As a visual artist, I work on the frontier of expanded painting. This means that a riot of possible techniques and subjects are considered when working on a single piece. I practice a continuous reflexivity in order to address and critique modern life's different psychological rationales and cultural schools of thought. Working similarly to an abstract expressionist I layer and discover compositions through my creative process, one that coincides with what R.G. Collingwood described as not expressing the unknown, but discovering the unknown.
I’m interested in painting specifically, as an object that bears concrete, almost measurable evidence of labour on its surface. To advance these ideas into the 21st-Century I use digital image editing techniques to work out complex compositions. Essentially, I work images through a series of conscious and sub-conscious actions, leaving that which allows the viewer to enter into conversations about culture and nature.
Exhibition: Trace • Copy • Render
Alex Fischer, Rita Maas, Susana Reisman, Sharon Switzer Curated by Claire Sykes for Circuit Gallery @ Prefix ICA, fall 2016
This exhibition brings together four artists who are thinking about origins, process, materials, and labour as they explore the possibilities and implications of working digitally.
At the heart of Trace • Copy • Render is a shared interest in revealing, hiding, and playing with digital and material processes and manipulations, and the coincidence or disconnect (as the case may be) between final output and the myriad steps involved in the process of its realization.
Alex Fischer is an artist whose practice deliberately blurs and confounds the borders between media, and constitutes digital-image making as an extension of traditional artistic media and concerns. He uses advanced digital imaging techniques to manipulate found source imagery, to layer and build-up complex new compositions that are often hard to pin down as to medium or process, and which maintain a tension between the physical and the virtual, the original and the copy, the index and the trace.
In a fascinating inversion of his work on the computer, Fischer just as easily jumps out from the digital realm—off the virtual canvas—and performs ‘photoshop' by physically copying, tracing, blending, adding layers and various effects to printed and painted works. Fischer's series of work in Trace • Copy • Render offers a self-reflexive glimpse into his process of creation and concerns and includes paintings, projections, and prints. (more...)
– Claire Sykes, August 2016
Exhibition: 1, 7, and 6000
solo exhibition at O'Born Contemporary, spring 2015
On the occasion of Alex Fischer's fourth solo exhibition with O'Born Contemporary, he problematizes the single image by its very conversion into multiple, nearly identical forms. A digital original is here reproduced as 1 digital print, 7 large oil paintings, and 6000 small acrylic paintings. Through this multi-modal exhibition, Fischer deliberates on the nature of art with its value systems and capitalist patrimony.
Current agricultural trends demonstrate that when tomatoes are grown, the aim is to direct natural processes, taking agency over evolution. Like all biological species, the tomato plant contains a genetic copy of itself inside every cell of its being. Repetition and versioning are as much a rule in agriculture as they are in human life. Conversely, uniqueness and independence of mind are selling points when it comes to art. There is an established value in originality.1
Each of the 7 oil paintings was completed by an equal number of painters working in Xiamen, China. Fischer puts the work of these trained hands in direct visual argument with the mechanically reproduced print: he suggests deliberation about the capitalist mechanism and simultaneously entertains his moral ambiguity within this landscape of unapologetic consumptive socio-culture.
The controversy here may be in the fact that Fischer criticizes the capitalist system by highlighting elements that are uncomfortable to acknowledge while fully engaging with capitalism's ideologies through the kaleidoscope of fine art and its market. He grows the pieces, puts them under optimal lighting, and creates versions at price points to invite the viewer to buy.
An arched shelf bolsters 6000 small sheets of thin, transparent plastic. Hundreds have already been painted, revealing that they exist as an assemblage of tiles that, when properly arranged, mimic their parent image. Fischer will paint the remaining sheets on demand as they are requested and will continue this practice alongside his other projects.
Artwork as a commodity is not valuable per se– its value is the result of an ongoing and never ending social negotiation. That being said, the work of art, and painting specifically, is an object that bears a concrete, almost measurable evidence of labour on its surface.2 Paintings are worked over and leave a trace of the individual mark maker. Each edition in 1, 7, and 6000 shows on its surface the inevitable difference made during translation between parent image and end product. Each image is the real thing.
– Alex Fischer, February 2015
1. This idea is commensurate with remarks issued by Ben Davis: It is the uniquely middle-class nature of creative labor in the visual arts [that] would seem to explain its alternative emphasis on the individual, that is, on the virtues of personality and small production, as well as a whole host of other stylistic tics and affectations(...) visual art's characteristic questioning or ironic attitude; the value of the artist's signature and the 'artist's statement' that are associated with it. Davis, Ben. 9.5 Theses on Art and Class - Commerce and Consciousness. Chicago:Haymarket Books, 2013. PDF file.
