12.02.22 - 02.04.22
In Callan Grecia’s exhibition Hyporealism, he alters perceptions of what is ‘real’ (physical, tangible) by meticulously rendering the imaginary and two-dimensional. To say that Grecia’s paintings are anti-real, is not quite accurate… In fact, they pull the very real impacts of a digital reality into hyper-focus. His smooth finish, scale distortion, and flattened pictorial planes mimic the screen of a device; now an extension of the hand. His graphic paintings, enmeshed with internet iconography, act as an interface for understanding the systemic overlap between Neoliberalism and the Techno Age.
Grecia’s intrigue in the flat surface is a generational default. In 2003, when Callan was 12 years old and playing Theme Hospital, LCD computer monitors and flat-panel, slim-profile TVs (the ‘flat screen’) exceeded sales of CRT box televisions. The same year social media outlets MySpace and 4chan opened for public usage, followed by Google and Facebook (2004); Reddit (2005); Twitter (2006); Tumblr (2007); 9GAG (2008); Pinterest and Instagram (2010)… and TikTok (2017) which popularised in 2020 in the midst of global lockdowns. The invention of social platforms perfectly aligned with the rapid advancement of mobile phones, from Nokia’s iconic ‘3310’ (2003) to the invention of iPhone (2007). In 2021, Samsung launched ‘The Frame’, a customisable wooden-framed “TV when it’s on. Art when it’s off” with a gallery of designed visages for you to display, as if paintings on a wall, at home in your TV’s downtime. This creation is as indistinguishable from the digital uptake of NFTs which have permeated ‘the art world’, as Grecia’s style is a response to his view of the world being digitally dominated. His experience of life spans this technological evolution and the cultural, consumerist, socio-economic, and political whirlwind which follows.
“I don’t use texture for the sake of texture,” Grecia explains, particularly when he draws from the web’s visual lexicon as many Post-Internet artists do. “What makes a painting a painting?” He questions. Or, rather, what makes a painting beckoning? What do we want from a painting? Is it, as Viktor Shklovsky claims in Art as Technique, “to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.” The reality is that even the more painterly painting or textile is indirectly influenced by technology; often beginning with the use of a projector or screen for direct tracing or image mapping. A process which is hidden behind materiality and the illusion of physicality: ‘reality’.
As post-internet theorist Artie Vierkant suggests: we are in an age where attention is currency. Grecia’s adaptation of pop culture is a device used to draw us into the image. He invites the viewer to scan these collaged planes for familiar symbols to relate to, some contemporary and others nostalgic. This iconography includes a masked figure resembling fictional serial killer Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th; a cat sculpture with a side profile that conjures the Pokémon Lapras; Henri Matisse’s bold outlines and Picasso’s angular figures in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; Virgil Abloh’s Off White logo; Adidas’ three-stripes; Nike’s tick; and designer Thomas Heatherwick’s Spun stools which function as interactive public sculptures at the entrance of Zeitz MoCAA, repurposed by Grecia as cosmic garb vis-à-vis dadaist Hugo Ball at Cabaret Voltaire.
Of particular interest is Grecia’s returning reference to helio statues. Now classified as a ‘dead meme’ the marble bust of classical antiquity was once a mascot of the Vaporwave a e s t h e t i c; the first of its kind to be made by and for an internet audience. Vaporwave was a future-focused micro-genre made up of glitchy electronic music; 1980’s neon graphic design; and geometric digital art. It emerged in the early 2010s as a satirical response to consumer capitalism and pop culture. Much like Grecia’s practice, it was predicated on nostalgic imagery and populism. The alabaster greco bust has many associations: from being the height of artistic mastery and a main collector’s item for powerful and wealthy European families; to being the symbol of Enlightenment ideals; a propagandist totem of insipid white eurocentricity for the 1936 Olympic Games in Nazi Germany; to a protest symbol for iconoclasm, deformation and transformation. However, much like plaster-cast greco statues in a middle-class garden, the Vaporwave movement quickly edged toward the kitsch not long after it was established as a niche subculture.
As Grecia explains, "there is nothing new [in thinking, in image-making], only conditions affected by a networked way of life.” His repetitive use of symbols in Hyporealism speaks to the ubiquity of imagery in our post-internet reality, where the transferral of images across networks is lead by Neoliberalism: consumption and capitalism.
Text by Lindsey Raymond