Sleep Deprivation and the Digital Age!

paperspapers1 daves-granddad


I made the piece thats hiding at the back of the gallery – titled Papers Made, Papers Printed back in the early 1990’s.  It was one of my first forays into the digital world.  My colleague at Yorkshire Artspace, the inestimable Piers Williams, was an early adopter of sophisticated photo manipulation software and using his skills we inserted myself and a photo of a painted paper piece into a photo of my grandfather making paper in a Mill in Devon back in the late 1940’s.  This was shown with four of the paintings on paper as a single work.  It began a fascination for me with what the digital age might bring us as painters that I’ve documented in my book Extracting Digits that covers three of my projects from 1999 to 2010.  I’m still using digital means to inform the painting process today (most notably in the Deadly Delicious series) though I’m less interested in the boundaries now that so many others are mining them.

Nowadays I find I need a great deal less sleep than I did in the past.  I recall the apocryphal stories about Margaret Thatcher existing on only a very few hours a night and it used to trouble me that I wasn’t getting enough rest but I’m learning to live with it.  Today I woke before six having not fallen asleep until after 1am and having (unusually) only my iPhone to hand (I normally keep at least one of my two iPods that now house my entire music collection by the bed) turned to Facebook to provide me with some music.   If you’ve persisted to here, I’m getting to the digital age again honestly.  I rifled through postings of music listening to that which acquaintances had posted in the last couple days.  It began with a lovely piece by what I think are a Canadian duo (reposted by a colleague in Sweden),

Was followed up by a piece by Corey Mwamba’s upcoming trio album,

then a link that he’s fond of pasting in regularly, in this case a superb Tony Williams drum clinic,

and then a link to sound recordings from nature, recently uploaded by Cornell University,

It got me to thinking about what is happening to us as creative individuals when virtually any and every creative act can be accessed immediately and increasingly virtually any creative artefact in the recent past (certainly from the 1960’s onward) is available with ease.  How individual thought patterns can wander through this plethora without intercession from the physical world, how near random selections (such as that I followed earlier) can be pieced together in the individual psyche, what the weight of all this ‘stuff’ puts on us (and here I start thinking about how my ‘mind map’ sorts, selects and prioritises this material having lived through the period and how that might be different to a twenty year old who came into the picture in the last few years) and where we are all headed in terms of what creative practice will be like in another few years.

I hope I’m no luddite and I don’t ever want to become the kind of reactionary backward looking, “it was all better in my day” individual but it does increasingly seem to be hard to find authentic experience that is truly original and startling and that, more than anything else, seems to me is the compelling reason why there are so many complaints about ‘attention deficit’ amongst people nowadays.  I don’t doubt there are a lot of very talented, far more intelligent commentators out there writing vast tomes on these issues and more, but it occurred to me as I listened to the material this morning  how this might be feeding into the visual arts?  I guess that – often – we rely on the actual experience of seeing a work?  Or do we?  After all there’s so much of it ‘out there’ and our individual capacity to get around and view it is variable – for myself, with a fair bit of time and a comfortable stipend I see quite a lot of ‘stuff’ certainly within the range of a day’s driving, but it barely scratches the surface of current practice in the area, let alone what is going on further afield.  So maybe much of our notion of what is ‘interesting’ or ‘worthwhile’ (and how subjective are these words) is more mediated than we’d like to admit.

In any event, give Corey’s album a listen and go order a copy…I fell in love with the ‘vibes’ after hearing Milt Jackson as 13 year old and a year or so later discovered Gary Burton (and tracking this down was hard going back then in a small provincial city with but one decent record shop to its name) and he’s both a talented and inventive exponent of the instrument.corey


2 thoughts on “Sleep Deprivation and the Digital Age!

  1. An interesting post. I hope this comment isn’t too long, if it is, feel free to delete it.

    I too suffer from lack of sleep. I’ve discovered that what I need is to ‘chill’. So, instead of staying warm and cosy I get up and do something. I might answer emails, but I’m more likely to paint some papers for collage, which is fairly mindless and mistakes don’t matter. Once I’m cool I can go back to bed and fall soundly asleep again. It works for me, but I’m not sure it’s the best answer. It seems that the internet can offer a visual overload at times. My work involves texture. I use fabrics, threads, not in a conventional sense, but a lot is lost in photography. I blog, but I use it more as a means of getting myself working (to misquote Picasso ‘Inspiration comes, but it has to find us working’) I never know what I’m going to say until my fingers touch the keys. I don’t put much work online, and when I do, frankly, it’s mediocre. My best stuff goes to galleries and as a result no-one really knows what I do. This suits me fine, anything that involves textiles of any sort is open for copying, so if they don’t see – they can’t copy, as it were. I envy your ability to incorporate the digital. I’m still learning, but probably not seriously enough.

    Thanks for waking up my thought buds this morning.

    1. Good to get feedback…I rather agree on getting up and doing something – yesterday I finished work on a watercolour – though today I woke at five, but fell asleep again at seven and only came round at nine thirty!

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