The work of Paul Kneale concerns the advent of the digital era, but his artistic explorations are of loftier, more cerebral concepts than representing the mere foibles of 21st Century technology. The landscape of the digital is a key facet of his practice, as he explores the way in which it can be manifested and reimagined in the flesh of the physical object.
Boldly distancing himself from the boundaries of traditional representation the series featured in Studioscape is entitled Post-post-post production. The five works featured are made with cheap, consumer grade scanner-printers; the scan function is used with the lid open and nothing on the bed. What results is a capture of multiple elements of the surrounding environment; the glass, the space above, and the light conditions in Kneale’s studio at the time; daylight, darkness, strip lighting. The image is also affected by the different resolutions of the scan, and their respective exposures times; from a few seconds to maybe half an hour or more. The layering which can be seen in some of the images is a result of this, and also achieved through feeding low grade office supply materials, like printable transparencies, through the print function while the scan is being made. This creates an opaque print from the commercial RGB inks, which can be then fed back through with another scan on top, or they themselves can be scanned. Kneale describes this layering as a ‘time sandwich’. A fast, low resolution scan over a slow high resolution. The image of time which is represented becomes complicated and multiplied. Being cheap scanners, their capacity to deal with such labours is short-lived. Some will wrongly interpret the colours they have just printed, producing wild acid tones and neons. Or the machine will jam while threading the plastic sheet back through again, ripping or even melting it. The actual marks of the physical body of the machine can become visible, in addition to its image-producing disposition. In the final element of production, the computer files are used to print the image into the surface of an archival canvas at a large scale. This material, which is traditionally used for painting, permits and intense depth of colour and detail from the inks used.
Kneale concedes that while the images are records of the environment, there is something more complex in their significance. In the scanner paintings, translations of matter and form are occurring; there is a new hybridity that a language is being developed for. Yet to define the pieces as ‘abstract’ is not wholly accurate in the context of art movements. Kneale describes abstraction as something which has a foundation in the ‘definable’, and then moving away from it into gesture and symbol. Yet in the Post-post-post production series, there is no genesis in the formally representable. The products and parts of technology can be depicted, but the digital has always been an abstract idea; Kneale has succeeded in transforming it into a tangible realm.