As the pandemic unfolded, our world view shifted from the physical to the virtual. Our loved ones and colleagues were rendered to the maximum degree of pixel density our devices could handle; we became our front-cameras. The tradition of illusion in art shifted into our palms and we were now the illusion; every online image a masterpiece of trompe l’oeil.
Stokes explores the concept of what he calls the ‘virtual gaze’. The screen is his muse: its contents, its surface and its meaning. The works are formal studies into material properties of what comprises a painting or sculpture (for example paint or linen) underscoring them as physical objects and therefore exploring their verisimilitude; their reality versus virtuality. They are not images to scroll past, they are paintings.
The sparseness of the works disrupts a traditional reading of art—and digital images—where subtility of texture and surface become vehicles for meaning. The focus becomes material and works become contemplations on perception and light, a physical experience through the sharing of a unique space and time.
The imperfect stitch and the few visible marks become focal points and exist almost as accidents: their existence linger as question marks, as ontological smudges. Sheer silk in lieu of canvas reveals stretcher bars as subject matter. A primordial rock sits atop a highly manufactured, otherworldly plinth reminiscent of 3D renders. Metal works, susceptible to time and air, physically age with the viewer.
Ironically, but crucially to the ‘virtual gaze’, the JPGs of the works will become the secondary element of the works as the way the works will be largely viewed and remembered, reproduced any number of times. The works will exist in separation from themselves as physical objects. At this point, the works enter Baudrillard’s hyperreality and we see something as elemental as a rock as a simulation.
Available at Sydney Contemporary 2022. Curatorial+Co. Booth A10.