2. Graw, Isabelle. Thinking through Painting - Reflexivity and Agency beyond the Canvas. Sternberg Press, 2012. Page 56.
Exhibition: Dry Pixels And Wet Molecules
solo exhibition at O'Born Contemporary, winter 2013
In Dry Pixels And Wet Molecules Alex Fischer counter-poses the primordial origins of biology against today's dominant technology-based vernacular. In earnest, the artist acknowledges through his practice elements peculiar to the time of his being. Put in alternative terms, Fischer concedes that the acts of being and becoming are wholly different now than at any time in our recent or distant past.
Dry Pixels And Wet Molecules poses a valuable and contemporary question using sensory terms--can the digital reconcile With the physical? The works of art comprising this materially varied exhibition reveal themselves as both answers to and instigators of this question. Through digital manipulations, sculpture, and installation, Fischer convinces his audience that technology is not simply an imbricate to the physical and the palpable but rather supersedes both.
The multi-modal moment in which art-making has found itself produces what could be called moist media, a curious but worthwhile corollary to the Mcluhan's cold media of days past. Absorbing this idea, Fischer wedges himself between the dry, cold of the pixel and the wetness of biomolecules. Ultimately suggesting that we are living in a post-digital world, the artist exposes a tactility and precision with his imagery that in effect surpasses the daily surroundings we perceive with our own eyes and bodies.
– Alex Fischer, September 2013
Exhibition: Beyond The Fall
solo exhibition at Galerie BAC, winter 2012
Artists must take responsibility for representing the time in which they live.
The images of Beyond The Fall come from what has become the predominant first-world interface: The personal computer and internet capable device is now the primary filter by which broad swaths of people interact and know themselves. These technologies have the ability to snake our attentions, beliefs and desires, influencing cognition and our experience of the world.
In order to represent these paradigm shifts, Alex Fischer reifies the low-culture of individualistic habits and persuasions to be in dialogue with the ripe philosophy of high art. His chosen medium of digital collage perfectly compliments his artistic process, by which he paints together images from a collection of digital sources. Each piece concedes to multiple interpretations due to Fischer's choice to obscure the visual space of the image into near abstraction. The narratives encompass characters, scenes, and symbols with all of their ambiguity, insight, and metaphysical baggage on display. The content originates from their adaptations to and the impact of this current age.
– Alex Fischer, August 2012
Exhibition: Beyond The Fall
solo exhibition at O'Born Contemporary, fall 2012
Exhibition: Smarter Today
solo exhibition at O'Born Contemporary, fall 2010
Smarter Today offers a human view of futurist landscapes, a view that explores the ideologies and projections of society through the lens of contemporary art.
Alex Fischer composes his figures and landscapes by assembling a variety of visual and conceptual sources. Keeping in mind that ideas of the future are inevitably the fastest to change, Fischer maintains that human nature is a fallible and susceptible state.
Technological advancement and machine generations have vastly outpaced the tradition of the average human life. As a society, we have adapted to accept the pace at which vast differences and contrasts will influence our modes of being. All projections of which are unpredictable beyond our present context. Today more than ever before, we situate ourselves less as individuals and more as the product of multiple networks. While this network theory suggests a node's relationship to other networks is more important than its own uniqueness, we find a backlash of reflection on individual circumstance and identity.
The subjects and characters of Smarter Today are reflections on the syncretism that created them. Their exterior identities have been extricated to include all of their precursors. They are heterogeneous and intermingled with their environments, yet maintain their subjectivity in the face of a post-structuralist world.
– Alex Fischer, September 2010
Article: Alex Fischer: Smarter Today
Article by Rachel Anne Farquharson, January 2011
Painting as a practice, before all other media, has undergone copious amounts of inspection from without, and introspection from within. This may be because, as critic and lecturer Caoimhim Mac Giolla Leith suggests, recent painting seems ‘to be characterised by a persistent refusal of its own self-containment,'1 a fitting statement given today's globalised and technologically progressive climate. Even more complex is the analysis of an artist practice which relies upon digital techniques and modes of production to create what is finally thought of as a painted work. Such is the case with Alex Fischer, whose recent show at O'Born Contemporary in Toronto speaks to a curatorial trend in the redefinition of the painted canvas within art's discourse. As the first solo exhibit hosted at the gallery's significantly more artworthy (re)location on Ossington Avenue, the pluralism inherent in the works of Smarter Today bespeaks a double bind of low culture in dialogue with high art that first resurfaced in the practices of post-modern painters like Neo Rauch (B. 1960) and David Salle (B. 1952).
