Review

TRANSMISSION

Ry David Bradley

By Hannah Jenkins

6 March, 2020

 

͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ ͈̬̥ͤ͆͆ ̫̱̘̦̝͙̹̐ͣ͒̌͆ͯ̾̕ ͖͉̠̗̥͙̲͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ̷̢̮͉̱̜́̌͛̈́͊͆̈́̈̏͘͠ ̷̝͋̇̑̌̑̀ ̶̧̺̘̬̰̹͌ ̶̪̦̥̽͌̓̋̂͛̇̀͋̿̇̈̈́͆͝ͅ ̷̧̛͚͉͎̿̾̚͠ ̵̰̲͉͋̏̈̓̅̑̿͝ ̶̤̹̤͍͕̜̱̭͉̜̣̮̬̐͜ ̶̥̞́̃̃̊͗͑̒̈́̽̾̓͜͝ ̶͍̫̗͛̍͂͌̈́̂͘͝ͅ ̶̙̃̓̾̐͑̀̀̑͛̕͝ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ ͈̬̥ͤ͆͆ ̫̱̘̦̝͙̹̐ͣ͒̌͆ͯ̾̕ ͖͉̠̗̥͙̲͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́ ̷̝͋̇̑̌̑̀ ̶̧̺̘̬̰̹͌ ̶̪̦̥̽͌̓̋̂͛̇̀͋̿̇̈̈́͆͝ͅ ̷̧̛͚͉͎̿̾̚͠ ̵̰̲͉͋̏̈̓̅̑̿͝ ̶̤̹̤͍͕̜̱̭͉̜̣̮̬̐͜ ̶̥̞́̃̃̊͗͑̒̈́̽̾̓͜͝ ̶͍̫̗͛̍͂͌̈́̂͘͝ͅ ̶̙̃̓̾̐͑̀̀̑͛̕͝ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ 

 


Saudade
is a melancholic longing for a memory that can’t be grasped or recaptured. A sadder, incomplete sort of nostalgia that must be overcome in order to enjoy the future. To experience saudade is to stare at a photo of a moment passed, and to feel a sadness that the lens couldn’t capture more.

Ry David Bradley’s solo exhibition of high-res ‘digital paintings’, presented as precisely-woven large-scale tapestries at Sullivan + Strumpf, abandons these limitations of photography in favour of capturing a more tactile, embodied memory within images.

While photoshopping and retouching are not new, Bradley’s ‘digital painting’ technique is guided by a painterly approach. These manipulations model not only the physical attributes of paint, but also the physicality of a painting process. The effect is a series of liquid, and uncanny ‘paintings’ where the original photograph is almost entirely obscured.

When taking in these warped compositions, shallow associations with surrealism and Dali’s melting clocks are forgotten. Instead, standing before these oddly childish subjects—all animals, faces or toys—provokes a feeling more akin to the pangs of nostalgia.  

Bradley’s digital painting technique enhances details, infers movement, and uses the underlying colour and structure of what is already present to weave entirely new representations of subjects. Extremities appear to move and ripple. Features distort as if a slow shutter speed captured a portrait during a sudden break in the fabric of reality. This sense of warped time, combined with the inherent nostalgia of subject choice, hints at how imagined distortions take root and then embed additions into lingering memories.

 

͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ ͈̬̥ͤ͆͆ ̫̱̘̦̝͙̹̐ͣ͒̌͆ͯ̾̕ ͖͉̠̗̥͙̲͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ̷̢̮͉̱̜́̌͛̈́͊͆̈́̈̏͘͠ ̷̝͋̇̑̌̑̀ ̶̧̺̘̬̰̹͌ ̶̪̦̥̽͌̓̋̂͛̇̀͋̿̇̈̈́͆͝ͅ ̷̧̛͚͉͎̿̾̚͠ ̵̰̲͉͋̏̈̓̅̑̿͝ ̶̤̹̤͍͕̜̱̭͉̜̣̮̬̐͜ ̶̥̞́̃̃̊͗͑̒̈́̽̾̓͜͝ ̶͍̫̗͛̍͂͌̈́̂͘͝ͅ ̶̙̃̓̾̐͑̀̀̑͛̕͝ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ ͈̬̥ͤ͆͆ ̫̱̘̦̝͙̹̐ͣ͒̌͆ͯ̾̕ ͖͉̠̗̥͙̲͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́ ̷̝͋̇̑̌̑̀ ̶̧̺̘̬̰̹͌ ̶̪̦̥̽͌̓̋̂͛̇̀͋̿̇̈̈́͆͝ͅ ̷̧̛͚͉͎̿̾̚͠ ̵̰̲͉͋̏̈̓̅̑̿͝ ̶̤̹̤͍͕̜̱̭͉̜̣̮̬̐͜ ̶̥̞́̃̃̊͗͑̒̈́̽̾̓͜͝ ̶͍̫̗͛̍͂͌̈́̂͘͝ͅ ̶̙̃̓̾̐͑̀̀̑͛̕͝ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ 

 

 

Ry David Bradley, Transmission, 2020, Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney | Singapore. Photography by Aaron Anderson.

