Aesthetic Autopilot : A Practical Guide for Living
Essay by Clare Peake
Knowing its destination so well, the autopilot mode does not require the continuous attention of its master operator. To function in this mode, the autopilot must hold intimate knowledge of its course and an almost intuitive knowledge to encounter any error or unexpected (but possible) glitch; to predict faults and compensate. In axym’s first solo exhibition Aesthetic Autopilot, we see the artist manipulate his chosen medium in order to achieve an outcome. Good or bad, the outcome, is reached knowing that all its parts were in some ways good to begin with and every painting faux pas can be overcome if only in the mind of the artist through his ability to move forward.
At first we see a body of work that is as a series of semi-uniform paintings made up of similar motifs,materials, forms and scale. It becomes clear that the artist is attempting to rigorously figure something out. The artist presents us with a series of paintings which reflect a particular way of thinking about the conventions of painting, a figuring-out-why it works like this and not like that, of why we like this and not that. He asks what happens when we take an image of something and translate it into another medium or form, what conventions we adhere to as both the viewer and the artist.
The artist has rigorously worked and reworked his subject to the point where it bears no resemblance to its source; its origins are of little relevance to us now. The imagery; classic holiday snaps, a canal in Venice, a generic beach scene, become a means to an end, disconnected from any theoretical or historical meanings they may conjure up. The imagery is simply used in a practical sense as a composition from which the artists’ investigations are based. It is a means to investigate the transition of the image into the artist’s chosen materials in a purely stylistic way.
In a similar way the artist uses a pseudonym. It is made up from references to things only significant to axym himself making the artists signature or mark become purely a design feature, a sellable collectable logo of sorts. Likewise the artists use of preloved recycled canvasses, gifts from a friend, is a practical choice necessary to get the job done. These choices become tactics employed by the artist to reinforce his question; in what ways are things meaningful once they have become removed from the context in which they sprung?
Herein lies the merit of the work for me, we could criticize the choices made by the artist as empty gestures, however these gestures become the mechanisms employed by the artist to bring into question exactly what authenticates or substantiates a painting. Axym’s work is less concerned with the reproduction of an image, but with how the artist’s hand can interpret and manipulate an image, how a particular medium, in this case paint, can affect an image during the transition between mediums, and also how this affects the viewers’ engagement with each work.
So how do we find meaning in this work?
The artist’s rigorous work ethic, his mind numbing nine to five application of paint, is evident in the repetition and rhythm of the works. Axym adopts a sort of ritualization and autopilot methodology to his work which mimics the way the viewer interacts with the work. Lead by the artist’s hand we too kick into autopilot, making leaps between works, mentally filling in gaps and taking an intuitive journey across the works. We tune in in particular ways to understand the work through a mutual understanding of a shared language and history. We are unsure of how we got there and how we made sense of the work, but we did. Both artist and viewer operate through a system which relies on somethings being mutually understood. As axym’s work points out, sometimes we’re not sure of the origins of this system and how we ended up where we did... but he asks us does it really matter?