I try to present them as inoffensively as possible. I have always been conscious of playing with the edge of taste and distaste. I have learnt that you can conceal the most unpalatable subject matter through the use of design, formal art making and a bit of cheeky humour. So the works are beautiful and intimate, but there is an underlying sense of dread, and I enjoy this clash of sensibilities.

    Have you had defining moments that have compelled you to create environmentally concerned art? And if so, what were they?

    I have always had an environmental conscience, but I have only recently started exploring it in my artwork. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the garden, I was very interested in permaculture, and I went camping in the forest down south every summer. So I have always felt a strong connection to nature. I am deeply saddened by the current crisis the planet is facing because it is caused almost entirely by us: humans.  

    Have you always used recycled items or found objects in your work?

    I started painting on cardboard and scrap metal when I was at university, but I didn’t understand their potential as a material. When I left university, I didn’t have a proper art studio, so I started making postcard size collages from bits of found paper and pictures from second-hand books. Later I was still using found images from books and magazines when I began experimenting with pop-up techniques and structural packaging design. It wasn’t until more recently, working on the final series of works for my previous exhibition, that I started using recycled household packaging again. I’m drawn to recycled materials for a number of reasons. Obviously, they have less impact on the environment, but what really interests me is that they already have an identity that gives a direction for exploration and narrative.

    You said this is your fifth solo exhibition. Has there been a common thread in your work, or does this exhibition represent a significant break from your previous art?

    Although there is a similar thread that runs through all of my work I have noticed a shift in direction in the last two exhibitions. I have always been interested in subject matter that makes me slightly uncomfortable. My earlier works explored themes of sex and gender politics, as I have gotten older I have been instinctively drawn to contemplate the opposite: death and immortality. So this is the difference. But I have always masked the lurking unease within my subject matter through the use of design and formal art-making.

    The series Weeds seems to relay a sense of hopefulness. Is this intentional? When commenting on environmental issues within the current climate is hope a sensation you wish to incorporate in your work?

    I agree Weeds is the most hopeful series in this body of work. The term weed is applied to any plant that grows or reproduces aggressively, or is invasive outside its native habitat. The works in this series draw a connection between the ubiquitous nature of weeds and discarded household packaging. By definition, a weed is a valueless plant growing wild, but in this series, they rise as a symbol of renewal and transformation. Although much of the work in this exhibition is an observation of a planet on the brink of extinction, the Weeds series seems to offer a solution. There is hope if we start to value our natural environment. There is hope if we can significantly adjust the way we conduct our lives, and start valuing all our resources.

    Your series Nets is stuck directly to the gallery wall, meaning each work is exhibited as a once-off event. What was the decision-making behind choosing to exhibit the work in this way?

    I originally began working on the Nets as an idea for the Lightbox Laneway Gallery in Leederville. I liked the idea of exhibiting the Nets as lightboxes in a retail space. On completing the first net, I realised that the ephemeral nature of the advertising material is integral to the work’s identity and conception. The Nets perceived aesthetic value increases because it exists for a temporary period. This would be lost in a lightbox. Knowing I could still explore the lightbox idea in the future, I decided to exhibit the original works as a one-off event at Paper Mountain.

    Paper Trails exhibits 14 – 29 April 2018 at Paper Mountain. Opening Friday 13 April at 6pm.

    Paper Mountain
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