Justin Bower Interview
If we are unable to let go of our smart phone for a day, how smart are we really? More questions and interpretations on the subject can be found in large canvases of Justin Bower, which might appear as produced digitally and printed, but in fact they are painted by the hand of the artist. Depicting contemporary digital images with the use of fluorescent colors and artificial light traditionally, Bower creates a type of holographic painting that explores relations between humans and computer-based technology.
Justin Bower’s holographic art is based on portrait, which emphasizes the personal liaison of a man with infinite gadgets that surround him. If a person is always dependent on a cellular phone, a computer, or a mobile device, the question of freedom from being constantly online is raised. Justin Bower pondered heavily on this matter, tackling issues of identity largely formed, or distorted through technological instruments. He felt challenged and compelled to investigate the promlematics through an array of huge paintings overflowing with neon glimmers and weird multiplications. The techno artwork of Justin Bower employs references to Op-art, through repetitive patterns that serve to trick and allure the eye into this rave-like, schizoid environment.
Justin Bower Interview
Hi-Fructose magazine made a fantastic interview with the artist, which you can read below:
Hi-Fructose: Your work tackles the theme of the digital world, though through traditional media. What’s the intention about this seemingly-opposing juxtaposition?
Justin Bower: Well, my work is foremost about the destabilization of the contemporary subject in an increasing control society, and often I use the digital realm as the environment to place them in. It’s almost an ontological build up from scratch, building a new idea of who we are. So from that vantage point, I paint the current status or crisis of humanity today, and in doing so I am participating in an age old practice in paint. The digital is just a new context or environment to be studied. I feel as though I am carrying on a dialogue of paint and humanity that have existed since the dawning of paint itself.
H-F: Your compositions have a “glitchy” effect. The color palettes look like the neon colors that show up when a laptop screen is cracked. Is this a comment on the fallibility of technology?
J.B: It’s more of an affirmation that technology is always already inside the subject today. In my paintings this technology infects the subject, moving seamlessly through the body, warping and displacing the integrity of its form. I also see the glitch as a happy failure, to which I mean this glitch or fallibility in the system breaks open a rainbow of acid color, it’s quite beautiful. This fallibility in technology will ultimately manifest itself in the human form with each encroaching technological breakthrough.
H-F: Though your work has a digital feel, the canvases are very large and your loose, expressive brushstrokes have a tactile, physical quality. Do you believe physicality is important to your art practice? To art in general?
J.B: I use many tropes to develop my work. I use “loose and expressive” strokes because it enables the painting to look as if the subject is in a paused state of “becoming” new and reborn. I also contrast the mechanical/digital with what might be seen as the more authentic individual human mark (Ab-Ex). This dichotomous approach has a contrasting affect I enjoy. I’m also questioning if the two ideas are able to exist together.
H-F: Describe your painting process. Do you work with models? How much of your work is pre-planned? Do you use a sketchbook, Photoshop, etc?
J.B: I use Photoshop as a conceptual sketchbook. In the beginning I used only random subjects found on the web. Now I use anything that sparks an interest in me. For instance, in one series of works, I wanted a genuflecting subject looking to the skies to God. Based off of the Renaissance paintings of Mary looking upwards, and El Greco did many of these types of paintings also. I wanted to introduce a redemptive quality to the paintings, asking if science is the new religion, if so what are we looking upwards towards…is there a different kind of redemption/salvation today? In that case I had to use a model.
H-F: How do you feel about smart phones, Google Glass and the ever-presence of technology in our moment-to-moment existence?
J.B: An ever-presence of tech can and will birth an architecture of control. A control society that leverages the power of technology for its control needs. This mitigates the autonomy of the contemporary subject. Another theme I attack: Are we autonomous/free in our contemporary world? I am not an alarmist when tackling these concerns, but I always want the decisions we make within this system of technology to be ours, and free.
H-F: In your artist statement you mention Da Vinci, who was known for pushing the technological advents of his day. Do you think it’s important for artists to have a relationship with technology?
J.B: No, I don’t. I really don’t think one has to be thinking of tech to be an artist. I have chosen a theme that inherently bothers me and fascinates at the same time; that being the question of an autonomous subject in an increasing tech/virtual culture and a serious ratcheting up of a control society. We are at the precipice of not being made in the image of God, but in the future image of man. I paint as a way to study our ever warping and protean definition of who we are.