All of my work relates in some way to a quality of experience that has been described as “The Sublime”, often described as an ecstatic experience that places the viewer within some kind of larger context, whether it may be the wilderness, the cosmos or the sacred. This is an idea with a lot of history to it. My work deals with this history, as well as my own feelings about what the Sublime might mean. There is no doubt that the cultural history which we all share is an important factor when looking at such a concept, the Sublime has been described by a number of commentators as the quintessential preoccupation of modernism. However I feel that there is also something universal about the attraction of the Sublime, a lot of my recent work is inspired by the fact that the human mind has always longed for this quality of experience, has always struggled to encapsulate it in its creations, and yet so often this fails, so often we fail to experience the Sublime, and we fail in our attempts to express it to ourselves or to others. In spite of this we continue to struggle for an experience of the Sublime and for some form of expression capable of capturing it, some way to keep it and hold it close forever. A large part of what we call “kitsch” is a result of such failed attempts to encapsulate the profound. For me there’s something tragic in this yearning for such an un-presentable concept, maybe even pathetic, but there’s also something heroic in the persistence of the Sublime impulse. Whereas my work once attempted to capture the essence of the Sublime, now it uses the visual rhetoric of the Sublime to explore those aspects of self that conspire to frustrate our experience of it.
I believe that the key to understanding the inevitable frustration of our impulse towards the Sublime and other similar ideals is the essentially subjective nature of all experience, even the most apparently profound and absolute. My work often evokes the various forms of wilderness traditionally associated with the Sublime since its rise to prominence in the nineteenth century. I myself first came across the concept as a way to understand my own experiences in the mountains. At the time I believed there was something beyond myself to be found there. Now I realize that the beauty we see in wild places, the spiritual resonance we feel, comes from us. The ideals we see incarnate in an apparently untouched landscape or a wild creature are projections, but that doesn’t make them any less important, only all the more human. Furthermore these ideas and ideals did not pop up out of nowhere, we learned them. Because our understanding of the profound is generated by this collective of prosaic minds we call “culture” it is mutable. 200 years ago the wild landscapes we now cherish above all others were considered ugly and diabolical, a blemish on the earth that should be removed. Now our culture has moved on and we go to these places in search of enlightenment.
This underlying subtext of an internalized world model leads me to create work that aspires to the condition of a perfect simulation, without fully achieving it - subtle clues as the synthetic nature of the final product must remain. In this I have found the computer to be a particularly appropriate tool for art making. My interest in digital media remains focused on its ever growing capabilities to simulate the world around us, not as it is - but as we wish it to be. The subsequent undermining of traditional concepts of the reality and reliability are at the center of my work.
For me making art is about being human, particularly the things we all share. This has led me to look closely at the history of the culture that made me what I am. My work is often based on sources taken from this history. This raises the question of information; how do these stories relate, if at all, to the piece? I have no interest in telling these stories per se (I am interested in the more elusive subject that lies behind them), so I have always looked for ways to escape language. I am interested in the idea of lying, in the subversion of various types of information that we are accustomed to trust. Whether it is a photographic image, a sequence of events or an explanatory text, the information in my work is often unreliable.
Ultimately, my work is designed to remind the viewer that she is in the presence of artifice - that this work is attempting to present something of a profound nature, but that it is failing because of its connections to the concrete. In this the viewer might recognize her own condition.