Saturday, 13 February 2010

Back Buffer: New Arena Paintings review

For any gallery-goer justifiably wary of safe, cutesy painting, the process behind Julian Oliver’s solo show Back Buffer reveals a welcome hyper-violent, intense application of cyber-theory. The pleasant, seemingly conventional abstract patterns on display in Back Buffer may invite muted contemplation, but the New Arena Paintings’ quiet surfaces each disguise histories of detached violence, lazy afternoons spent in thrall to casual gun-play. Their very existence is owed to his game-based painting system ioq3aPaint, a code related to the popular first-person shoot-em-up Quake. From the millions of permutations generated by a few minutes’ stalking and firing, a dozen-strong selection is re-presented here on the walls of the Hannah Maclure Centre. Traces of fragmentary limbs and cocked weapons haunt the images’ fringes, the spectres of previous lives spent patrolling virtual corridors in search of pleasure and carnage. The double life of these prints is what gives them their peculiar charge, an ironic union of action-painting aesthetic and action-hero combat procedure. The knowledge of the patterns’ origins in a gaming experience lends these textures a spooky second-life authority, revealing the compositions to be a collapsing of virtual space and a subversion of the painterly gesture. The gallery apparently plans to give away a CD containing the full source-code of the project, allowing the audience to create their own series of prints based on Oliver’s model. What might first appear merely as pretty eye candy in fact becomes a project full of intriguing, latent potentialities.

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