Griffith’s new works form an integral part of his ongoing investigations into the living relationship between man and machine.
The painstakingly rendered suite of 10 drawings aim to evoke the printed-sheen of digital reproduction, building upon Vija Celmin’s notion of ‘redescribing’ the photographic image by hand. The process simultaneously celebrates and denies the human touch, creating an inherent tension between that which is rendered mechanically, digitally or by hand. The overwhelming dominance of the photographic eye in our vision of the digital age fuels my continual return to photographic sources. So much of our visual inspiration, production and even identity is defined online, that it seems natural to me that these sources would form the basis of artistic works in the same way that water-lilies and cathedrals inspired previous generations.
The subjects of the drawings form a kind of map of human and mechanical interaction, from creation to destruction. One one hand they celebrate the potential for an artistic and harmonious approach to our everyday-lives. On the other they reveal the instability of our technological totems and mourn our gradual disconnection from the natural world as we relinquish many of our manual skills. The simple and ancient technologies of the blanket weaver seek to remind us of the important role of manual crafts in harmonising with our environment. It seems to me ironic that the treehouse; sensitive to its surroundings and lovingly constructed by hand, may indeed outlive the modern apartment complex; doomed for demolition by wrecking-ball if not by natural disaster. While some of man’s greatest technological triumphs continue to nosedive and plummet, the now Governor of California will reassure us of salvation, perhaps a few extra bicep-curls will save us? This is not entirely untrue. I feel certain that weather-hardened seafarers of Rope Burns, undoubtedly slept soundly with the hard-earned satisfaction of their labour. So too the many hours spent rendering these subjects have afforded me some of my deepest sleep and most wonderful dreams. The comparatively minute scale of the drawings, are a marked departure from the iconoclastic grandeur of my earlier drawings, rather they seek to capture the attention in a whisper.
Drawing Machine #2 powered by an old wool-spinning wheel, seeks to establish a fresh counterpoint to the pictorial works, encouraging audience participation, inviting everyone to experience the joy of the creative exchange and to contribute to the evolution of a collaborative work. The random oscillations of the primitive machine, resemble the spontaneous, expressive marks of our first childish scribbles. If the hand-rendered drawings resemble mechanically reproduced images, then the mechanical drawing surely resemble human gesture. It is by the virtue of the machine’s ramshackle construction that it achieves its very human qualities, long-lost in super-designed and refined modern machines. The reliance of human-power to operate the machine in turn reminds us of bygone technologies, designed to aid manual production rather than replace it.
Like William-Adolphe Bouguereau, the unlikely hero of The Unpopular Master, I am hesitant to abandon the traditional role of artists as craftspeople, serving a functional role in society. The separation between art and life is even less relevant in the digital age than ever before. Art and the process of creation connects us to our world, our community and allows us to dream dreams, harnessing the creative potential of our everyday choices. By examining the complex relationship between man and machine, I hope to share in the joy of the creative process and celebrate a reconnection to the natural world through making things together. Thankyou for your attendance, and support. I sincerely hope you enjoy the exhibition.
Joseph L Griffiths, 2010.
This Exhibition was made possible with the generous support of the City Of Melbourne – Young Artist’s Grant.