The Mirror of the Machine

John Holland

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Vivid Cool, 2018
Acrylic and plexiglass on panel
40" x 30"

ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present John Holland's first solo exhibition, The Mirror of the Machine, in the gallery's Project Space. The exhibition runs from Friday, March 2 to Saturday, March 31, 2018 with a public opening on Friday, March 2 at 7:00 p.m.

Last year, an article about Canadians' Internet usage published in the Globe and Mail revealed that, in 2017, we spend an average of 24.5 hours a week online. Those between the ages of 18 to 34 spend the most - 34 hours a week, or just under five hours per day. (Such results pale in comparison to Americans' usage - a recent Nielsen survey reported that they average over 10 hours a day.) 

In her prescient books The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (1984) and Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (1995), Sherry Turkle, a professor of technology and social science at MIT, examines how computers have changed our relationship to the world, other people and even ourselves. "There is a phrase in Life on the Screen - 'the mirror in the machine' - that suggests how computers reflect ourselves back at us," says John Holland, whose paintings draw inspiration from Turkle's writings. "But, things have evolved significantly since that book was written. Social media has given us the ability to program our own reflections. Our real lives are material for our online lives; we can now filter our social media feeds to reflect only what we want - and what we want others - to see." 

Holland's paintings return the fleeting immateriality of the digital realm to the world of objects. The paintings originate with photographs, taken by the artist, of a person with their social media feeds projected onto them. He then makes a composite image made up of those photos, upon which he then paints. While the paint is still wet, Holland sandwiches the painting between layers of Plexi and mirror, which renders the person in the portrait unrecognizable. The suggestion is that we can never truly know someone if our only interaction with them is through social media. "It's a process of taking the digital and making it physical," Holland explains. "This, I hope, will allow for a more self-aware conversation about the online construction of identity." 

Critics deride social media for contributing to feelings of anxiety and depression, and for preventing us from engaging in meaningful social interactions; however, the artist, whose generation never knew a world without home computers, isn't as proscriptive. "I'm not saying that our use of social media is good or bad, Holland explains. "But I do think, while it's fun to filter, it's more important to live authentically." 

- Bill Clarke

Toronto-based John Holland received his BFA from OCADU in 2017, and was the recipient of the John Maddott Fine Art Award. His work was featured by OCADU during Art Toronto 2017, as well as Angell Gallery's group exhibition, The Anxious Body and the Gladstone Hotel's Why the &%#! Do You Paint?, last fall. 

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John Holland
Reyes, 2018
Acrylic and Plexiglass on panel
48" x 36"
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John Holland
Crema, 2018
Acrylic and Plexiglass on panel
20" x 16"
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John Holland
Vivid Warm, 2018
Acrylic and Plexiglass on panel
30" x 18"
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John Holland
Silvertone, 2018
Acrylic and Plexiglass on panel
24" x 24"