Current Artist of
Every month, RESET// shines the spotlight on one artist and their practice.
Stephen Nulty lives and works in London, and studies at Chelsea School of Art. His critical framework stems from the digital age, as he has an interest in the fragmentation of information displayed and viewed through digital and cultural means, such as film, cinema, media, and game culture. Using fleeting pieces of images and texts that have been uploaded to the internet, he distorts and limits how we see and interpret this information. The resulting artworks are his way of representing the way digital data and the modern-day viewer’s attention span disperses within seconds on our phones and screens.
The subject of Stephen's digital fabrications are real events that fall into the category of violent and political occurrences and disasters. Concerned with the commodification and glamorisation of these events, Stephen aims to blur the lines between fantasy and actuality. By using painting as a method to express these concerns, gives them a physicality and an authenticity that he feels the digital does not possess. The easy ability that we have today to edit and replicate information online is counteracted by Stephen's paintings, giving them a static form of the here and now.
Image 1 is concerned with the immediacy of images viewable on the internet. The work displays a snippet of information that encompasses the vastness of the digital world and an attempt at trying to decipher it. The spray paint gestures make something physical out of something that doesn't technically exist.
From the same series, Image 2 has a blurriness that is instantly identifiable as a low quality image, but Stephen wants us to see the digital effects of repeat replication; the quality of the information diminishing as the data travels around the internet, being seen by a very large number of the population world-wide.
In a new series started this year, titled Marriage Between Screens, Stephen draws his attention to the importance of the installation of 48 specifically chosen digital images. Beginning by choosing images that he felt had an interesting relationship when displayed together, Stephen chooses to marry real events with fabricated media, often appropriating from the films and games. He zooms in on the resulting pair of images and creates bitesize pieces of information. The low-res quality present in this series is inspired by the text, In Defense of the Poor Image by Hito Steyerl, in which she states:
"The poor image has been uploaded, downloaded, shared, reformatted, and reedited. It transforms quality into accessibility, exhibition value into cult value, films into clips, contemplation into distraction. The image is liberated from the vaults of cinemas and archives and thrust into digital uncertainty, at the expense of its own substance. The poor image tends towards abstraction: it is a visual idea in its very becoming".
Marriage between Screens.2 pair two images that are complete contrasts of each other. One is taken from Donald Trump's election campaign and the other is taken from a film that share no relevance in meaningful content. The result of amalgamating them together, Stephen states, is the creation of a relationship based on artificial truth.
In regards to the production of Stephen's work from idea to realisation, we asked him to give us an insight into his processes.
Stephen: "The way I work tends to be very meticulous. I’ve always struggled to let work naturally happen, I’ve always had to have an idea and then built upon it. The sketchbook is a fundamental process and tool in my practice. I tend to plan my work out step by step, seeing each stage down on paper, like schematic drawings with side notes of writings. And then I visualise the body of work and build from there. I always jump straight in to making the work, with no practice run before. I use my sketchbook for deciphering thoughts and ideas, not just for ‘drawing'.
"I know it seems that I plan everything, but I always leave room for natural occurrences. As John Berger always said, 'there is a point in the drawing where you stop making work for your sake, you start responding to what is required for the image'. That is the same process I allow myself between each stage.
Writing and talking with peers is really important for me to make ideas into physical things. Having that critical framework around you is very important and it is there for you to grow. Nothing is more time wasting than when you’re making work that is the same thing over and over again. You need to have that criticality to be able to expand your ideas and to make your work successful in conveying what you want to say.
Planning to me is very crucial in my work because it is predominately concept driven, I need to plan the right way to convey my ideas clearly. It is about trying to find the balance between being honest with your ideas and making sure they’re coming through. And it is also about making the work visually appealing to, making sure that there is a balance in the aesthetics of the concept and image".
What does Stephen have planned for 2020?
A few group shows in the UK are in the making, including an exhibition in late March at The Cookhouse Gallery, Chelsea, and another in Harlow, Essex. 2020 signifies the start of an exciting new venture for Stephen, as he has recently formed part of @forum_collective, an art collective consisting of artists with diverse practices that will create and curate their own opportunities. Additionally, Stephen's end of course MA degree show is scheduled for June!