The shock of the now: Retail space and the road to nowhere
thesisposted on 2023-05-26, 01:40 authored by Campbell, GR
The project is focused on my interpretation of my workaday experience, my attempt to navigate the many layers of the retail space of the supermarket, and the enigmatic landscape of the suburban environment. My premise is that retail and suburban environments can have a dehumanizing effect on the individual. Elements such as alienation and dislocation move beyond their supermarket and suburban associations to permeate my observations. My work is reflective of this process. The paint appears bleached, having a sterile quality reflecting the effect of the supermarket and suburbs on my emotional state. The fluorescent lights of the supermarket and the white concrete of the suburbs reach out and become part of my imagination, sapping colour and forcing me to rethink the relationship between the built environment and my self. During my time as a worker in the retail environment of the supermarket, I began to experience a questioning process that led me to this investigation. Mentally I had to occupy an expressive space in parallel with my workaday experience. This dual existence of working and observation and interpretation of my workplace, helped me to make sense of the issues around alienation and desolation I experienced in the supermarket. The project allowed me to occupy a point of observation. I realised I had an opportunity to maximise my investigation by developing my ideas in an academic context, and voice my experience and outcomes through painting and writing. Through my art I attempt to make sense of environments that I perceive as being in opposition to my sense of humanity. These spaces challenge my ideals around the relationship between human beings and their environment and I therefore see them as an ideal subject to develop my ideas around sense of place. I believe contemporary urban spaces can affect a sense of dislocation from society. The products of many modernist artist and writers such as Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project, John Steinbeck's Hour of Pearl in Cannery Row and George Orwell's utopia under Big Brother in 1984, Albert Camus' The Rebel and John Paul Sartre's Nausea have been inspired by this experience of dislocation. I find parallels to these ideas in the abstract expressionism of Mark Rothko, and the eerie, melancholic environments of Paul Nash and Andrew Wyeth. The social commentary of Richard Hamilton and Andy Warhol anticipate the absurdist turn to postmodernism, which is further filtered through the social positioning of critics such as John Ralston Saul, Christopher Lasch and Paul Virilio and mediated through Jacky Bowring's writing on melancholy. I refer also to the social irony of artist Jeff Koons, selected enigmatic landscapes by Bill Henson and the washed out paintings of Luc Tuymans, Fiona McMonagle and Jon Cattapan. My own work is positioned in this reductionist style to comment on the alienation I have experienced through contemporary consumerism and my transition from passive worker to active observer.
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