Daily Archives: October 12, 2008

Excelsior Mortis by Jack Youngblood

Neo-Excalibur meets Space Odyssey

Excelsior Mortis! images with the kind permission of the artist

With tumbling stock markets and bank freezes in a few European countries, Jack Youngblood’s proclamation “la la la…when all is lost, and there is nothing left to lose…celebrate the loss!” may not be that ridiculous afterall.

Treading similar grounds after his previous work in the group exhibit The Gloaming, the protagonist spaceman, Jack Youngblood makes another appearance, foregrounding the memento mori theme even more strongly. What is revealing about the digital age, is the sense of loss, in bits and bytes discussed in the catalogue essay. And this is reinforced in the paintings, portraying the spaceman aging to the point of decay, both feet in the grave. There is an incredible sense of contrast, in the selection of which print goes next to which, and their relevance to the title of the show: ‘excellence’ and ‘death’. Simple, but it works.

Where does this place painting in the age of digital reproduction and touch-ups? Naturalism, and realism are so augmented that we can no longer discern what is RAW and what is not. So why bother painting naturalistically/realistically, at all?

The answer seems to lie in the oil painting at the end of the gallery, primed and exuding presence. One can imagine the careful choice of perishable soft wood of the tropics, decaying with the image of the skeleton spaceman on the board. The weight of the panel seems to be laden with more than the history of western painting, but the burden of Photoshop too. This burden, to blend and merge the best of both media. But it pulls well together, the soft sheen of organic gloss varnish, and the gloss-optimised digital inklet prints.

Another development in the artist’s body of work seem to be the crests of the spaceman, Jack Youngblood in different renditions, resembling both a knight’s coat of arms, or a biker gang’s crest. The spaceman, might just be a knight, charging into space; art space; an avant-garde metaphor of a new kind of art form making a strong appearance in the Singapore art scene. There is a certain charm to this, noble yet crude. The artist makes no excuse to use the digital paint brush like a new excalibur, making its stake in a larger concept than space, cutting up preconceptions of deviant fan art, making meaningful swiping manoeuvres to push the objectification of digital paintings, digital paintings as legitimate art objects and its exceeding relevance to art making in Singapore and elsewhere. When one doesn’t comprehend this intention, the work fails to make any sense.

The work does suggest smallness, the lone spaceman in a vast universe filled with stars; digital bytes in a universe of inter-connected servers. This overwhelmed smallness is comparable to a Nikon website’s flash animation on the Universe, and Us. This smallness, reels again in the current climate of financial loss in the light of the possibility of global recession; but measured against a greater loss of environmental damage, and impending doom to mankind’s descendants, this smallness begs re-measurement. Memento mori, seen in a environmental light, may just be the phrase we need to tide us over greed and difficult times.

This exhibition is accompanied by an exhibition catalogue, stickers, and T-Shirt. Nice.

11 Oct – 2 Nov
Excelsior Mortis!
by Jack Youngblood
Post-Museum, 107 Rowell Road, Opening hours: 6-10pm (Tue-Fri) and 12-10pm (Sat+Sun).