Review by Laura E. Barone, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond the American International University in London.
The space at Tenderpixel has been filled by artist/curator Lisa Slominski with emotion – more specifically, with emoticons. Slominski’s solo show, It’s gonna work out fine gives a promise of sincerity and depth to otherwise trite symbols from the instant messaging and texting sphere of what passes as contemporary forms of communication. Pookie is the largest piece, running from the top of the wall and continuing onto the floor, and is the focal point of the show. Made of 100 laser cut Perspex symbols, the installation draws from the keyboard for its forms, creating patterns made up of semi-colons, parenthesis, zeros, and bullet points. When there is no more space on the wall, the pattern continues onto the floor until it is complete, as if it has encountered an angled page break.
The Perspex, or acrylic glass, that makes up Pookie gives the piece a hard-edged, mechanical feel. This sense of solidity is drastically different from that of Henri Matisse’s nature and jazz-inspired coloured paper cut-outs that fill walls in a comparable way. Even when screen printed on paper with backgrounds of land and sea, and framed, as Pookie’s six counterparts are, there is still something regimented and motorized about the patterns. Slominski references Victorian period velvet wallpaper as a source of inspiration, and there is a definite allusion to these tactile, decorative patterns in this work. The key difference, however, is that Slominski’s work is clearly of the 21st century; referencing a detached computer age. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a sense of wonder and fantasy. The repetition of signs and symbols is almost prayer-like and meditative, but, again, undeniably rooted in present issues; a recognition of the ways in which humans have detached themselves from natural material and from face-to-face communication.
The sort of apprehension that the Pookie cause is deftly connected with the forms used, the emoticons. Flooding our everyday lives, these symbols of winking smiley faces or decisively frowning ones have become instant substitutes for genuine communication that involves talking, listening, and reading the wide range of human facial expressions that simply cannot be conveyed through the swipe of a few keys. While the kind of fantastical, retro patterning on the wall and on paper can almost evoke a sort of psychedelic experience, seeing the combination of colon and parenthesis to make the clichéd smiley face halts such thoughts of profundity.
The emoticons have a way of making viewers pause, maybe even making them feel cynical, as if they are going to be tricked, faked or slighted with something superficial. But I think that calculated distance is part of the point. We cannot fully engage with this work on an aesthetic or even emotional level because the emotions presented are computer-generated substitutes from a cyber world we are apprehensive about moving forward with. It’s as if we are not looking at the ‘real thing’ that Slominski wants to present viewers with because rather than shapes and color, emoticons and ready-made material cover the wall, expressing emotion in a way that is so familiar, it’s uncomfortable. It’s gonna work out fine is a fascinating exploration of the meditative and seductive attributes of decoration through material and installation. Presenting a stark narrative on the limitations of texting, e-mailing and our ability to experience genuine feeling through these means, Slominski disrupts commonplace representations of the physical, cyber and sacred space within which we all conduct our lives.
Lisa Slominski’s It’s gonna work out fine continues until 30 April at Tenderpixel. See www.tenderpixel.com for more information.
Image: Pookie (2011) Courtesy the artist and Tenderpixel