MICHAELIS GALLERIES, Cape Town
Searching For An Electric Peanut [part II] / 14 FEB – 01 MARCH 2019
In Searching for an Electric Peanut Jonathan Silverman reconstructs the lost experience of encountering nature as landscape. In the age of the screen and real-time technologies, the lost tradition of artist and easel on a bucolic hilltop sketching the expanse seems tragically outdated. However this is not what lays at stake here, rather it is the encounter and its hidden potential to render life to the material and the digital.
Silverman attests that his diasporic Jewish background is fundamental to his wandering gaze. Instead of being drawn to the stability of cultural identity, he chose to develop his artistic practice first in Italy and the UK, and for the past 4 years in South Africa. “Electric peanut” is a term that Silverman encountered in one of his many digital wanderings, denoting the bright flickering stain left on the retina after gazing at the sun. The reconstructed imageries of the exhibit resonate in the effect of this quickly dissipating echo of the sun. For Silverman’s search is after the most elusive aspect of human experience, that which stubbornly evades us, the experience of leaving the present behind as an unknown.
Through a cyclical process that goes back and forth between the analogue and the digital, between the handwielded and the digitally augmented, and between the flattened and that which has depth, Silverman deconstructs and reconstructs the representation of nature. The paintings range in the intensity of their abstraction, with enumerable layers complicating the flat surface of the canvas. The observer is hit by a longing that is confused with the suspension of clarity. However the blurred boundaries and the contamination of shape into stain and back again, allow for comfort. Thus flatness is supplanted for depth.
Depth supplanted for flatness is experienced in the video-art projected in the darkened room. A slow succession of gaseous, unstable spherical images appear, endowed with autonomous reverberation. An eerie encounter, nature now is a recognizable unfamiliarity. Their slow movement evokes a form of primal sentience and the three dimensional immerses into time removed. Something is missing. Where is humanity? It is as though nature is being rebooted without us.
In the present exhibition, Jonathan Silverman disturbs the longing for a natural nature. In the hyperreal of the Age of the Human Silverman’s paintings reconstruct the comfort of observing nature while his video defuses the loss of its innocence. He reminds us of the necessary comfort we find in nature while drawing us into the discomfort of our lost presence. Where is humanity when the digital predominates the real?