SUTCLIFFE OPENS NEW COLLECTION SYNCING MATTER AT STUDIO SIXTY SIX
Halifax-based artist Alex Sutcliffe, is a testament to the growing digitization of contemporary art. On Friday, Sept. 16, Sutcliffe presented a collection of works that sync matter — both physical and digital —at Studio Sixty Six on Bank street.
Sutcliffe’s artwork is intriguing, as it meshes digitally produced images with acrylic paint and oils. He manually layers his panels with unique textures and prints digital images on them, blurring the lines between what is created organically by hand and by artificial intelligence. Several paintings from Sutcliffe’s collection scatter varying shapes, as if they were contemporary Matisse cut-outs, but instead of painting with scissors, Sutcliffe is painting with technology.
The Fulcrum asked Sutcliffe what inspired the name Syncing Matter for his exhibition.
“The title is inspired by the fact that the works occupy two different spaces between being made up of physical materials and also [being] constructed digitally,” he said.
Sutcliffe also explains that his work represents “syncing” in the sense of the verb “sinking,” as the physical paint sinks into his canvases and digital matter sinks into our day-to-day lives.
Before the opening exhibition, Sutcliffe leads me to one of his artworks titled “Currents,” to explain his digitally entrenched artistic process. As he motions towards the textured black and red canvas, he explains how he uses deep learning algorithms, particularly a text image generator, in his work.
“So you type in text and then based on that text [the algorithm] tries to create images that it thinks represents that most accurately.”
He explains, “I’d got it to produce hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of images and most of them don’t look good, but then sometimes you get this little magic image that’s got something going on that’s really interesting.”
Sutcliffe’s digital exploration scrutinizes the place of traditional mediums of art such as painting, revered throughout the years due to the old masters. With the emergence of advanced technologies that can produce images instantly, Sutcliffe reflects on the significance of painting in the contemporary world.
“Painting — it was like the original photoshop. It was the original illusionary visual medium that would try to convince people it was something that it was not. But, nowadays, anything can be represented on a digital screen so then where does painting sit? Why is it important now? Why is this image important if you can see any image on a digital screen? I’m trying to use my work to answer that question.”
Sutcliffe’s artwork explores the materiality of digital images. How we experience reality is questioned through his panels as the world increasingly uses technology to generate images, previously produced by hand with paint.
Despite the digital nature of Sutcliffe’s work, Ginny Stovel, the studio’s art consultant, emphasizes the importance of his artwork’s physical presence.
“While Alex’s art is definitely a very digital medium, there’s a lot to be said still about seeing it in person. As you can see there’s so much texture in them and so much three-dimensionality … you don’t really get that sense of depth online that you would in person. It’s really interesting to think about work being created so digitally and then having it have such a material presence.”
Syncing Matter is a unique glimpse into the separation and union between physical spaces and digital matter; it speaks to an evolution in the world’s production of images. As artists continue to explore the boundaries between technology and art, viewers will continue to question the physicality of art and what it represents.
Alex Sutcliffe’s exhibition will be on display at Studio Sixty Six until Oct. 22, 2022. His catalogue can be found here.