Future Shock

Shannon Finley’s works are geometric abstractions, which engage the viewer‘s eyes and mind. Through a particular technique of layering paint, the artist creates multi-faceted, translucent surfaces. While the underlying composition is formally strict and rather static, his paintings generate illusions of depth and movement. Inspired by computer games and electronic music, Finley‘s vibrant patterns offer a variety of visual phenomena.

Starting by coating the canvas with a neon colour, Finley sets up a fluorescent basis for the complex structure of the painting, in which the vibrancy of a loud pink or yellow functions like the backlight of an LCD screen. Upon this bright background, he builds up as many as forty layers of paint, a mixture of acrylics and clear gel. Instead of using a paintbrush, the artist pulls the paint across the canvas with razor-sharp, customized, stainless steel palette knives. The result is a surface that seems to radiate light: The brightness from the back shines through the layers of paint, like daylight through a church window. It is this light, broken multiple times and caught in the acrylic layers, that lends a mystical quality to the paintings.

The exhibition “Future Shock“ features developments from four series, depicting different repetitive, geometric forms: Triangles, rhombuses or circular patterns painted in vivid colors seem to bulge from the canvas. In other works, spiral shapes even develop a certain hypnotic power. The compositions evoke a reference to the visual illusions of Op Art, or the fragmented imagery of Futurism and Cubism. Finley‘s work draws on this art historical repertoire, but updates the history of abstract painting by adding the visual vocabulary of today‘s generation. Born in the 1970s, the artist grew up with videogames, like most men of his generation. The triangular shapes in his paintings derive from the construction of digital worlds, since the triangle is the most efficient unit in which a body can be broken down digitally. Computer graphics are also an essential aspect in his creative process: Before painting, he plans his compositions on the computer, using digital imaging software.

In his most recent body of work, Finley attributes the energy and dynamism of his art to the influence of the electronic music he plays and listens to in the studio. This finds its expression in curvaceous linear forms, which refer to the visualisation of sound waves. As he puts it, “I try to make paintings that overwhelm you visually like a room full of loud music, but then give way to a kind of meditative silence.”

With the exhibition “Future Shock“, Finley references the writer and futurist Alvin Toffler. Back in the 70s, Toffler analysed the influence of the digital progress on society. As a consequence, he predicted a rapid change in culture and, related to the visual world, a high turnover of aesthetic taste, tending to kinetic and transient art. Today, the number of information and images, distributed or even produced by the digital world, seems to be ever-increasing. But Finley continues capturing images on canvas. His works take the high pace of image perception into account, slowing it down by destabilizing the gaze of the viewer. With their vibratory compositions, Finley‘s outstanding paintings are devotional pictures for the 21st century.