The intensely worked surfaces of André Hemer's work exploring the bounds of materiality and appearances- they magnificently explore the transactions and transformations occurring between digital imagery and traditional painting. In conjunction with his Deep Surfacing (Illuminated) series being shown at our Summer Group Exhibition: Looking For U, we sat down and spoke to André, who illuminated us about his process, influences, and how he is adapting abstraction to a post-internet age.
UL: Having received your artistic training in Australia and New Zealand, do you see your creative development and conceptual process as intertwined with your geography?
AH: As an art student in New Zealand or Australia there was an inescapable geographical distance at play to the main art discourses — the most obvious problem is not being able to physically experience many of the works that made up ones awareness of both historical and contemporary art, and instead viewing them with the distance of time as reproductions in art books; or as the Internet became more of a driver of information, through s****y reproductions found online. But to turn this into something positive — I would suggest that’s why you see so many artists from that part of the world working with digital narratives, because in a sense it’s dealing with the same kind of experiential dislocation to physicality that the Internet and certain digital interfaces have promoted.
UL: As an artist, what do you think people’s biggest misconception of you is, and why?
AH: I think that painting can be misconstrued as being this aesthetic endeavour (and if you were to only look at platforms like Instagram you would understand why). But far more fundamental to myself and many of the other artists that I know working in related ways is the objecthood of painting — finding ways to navigate the relationships between image and object in a time where those forms can literally be transacted for one another through digital means. There’s a complexity in dealing with forms of media — and the ideas that spring from that can be represented through a whole range of practices, painting included.
UL: You have previously stated that ‘all art in some way acts a record of cultural and personal experience.’ Have there been any fundamental or ground-breaking experiences, both culturally or personally, that have particularly impacted your work?
AH: Art reflects a time and place of its making, while at the same time being informed through the personal viewpoint and esoteric experiences of the artist — an important one occurred during a residency at the Villa Lena Foundation in Tuscany back in 2015. During that two-month stay I really pushed a way to incorporate a greater sense of naturalism in the work by thinking through the ways in which light was such an important driver of landscape traditions. I would spend the afternoons sitting outside the studio next to a row of olive trees just scanning the sky for hours — the way that light altered the images was really profound, and searching out those peculiarities of place has been a big driver in my practice ever since.
UL: Does spontaneity play a role in your process, and if so, to what extent do you change your mind or act on impulse while you create, as opposed to pre-planning your method and finalising the desired result from the outset?
AH: The closer to a painting gets to its finished state the more improvisation occurs. There’s a lot of painterly-ness and gesture that I let into the work just prior to the final masking coming off, and there’s always an unpredictability to how those things are going to work. All my work is this mash-up of versions of form—and so I never fully know how those different materialities and gesture are going to play off each other.
"There is no doubt that from the macro viewpoint one of the largest common changes to culture has come from the proliferation (and then defaulting) towards the use of the digital interface."
UL: Seriality is strong theme in your works, and there are distinct groupings in their aesthetic and how they are titled. How do you decide how many works belong in the same series, and do you produce them simultaneously?
AH: Yes, I always prefer to work a body of paintings that are linked through the three-dimensional paint being scanned, and day in which the scans are taken. The chosen images that lead to paintings are linked through the specific light conditions of the place that they are scanned— and the way in which the sky and light conditions interact with the painted objects. All the works are produced simultaneously so I can go work back and forth between paintings — in this sense I treat the whole body of work as an idea that I’m trying to work through together.
UL: What does the term ‘post-internet’ mean to you?
AH: Post-internet describes a moment at which the Internet became an inescapable influence upon artistic production. As a term now it doesn’t mean much other than to exist as a historical marker of that change. Now it feels mundane to label anything as Post-Internet because essentially all art is now affected by that context. I’ve often chosen to use the term ‘new representation’ to describe the commonality of experience that the Internet and digital technologies have provided. Essentially the way in which we see and experience things in the world has changed, and therefore our representation of them has also.
UL: What is your relationship to the abstract tradition?
AH: I have a really long appreciation of certain legacies in abstraction — there’s painters such as Motherwell, Grosse, Guyton, whom I think contributed important inflection points in the history of abstraction. At the same time, in my own practice I don’t see a differentiation between abstraction and other modes. My paintings are representations of image and materiality — some parts naturalistic, some parts created in the studio, and some parts that show the traces of the digital transactions undertaken.
UL: Many people’s experience of art is viewing it online from a screen, remote from the physical object. Do you think this digitally mediated experience significantly impacts the reception of your work, either in a positive or a negative way?
AH: Viewing something through a screen is all about the presumption of surface and material — so I try to play with that in the works to a certain degree. However I don’t really think that it’s important to care about how people view the works documented in a digital format —what’s still integral is that the works still exist as objects in the real world that you need to walk around and encounter. I think that there’s probably a sub-section of the Instagram community that probably sees the digital proxy as the primary form painting these days (which is fine), but unless you experience the work first-hand you’re probably missing out on what makes a painting truly interesting.
UL: Tell us more about your future plans. What will you be doing in 2019?
AH: Next up is a group show curated by Paul Efstathiou at Hollis Taggart Galleries in New York opening in October. Beyond that I’m excited about working on some large scale works for Art021 in Shanghai in November, and then a solo show with my New Zealand dealer Gow Langsford Gallery later that same month.