A Review of Jonathan Chapline: Material Memory at The Hole, New York
Material Memory, Jonathan Chapline’s first solo exhibition at The Hole in New York, is a neon noir pastiche of Impressionist and Modernist compositions.
Among his array of influences, Chapline looks to the abbreviated still lifes and bathers of Paul Cézanne and the paper cut outs of Henri Matisse’s Blue Nude series. However, Chapline’s works are anything but abbreviated. The artworks are not composed of Impressionist free flowing swathes; rather they consist of sharp angular forms constructed with a precision made possible through 3D rendering software.
Utilizing pixels and paints, Chapline produces his compositions digitally, through a computer program that allows users to place shapes and expand them proportionality into three-dimensional objects on the picture plane. In addition to this, the program has the ability to accurately calculate the way light would interact with and cast shadows on forms from all possible angles selected by the user.
Chapline then uses these renderings as blueprints for his painted panels whereby he tapes off and paints each individual facet with acrylic and flashe, an extremely pigmented vinyl based paint that dries matte and emulates velvet. Despite their digitized aesthetic, between the tactility of the flashe and the uncannily accurate lighting, the compositions bear an eerie realism.
Works such as Image Gallery (Collecting and Transcribing) and Constructed Interior - (Open Concept), glean David Hockney mid-century modern interiors, adorning them with Greek amphora vases and vague silhouetted paintings of the likes of Picasso’s Demoiselles D’Avignon and Piero della Francesca’s Baptism of Christ. The identification of the art historical references can induce a disorientation whereby the viewer confuses deduction with déjà vu.
Chapline’s still lifes and interiors have an absence of life and movement through their stark forms. Yet the furnishings and placement of objects allude to human activity. Meanwhile, the viewer’s vantage point has a voyeuristic and intrusive element calling upon concerns about surveillance states in the digital age. Perhaps it is the notion of the seedy underbelly that comes with neon lights and the nocturnal, maybe the broken bottle on the floor of one work or the drill left on the table of another, like some of Chapline’s art historical references, the nefarious quality of his work is hard to place. The works operate in a flux between the rendering and the real, is it simply a neon noir set, or is the viewer being pulled into a deeper and darker narrative?
The title of the show Material Memory and its conspicuous use of art historical references could be read as a nod to the continuum physics law of “materials with memory.” That is, materials that have hereditary effects or a dependence on the past history of other variables. Chapline’s compositions can be seen in this light. The sculpture Digital Artifact that takes the color and cuts of Henri Matisse’s Blue Nude series to the third dimension is the most overt display of this. Whilst the work’s oxymoronic title reinforces the dichotomy between the digital file and the traditional notion of an artwork or artifact.
In titles and execution, Chapline’s artworks induce a sense of the uncanny where the viewer understands the objects but not the output, an upload-download error if you will. With compositions furnished by art plucked from different periods, and executed with 21st century software and traditional analog techniques, Chapline’s pixel-perfect exhibition operates at the intersection of machine and material.
Written by Isabella Howard, a Contributor to Arteviste