|My art practice over the past decade has been an attempt to answer the question:
What does it mean to be human? This has led me into a number of intriguing areas of research. For example, I've asked: What is the difference between human and machine intelligence? During the process of this investigation, I've explored my own love-hate relationship with technology. And, I've learned to embrace my own fascination with the authenticity of the (human) hand-made mark.
Here are a few of my lines of investigation:
The Uncertainty Series is an ongoing body of work that mimics the ‘track changes’ function in word processing programs. In these works, I reveal the doubts I experience when I'm making art. I give solid form to my meandering and often contradictory thoughts. In doing so, I indicate not only my personal indecision but also my human-ness. To be human is to be uncertain.
An installation of the Uncertainty Series at Mid Pennine Gallery took the form of vinyl works spanning two walls of the gallery.
According to Michael Corris (2), the Uncertainty Series is:
‘the story of authority rebuked, of certainty suspended, of an internal dialogue made manifest in the world . . . In one work, viewers find the sentence: “I don’t often believe my end-result is driven by my original idea.” As they stumble through strike-throughs, lose their way and retrace their steps, a conflicting sentence emerges: “I always have a clear idea that drives my practice.” . . . We read phrases that are, so to speak, false starts. We trip over ourselves, and in so doing rehearse Charnock’s uncertainty.’
It takes time to unravel the competing thoughts. I have ventured into making text paintings partly because time is encoded in the act of painting itself. Moreover, the painted surface complicates and further hinders the process of reading. In the texts of these latest text works, I question my decision to paint; I worry that I’ll fail, that I’ll mislay my thoughts in translating them into words, while stealing myself to state: “I’m sure I can reinforce my idea through the act of painting.”
Together with my earlier text-based works, the Uncertainty Series reflects a long-standing interest in the opacity and indeterminacy of inscribed language. There is, of course, a long tradition of art in language. I was once a practising journalist and I have perhaps naturally gravitated towards this field of practice.
2 Michael Corris, “Rethinking Writing: Anne Charnock and the Art of Language” in Certainty Suspended, Castlefield Gallery Publications. September 2008.
I'm an avid collector of faulty gadgets and I shot a series of eight photographic portraits including Robert and Andrew with a faulty digital camera (before it finally gave up the ghost). This work pushes to the limit the photography movement that opts for simple methodology over technical skill.
To emphasise this extreme approach, I have output the images without enhancement as large high-quality giclées on heavy, matt Somerset paper. They are mounted in high-quality frames to further emphasise my extreme approach to these technically ‘sub-standard’ images.
There is a definite painterly quality in sections of these images when enlarged to full size – due partly to the matt paper and partly to data fragmentation. The works could be considered paintings in a broader reception of that media. Some of the images are clearly portraits though others are more abstract. There is an echo of Thomas Ruff’s Jpeg photographs in these images, though Ruff’s work involves more manipulation. They also bring to my mind Diane Arbus’s question: How much can a photograph really tell you about anyone?
Drawing and Painting
In the Entities Series I present an invented world; a fantasy of science. I have drawn simple, imaginary lifeforms according to a set of self-imposed rules that dictate how each type of entity 'moves' and 'masses'. I attempt to operate as a machine. However, human nature is uncovered in the errors I make in applying the rules, and in the subtle deviations I seduce myself into making. In my failure to act as an automaton, I reveal – and feel – the essential humanness that separates us from machines. As such, the work refers to the uncanny by exploring the boundary between people and machine-based intelligence.
My conceptual painting practice asks the quetstion What is the essence of painting? I attempt to lay bare the essential characteristics of the medium. Much of my painting process is pre-determined, almost machine-like, but I accept that intuitive impulses will also guide my hand. There’s a tension between control, spontaneity and chance, which I happily accept.
In the course of this enquiry, I am finding similarities between the acts of painting and writing. As with the works of abstractionists Bernard Frize and Atsuko Tanaka, my method of working is easy to trace and the viewer becomes an active participant in unpicking my process. In other words, the viewer can ‘read’ my paintings.
I have adopted a simple repertoire of techniques starting with ink flicks or drips; sometimes using gravity to force some movement in the wet ink. However, all my physical gestures are restrained – in deliberate opposition to the exuberance commonly associated with historical, male-dominated, abstract expressionism. And, in handling my paint materials, I exploit minor differences in viscosity, opacity and translucence. In some works, I make hand-made marks in the form of pencil lines and graphite doodles.
The completed paintings are playful and might call to mind the work of Atsuko Tanaka, Ian Davenport and David Reed. The vocabulary of everyday doodling reminds me of Ian Davenport’s description of his own painting (1) as:
'big drips . . . absurd, quite stupid really . . . a journey from a dumb thing to somewhere else.'
Jackson Pollock Revisited, by Anna Moszynska, Contemporary Visual Arts Vol 22.