5 Sep
IMT’s latest exhibition is a positive departure from their specialism in predominantly sound based art forms.  Alejandro Ospina’s paintings form an installation, drawing allusion to the ordered grid patterns of many websites ranging from search engine images, social networking and dating websites, through to those of glamour magazines or of a more overtly sexual or pornographic nature.  The fifteen paintings hung around the gallery’s convex wall in a five by three grid formation also remind me of the video ‘quadrasphere’ exhibit on the water cycle at the Natural History Museum, where a similar grid of TV screens are surrounded by mirrors on all sides to create the visual effect of a whole globe of radiating light and image, much like the glowing computer screen these images originate from.
The collection functions as an overall piece, hence it seems a shame the paintings are individually for sale, seeing a price list lying around.  Purchasing just one of these would be like having just one friend on a social networking site, a strange, direct interaction in a plural world.  Perhaps we might question one’s motives for buying the work?  I suppose the grid layout is also common to many retail websites, functioning here to choose which painting to buy, but that similarity also questions the juncture between social networking and trade, and what it is that is for sale. 
The work opens questions as to whether we should be critiquing the rise of visually obsessed networking sites, which perhaps have social implications, making us vein, anorexic, excluded or antisocial, for example.  On the other hand, do we simply enjoy the view that has been offered to us?  Ospina’s work raises more questions than it provides answers to, remaining neutral and leaving us to debate our own opinions.  It additionally notes the historical nature that the recent invention of digital photography, and its increasing affordability and availability in mobile phones and similar devices, permits candid sexual images to be simply and quickly captured and transmitted in a way that never before could occur for the general camera owning public using film they took to be processed by a laboratory.  It therefore highlights an increasing freedom and independence in society.
I particularly like the quality of the paintings where the faces have been rendered indistinguishable, somewhat cubist and Picasso-esque, reflecting the anonymity that can be sought online, whether that is the model, poster or viewer.  One work also has a strange horizontal checkerboard surface that seems to be the floor but has undulations like a bed, creating a dreamlike space floating in the fluidity of the World Wide Web, existing everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. 
One painting is hung beside the upper level of the ascending stairs, but this would be better seen from above as the photograph is taken from above the model, although the eyes do slightly look down upon the viewer in the café/bar area.  Then as one works through from (during the private view) the crowded larger spaces, I found the rear room has become a curiously intimate space where one can sit alone and study at close range the second contact sheet style work, which contains the most revealing or sexualised images in the exhibition.  This seems to recreate the sort of personal encounter many would have with the websites these images originate from, yet questions the relationships that exist and can exist in the very public environment of the Internet (and also in the gallery).  Do we live in a world of exhibitionists and voyeurs, and if so how do these two groups interact?
Exhibition runs until 31st October 2010.

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