||Paint has been the subject and the surprisingly transfixing performer in many of Daniel von Sturmer’s recent videos and installations including a billboard-sized screen based work on top of a city building in Perth featuring sequences of paint slowly running down it. This deceptively, and one could say almost daringly simple measured action, reminiscent of a giant screen saver, transformed the space of the spectacle into an unusually restrained but nonetheless compelling play on the screen surface and marker of the unfolding of time. Like other of von Sturmer’s works, the understated action functioned to confound the relationship between media and medium, subject and process, drawing attention to our perception of video space and by extension how we experience pictorial space more generally.
In Painted Video (2009) he returns to the small screen with four video sequences of paint pours in concentric circles to create a series of tonal targets. Again, the action appears rudimentary however in reality is the result of carefully controlled experiments in the studio – extensive testing of the viscosity of various coloured paints and performing multiple pours to reproduce four sequences of similar duration. An integral aspect of von Sturmer’s practice is that the footage is not edited or manipulated. There are no ‘special effects’ – this is how paint behaves. Instead it is the paradoxical and mutable nature of these moving images that draws us to them – being both painting and video, art work and work in progress, durational performance and still life, comprehensible as abstract and figurative work.
The target is an iconic modernist trope that has been favoured by artists such as Jasper Johns and Kenneth Noland who both painted it as sign and object. Along with Ugo Rondinone’s more recent candy coloured hypnotic versions von Sturmer’s targets consciously expand this art history of abstract painting into the territory of video and process-based work. The ubiquitousness of the target motif – its ‘here marks the spot’ and its life as an elemental form, also corresponds with von Sturmer’s preference for working with modest materials such as paint, paper and string along with universal images readily at hand.
Von Sturmer has described these new works as ‘anti images’ referring to their refutation of a stable figure and ground composition but their oppositional function is more encompassing. While the slow pour of bands of different colours and shades which loops every 2 minutes or so is without narrative purpose, it is likely that the viewer will attempt to find some symbolic associations and meanings – we are hard-wired to do so.
The concentric circles in a perpetual state of becoming eventually fill the screen. The frame is the limits of the work and the frame is the limits of our world. The impulse to frame things is the human impulse to make art, to fix the image and our relation to it, in order to understand.