THE BLACKMAIL, APRIL 2011
Last year, Mary MacDougall wrote a letter to some friends participating in a show (titled ‘Friends’) at TBC Art Inc in Melbourne.
“When artists… look for repetition and contrast in their search for satisfying visual equations, they often create their own rules of logic,” she told them. “The array of information they examine to test these rules spans images, objects, living things and spaces — everything.”
When she is not painting and, also, when she’s painting, Mary tries to conceive of the Internet. She does this by collecting images of an appealing subject – Jack Nicholson, Silvio Berlusconi, people with termite mounds – which then form an archive that she draws from in her work. It is an almost scientific approach, to make sense of an expanse of information by grouping and representing one’s findings.
If it is possible for the Internet to ‘concede,’ Mary shows us how that might look. She takes images that, although technically ‘real’ in the sense that they exist, are abstract and baseless in their online state. She bends them according to the private rhythm of her paints and tiles and glass, making them real in the true sense by giving them life.
Mary’s archive and artwork stand as proof that, within the nonsensical a-morph of Web 2.0, there is not just personal logic but creative possibility to be found.
Can you tell me what you’re working on at the moment? I know you were big into Julian Assange/Wikileaks a while ago.
At the moment I’m working on lots of different drawings and paintings on tiles, glass and board. I take a lot of images from the Internet and try to thoughtfully transform them. I’ve been keeping a picture archive of images from the news called Picture Mound. I hope to make some work from it soon.
I am thinking of painting Silvio Berlusconi. I like that he is widely recognizable, despite frequently altering his face, and there are some very theatrical photographs of him in parliament anxiously watching the votes of no-confidence tally up against him.
I don’t have any plans to do paintings of Julian Assange. I was working in an office over summer so I had a lot of time to read about the various positions and responses to Wikileaks. I had wikifever for a while, just thinking about how information can now be extracted and distributed so quickly and to so many people.
How do you feel that the Internet fits in with the process of making images in art?
I’ve been wondering how the Internet might be represented visually for a while. Lately I’ve been thinking about the ways it is similar to the ocean and about the proliferation of celebrities floating around on there. I did a Google search for ‘actor in the ocean’ the other day and found some amazing paparazzi photos of Jack Nicholson floating way out in the sea while smoking a cigarette. They were the pictures I was looking for and I didn’t even know it!
I’ve also wondered if [the Internet] could be portrayed as a mound, so I searched for ‘mounds’ and found lots of amateur snapshots of people with termite mounds. There were so many I made an archive. Internet archives are pretty great. A lot of pictures don’t get transformed into photographic objects anymore. They just live a sort of disembodied existence on the Internet. It’s good to house them on a blog.