Though the last decade has seen more than seven major international exhibitions in dialogue with painting as gesture and act, the theme of medium redefinition is not hackneyed in the capable hands of this twenty-four year old MVS student at the University of Toronto. By turns virtual maverick and sculptural visionary, Fischer outputs two-dimensional imagery with an object status that feels palpable. Figure Head, 2010, which bears down on the viewer at 140 x 145 cm, invites entry and interaction, the centrally located, dog-faced girl just grotesque and fragmented enough to evoke Francis Bacon. Bacon, who intended ‘to distort [the figure] far beyond the appearance, but in the distortion to bring it back to a recording of the appearance'2 finds a voice once more in the flurry of layers that both dis- and re-assemble Fischer's complex compositions. Figure Head draws upon the veritable archive of images that the internet has become, capturing a glimpse of today's epistemological development in the process. The artist's espousal of digital collage and illustration ‘allows [him] to visually interpolate resources'3 in a way that speaks to humanity's greater consciousness and, furthermore, to its very future. Quite simply, as a race we are careening towards an intersubjectivity that makes each of us a flesh-bound collage of experience, landscapes, and concepts.
This is perhaps the most salient point that Fischer advances with a piece like Untitled Greens, 2010, a moderately sized work that takes as its conceptual and physical ground a photograph of a forest by Traci Matlock and Ashley MacLean. The image has been altered such that its tone and formal nature combine the Real according to Hal Foster with an ephemeral quality that shrouds most people's childhood memories. The idea that forests are vehicles for strange and mythological happenings is one transmitted from generation to generation in many cultures. Fischer uses the accumulation of memory, belief, and narrative to make a statement about humankind. The near dissolution of forest trees contrasted against the appearance of ghoulish faces grafted to their trunks visualizes the interplay between the real and the mystical that the artist is trying to access. Although Fischer has spoken of his own upbringing in the Ontario countryside as a cognitive influence, the images he employs already have a registered meaning that he maintains is important to acknowledge. In appropriating the work of other artists, Fischer always attempts to gain a good grasp of both the context in which the image was created and the nature of the artist's practice itself. Thus, once the artist found Matlock and MacLean on Flickr, he followed their practice and artistic output for several years prior to starting a dialogue with them and their work.
Finally, it is the rigid duality of mind and body as a primary mode of existing in the world that Fischer rejects, using the phenomenology of perception suggested by philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty to advance his own novel conclusions. Consider a populace whose foundation is the collective embodiment of each other's personalities and souls. Just as figures are iterated in Fischer's art through the superimposition of images onto each other, each person is philosophically a summation of his or her cohabitants. The large scale work, Three Fates, 2010, is a reflection of the syncretism that the artist holds responsible for the creation of his body of illustrated subjects and characters. The largely barren urban landscape here depicted is not as bleak as conventional subjectivity would have us believe—to Fischer, the diluted palette is more peaceful than forbidding. In this future world, subjectivity is no longer useful therefore evolutionary theory would demand that it atrophies like a muscle in disuse, allowing us to live in a relatively neutral, colourless culture. Though the landscape is only host to two people, the artist conceives each person as a collective of thousands. Actually, the composition is very crowded, laughed Fischer when questioned about the piece. What is obvious to him seems ironic given the few objects to behold in many of the works in Smarter Today.
Three Fates is evidence of a recent challenge Fischer has created for himself: to be in compositional dialogue with the traditional diptych/triptych. Bisecting the large proscenium arch arrangement in this piece is a totem pole, imbued with enough life force to be considered the third fate in the image's narrative. Other possibilities for this third figure are the viewer or, interestingly, the art work positioned directly across from Three Fates in the gallery. A concerted curatorial choice by the artist and O'Born Contemporary director Natalie MacNamara, the opposing image is the tripartite Cooks Cape, 2010. Thus, the two large works were made to face each other to ignite a conversation about their similar obedience of an art historical compositional precedent. The challenge, or as Fischer describes it, risk in working with the diptych or triptych format is allowing an image to exist when different realities are positioned to reflect each other—the adjacent two/three sides expose the fact that their subjectivities do not necessarily agree. There is a risk in getting lost in the work, as if the worlds are facing mirrors wherein your reflection becomes so dislocated that it can actually disappear. Theoretically, the totem in Three Fates acts as the joint in a mirror between the two subject bodies, putting both or either in danger of extinction. Frankly, in an imagined world where subjectivity has been eliminated and only collective identities exist, the transformation of material bodies to virtual whispers seems completely à propos.
1. Caoimhim Mac Giolla Leith, Surveying Contemporary Painting, Circa, No. 109, (2004): 58 2. David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, (London: Thames & Hudson,1993), 40 3. Alex Fischer, First Year Practice Draft, 15 November, 2010