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The work of Petra Cortright has materialised at Nahmad project gallery on large bright canvases. Cortright is one of those post internet artists who explores the digital effects on fine art. The exhibition entitled Pale Coil Cold Angel is comprised of paintings, sculptures and a video installation. An ephemeral quality reigns over each piece, incessantly reminding us that we are facing an intermediary transition, the final product being elsewhere.
Prior to creating tangible canvases on gallery walls, the Los Angeles based artist’s work existed in the realm of codes and algorithms also known as the internet. On You Tube, she appeared nonchalantly staring at the screen (VVEBCAM 2007)while random small images streamed around her face.
Since then, she has matured into a new format. She collapses master files with the reality of the world she lives, eats and sleeps in by printing the subject of her art onto real life canvases. The renderings are cleanly polished, large looking anodised aluminium bases where texture rules without embossing the surface.
Cortright is not your usual artist, admitting the ability to work fast and love every second of it. Blowing away the myth of the dying artist, she is not the survivor braving the streets, hungry and depraved. Never touching a paintbrush, she is infuriated by the absence of the copy/paste, undo/redo option found on computer systems. She represents the voice of a generation imbued with screens and digital functions, how could she not be?
When it comes to her pieces, beauty and emotions transpire. The curious means of digital painting marvels and defies tradition simultaneously, proving that the placement of shapes and gradients are at the origin of a dialogue between artist and viewer. Had these landscapes been presented on a screen, would they have had the same impact on people? Would these same people have taken the time to physically visit the gallery?
Without being aggressive, Cortright touches on several interesting issues. The abstract subjects express a poetic world and the reflection of her imagination. The shapes she uses are reworked images saved from the internet printed on large aluminium canvases and outlined by the frames of her choice.
A polyptych thrones in between two Carrara marble sculptures serving the same purpose of describing the brush movement as the paintings but this time in a three-dimensional space. The respect of classicism shines through and the prestige of a material is brought to the fore but evanesces as the swirl created from the brushstroke dominates. It is as if the material were constraining the immensity of the endless possibilities of her art within.
The word painting is recurrent when describing Cortright’s work and often paired with digital. This designation is unfavourable, in my opinion, because it doesn’t lend enough credit to the artist. The landscape of brushstrokes, infinite choice of colours and resources of shapes are expanded on a screen using Photoshop. Such words are therefore too simplistic, implying that the steps prior to the final action of printing are minimal, never to be mentioned again.
Trade in the art market probably revolves around the complexity of a means which is untouchable yet ever so present in today’s world. Until there is a way to mainstream these virtual creations, there is always Cortright and the armada of post internet artists.
Pale Coil Cold Angel: Petra Cortright at Nahmad Projects London (7 June – 20 July 2018)