A quick look at Google’s Ngram Viewer reveals that use of the word haptic has spiked precipitously in the past decade after having risen for the prior half century. Google doesn’t explain this increase, but it’s a safe bet that it has something to do with its use as a buzzword in art and technology. In art the term refers to touch and more specifically to hand-placed objects, a good example being Sarah Sze’s handcrafted installations. In technology it refers to how the ergonomic feel of a device such as a touchscreen translates bodily movements into a display or transformation of digital information. Francesco Igory Deiana’s aptly titled solo show at CULT, Haptic Render, explores these relationships.
The largest drawing here, Photoshop Brush Stroke, might be the clearest statement of those relationships, and a bit of a stunner. Although rendered in graphite at 10 x 12 feet, its forms emulate the kind of cursory doodles we’ve all done with Photoshop’s pen tool. The surprise is that it’s entirely drawn by hand. Deiana born in Milan and based in San Francisco, used a homemade tool that holds two pencils together, thereby creating the fat noodle-like forms on the panel.
This is a strangely primitive yet ingenious way of mimicking digital media with analog tools. The outline it generates is densely filled with repetitive back-and-forth graphite hatch-marks. These appear flat black from a distance, but up-close reveal themselves to be vigorously repetitive waveforms made of graphite, an excellent use of graphite’s opaque grey/reflective silver qualities. Although the piece is wider than it is high, the tripartite division gives it an intense verticality.
Photoshop Brush Stroke recalls the work of Wade Guyton, but where Guyton gives digital reproduction a personal touch – a distinct “hapticity” — Deiana invests the hand-drawn with a digital aura. Both artists investigate how our haptic sense is invested in both the real world of physical space and the virtual world in which physical movements are translated into carefully calibrated, yet essentially abstract digital images.
Although this piece is rectangular, the large scale, tripartite division, and use of the infinitely scalable pen tool all reflect the general arbitrariness of scale and framing conventions in digital media.
In his smaller drawings, Deiana employs more convoluted framing devices to reflect a different aspect of digital media’s malleability: the tendency of arbitrary shapes to endlessly replicate themselves within relatively narrow parameters. In these, the artist inscribes an abstract texture resembling fabric viewed through TV static within an outline built of right angles alternating with semi-circular cutouts and overlaid with tightly spaced, thin-ruled pencil markings. The result is tension: between the geometric and painterly, the planar and the abstract, soft and hard, noise and information, space and flatness.
Overall, the feel, from one piece to the next, can be repetitive. Deiana’s work is a delicate balance of conceptual parameters and consummate draftsmanship, and sometimes the draftsman wins out too often. He’s better when he’s on the move.
A fine example is the untitled site-specific sculptural installation in the gallery’s closet-sized walk-in room. It’s easily the most experimental piece on view. It explores the relationship between solid form, flat image and the play of light on planar surfaces. It consists of an image of a rectangular form intercut with semi-circles projected over a U-shaped obelisk, stationed on a wide plinth. The shape is filled in with graphite and dispersed over the wall, floor, plinth and obelisk. From a single vantage it snaps into place and then fragments as you move your head.
Thus, a single silhouetted shape projected onto a 3-D sculptural surface becomes a play of varyingly reflective and faceted interlocking planes, a combination of formal rigor and shifting unstable meanings: clear, elegant and concise, and with surprising nuances and intricate spatial relationships.
Francesco Igory Deiana, “Haptic Render” @ CULT|Aimee Friberg Exhibitions through October 31, 2015.
About the Author:
Elwyn Palmerton is an Oakland-based artist dealing in obsessive and improvisational abstract paintings. A New Jersey native, he received a B.A. from New York University and an M.F.A. from The School of Visual Arts. Since graduating he has exhibited regularly in New York City and Oakland. His writing has appeared in Frieze, Art Ltd., Artillery, Sculpture and Art Review.