Ry David Bradley, Transmission, 2020, Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney.
Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney | Singapore.
Photography by Aaron Anderson.

Already transformed once, the high-res digital outputs of the original images are then woven as tapestries, creating a kind of skeuomorphic tactile throwback to an earlier kind of image making—an oscillation between historical and contemporary technique.

The works are dimmed in colour from their backlit originals, but their size and intricate fabrication work in their favour, producing layered compositions so detailed and bewildering they can only be taken in at a distance.

In ‘bruegel74Peruses44vassal’ (2020), a gigantic mecha toy is stoic in stance, but its articulations are altered to protrude and bubble outwards, warping the space around it. Resembling contrails or movement blur, the figure looks as if it could be juddering into frame, or sprouting new limbs. The woven colours are muted and nostalgic, creating a ‘perfect object’ that mimics the aesthetic ambitions of the far future, while straddling the sureness of a richly historied physical medium.

There is an innate comfort to this combination of subject matter and medium, enhanced all the more by Bradley’s doctoring. The spidery sketch lines of the mecha, extending off in dusty pinks and twilight purples, evoke fantastical illustrations, or stills from The Dark Crystal and other lush amethyst-hued fantasies. A mish mash of cultural references and memories to pull from, without ever managing to grasp a single thread.

Adjacent to ‘bruegel74Peruses44vassal’ are other tapestries displaying slightly different approaches to image manipulation. Works like ‘Hub04fifty18backpack’ (2020) and ‘politic28Rhubarb13Talky’ (2020) forego the light touch enhancement of details. Instead, these works impose themselves as brash windows of colour in which a more enthusiastic painterly process practically overdraws the original photo. Caricatures of cats, chameleons and rabbits smile back, but it’s impossible to say if the photo underneath ever contained an animal in the first place. Despite this, and in a time when AI can be trained to perform similar techniques, here the artist’s mastery of composition—and the craftsmanship of the tapestries—remains front and centre.

Up close, the density of each warp and weft thread resembles tightly packed pixels on a screen. The cartoonish fur in ‘Hub04fifty18backpack’ reveals a near fractal quality—ever-increasing details of pattern and colour suddenly visible to the naked eye. Even the broad-stroke scribbles in ‘politic28Rhubarb13Talky’ overshadow the micro-explosions of colour that occur within every square centimetre of the fabric. Each thread emerges as a clear dash before delving back down into the fabric’s weave. A real-life tactile jpeg, no compression, no memory loss, no decay.

Ry David Bradley, Hub04fifty18backpack, 2020, dye cotton tapestry, 160 x 140 cm.

Ry David Bradley, Hub04fifty18backpack, (2020)
Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney | Singapore.
Photography by Aaron Anderson.

 

͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ ͈̬̥ͤ͆͆ ̫̱̘̦̝͙̹̐ͣ͒̌͆ͯ̾̕ ͖͉̠̗̥͙̲͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ̷̢̮͉̱̜́̌͛̈́͊͆̈́̈̏͘͠ ̷̝͋̇̑̌̑̀ ̶̧̺̘̬̰̹͌ ̶̪̦̥̽͌̓̋̂͛̇̀͋̿̇̈̈́͆͝ͅ ̷̧̛͚͉͎̿̾̚͠ ̵̰̲͉͋̏̈̓̅̑̿͝ ̶̤̹̤͍͕̜̱̭͉̜̣̮̬̐͜ ̶̥̞́̃̃̊͗͑̒̈́̽̾̓͜͝ ̶͍̫̗͛̍͂͌̈́̂͘͝ͅ ̶̙̃̓̾̐͑̀̀̑͛̕͝ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ ͈̬̥ͤ͆͆ ̫̱̘̦̝͙̹̐ͣ͒̌͆ͯ̾̕ ͖͉̠̗̥͙̲͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́ ̷̝͋̇̑̌̑̀ ̶̧̺̘̬̰̹͌ ̶̪̦̥̽͌̓̋̂͛̇̀͋̿̇̈̈́͆͝ͅ ̷̧̛͚͉͎̿̾̚͠ ̵̰̲͉͋̏̈̓̅̑̿͝ ̶̤̹̤͍͕̜̱̭͉̜̣̮̬̐͜ ̶̥̞́̃̃̊͗͑̒̈́̽̾̓͜͝ ̶͍̫̗͛̍͂͌̈́̂͘͝ͅ ̶̙̃̓̾̐͑̀̀̑͛̕͝ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ 

