Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Artist explores intersection of tradition and technology

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Connections between old and new media in artwork create important and engaging visual conversations about the changing face of contemporary art.

Local artist Derek Bruekner examines these changes, and also looks at how technology is affecting the human body, through his works in Watching Velocity Dry -- a series of digitally altered painting and prints.

These latest works by Bruckner show the artist exploring the relationships between digital and traditional artistic media. Cre8ery's manager Jordan Miller says viewers have been noting that the works show the University of Manitoba school of art professor "breaking free" from his former method of working, which leaned toward the more traditional side of painting.

In his artist statement, Bruekner explains that his "work explores a reaffirmation of painting/drawing in relation to the ambivalence of technology." He elevates painting to take its place once again on the throne of art-making. It's an interesting statement, suggesting there is a battle for artistic supremacy between old and new media. But a viewer of the exhibit may conclude it is more a celebration of the fusion of the two.

In the main gallery, some of the larger canvases are treated in a traditional fashion in relation to the rest of the works in the show -- they are stretched canvas squares that are painted upon directly. However, the images that Bruekner paints speak of the digital transformation of culture. In Eventually All Outmoded, he weaves computer screens, headphones and other smatterings of visual technology with images of people creating art. It feels as if one is witnessing a portion of an art school sketch class that has been bombarded with new modes of media. His ability to create this strange surrealist canvas is remarkable.

Clusters of small canvases are grouped in a tiny room off the main gallery. Bruekner has dipped them in a fleshy peach acrylic treatment as a primer for painting on more of his bodily manipulations. The treatment gives works such as Mirrored Camera Head a thick and satisfying texture that has an eerie warmth reminiscent of skin.

It is when he begins inkjet printing on the canvases that we begin to see the "breaking free" that Miller was talking about. The dizzying effect of the mirroring and pattern-making in the digitally printed canvases is a statement on the impact and multiplicity that technology has in today's society. Computer programs such as Photoshop allow artists to manipulate images in any fashion they desire. It feels as though these images will swirl and replicate in an infinite manner on the canvas if left alone.

The more digital canvases are sparse with bursts of activity, colour and movement in key places. He is no longer filling the canvas with paint and colour, but leaving edges clear of imagery. This allows the repetitive, patterned loops of digital images to have some breathing room.

In these works, he takes portions of body parts and mirrors them onto and around each other to create fantastical patterns of life. Many of these images become very sexual in their treatment, mimicking the reproductive organs in a slightly unsettling but interesting manner. In Multi-Eyed Organism, he uses his own face to create folds and neatly organized groupings of portions of his face. Bruekner creates a kaleidoscope of physical familiarity through such works.

Bruekner's work is moving in a fascinating way. His painterly explorations are not only a pleasure to look at and experience, but an intelligent commentary on today's technological culture.

Art Review

Watching Velocity


by Derek Bruekner


2nd floor,

125 Adelaide St.

To Dec. 20

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2008 D9

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