 

 

These techniques of skewing, warping, bulging are at their most arresting when applied to portraits of people. The human face naturally has so many striking elements to enhance and draw out, but the effect here often renders the sitter grotesque. In this context, the juddering smudging of features is used to create slug-like eyes, taking a turn away from the playful and towards the disquiet of Uzumaki.

Bradley’s interventions in the close up portrait ‘Medlar23Advised99Airflow’ (2020) almost erase the humanity of the female subject, with features sketched in uncanny broad detail. However, for all that it appears uncanny and askew, the overall effect captures something of her embodied personality in a way a photograph never could. And, despite the distortion, her glinting eyes retain a knowing gaze brimming with that melancholic longing, as if this a last glance—a final moment—before the farewell. Her face bubbles outwards. Her fingers elongate in a graceful sweeping movement, trying to feel their way out of the tapestry and grasp on to the present.

Looking for clues, it’s impossible to overlook the names of these tapestries which—along with the visual effects of warping and melting—speak to a kind of cerebral decay that is more tactile and organic than the bit rot of digital images. The more frequently digital media is handled, the greater the chance it will become corrupted. The more often a memory is handled, perhaps, the more likely it is that distortion will begin to take root, embedding a slow degradation. In this sense, memories and data are the same, and Bradley’s work attempts to find a tactile vessel for these transient, evolving moments.

 

͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ ͈̬̥ͤ͆͆ ̫̱̘̦̝͙̹̐ͣ͒̌͆ͯ̾̕ ͖͉̠̗̥͙̲͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ̷̢̮͉̱̜́̌͛̈́͊͆̈́̈̏͘͠ ̷̝͋̇̑̌̑̀ ̶̧̺̘̬̰̹͌ ̶̪̦̥̽͌̓̋̂͛̇̀͋̿̇̈̈́͆͝ͅ ̷̧̛͚͉͎̿̾̚͠ ̵̰̲͉͋̏̈̓̅̑̿͝ ̶̤̹̤͍͕̜̱̭͉̜̣̮̬̐͜ ̶̥̞́̃̃̊͗͑̒̈́̽̾̓͜͝ ̶͍̫̗͛̍͂͌̈́̂͘͝ͅ ̶̙̃̓̾̐͑̀̀̑͛̕͝ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ ͈̬̥ͤ͆͆ ̫̱̘̦̝͙̹̐ͣ͒̌͆ͯ̾̕ ͖͉̠̗̥͙̲͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́ ̷̝͋̇̑̌̑̀ ̶̧̺̘̬̰̹͌ ̶̪̦̥̽͌̓̋̂͛̇̀͋̿̇̈̈́͆͝ͅ ̷̧̛͚͉͎̿̾̚͠ ̵̰̲͉͋̏̈̓̅̑̿͝ ̶̤̹̤͍͕̜̱̭͉̜̣̮̬̐͜ ̶̥̞́̃̃̊͗͑̒̈́̽̾̓͜͝ ̶͍̫̗͛̍͂͌̈́̂͘͝ͅ ̶̙̃̓̾̐͑̀̀̑͛̕͝ ̷̙̰̯̯̙̬̱̃̄ ̶̨̜͙̗̣̱͕͎͇̲̥̱̝͒̎͆͊ ̴̞͓͉͈̯̖̬̿͑̌̿͊̔̔̄̑̚͝͝ͅ ̷̡̧̱̪̟͚͕̗͖̩̯͍͓͕͖͉̠̗̥͙̲̏̅̆͌̾̏̂͌̅́͌̒ͫ̅̃̔̈́͘ ͞ ͎͉̙̍ͨ́ ͓̞̱̼̜̳̘͡ ̬͒ 

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s Note: The interludes in this review are indebted to Kit Buckley’s poem ‘your balcony, maybe five years ago’, which appeared in Taper #3

15 February - 5 March 2020
Sullivan + Strumpf

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