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James Irwin: Binary Translations

Courtesy the artist and Space in Between
James Irwin, 'The cone of pure memory', 2013
Free

James Irwin, a graduate of Goldsmiths College’s Computational Studio Arts MFA course, set about systematically analysing and decoding the 16,777,216 unique colours of the RGB spectrum through a custom computer program. The program generated semi-random coded prints – each one a unique play on the digital representation of colour. But an internet search for ‘16777216’ revealed images by another artist that eerily echoed Irwin’s own.

Staggered by the coincidence, Irwin invited the artist, France Languérand, to exhibit alongside him. The result is a moving exploration of communication and dialogue that speaks volumes for the power of digital art.

The six prints on show here flicker under your eyes, stuttering like intense optical illusions. They’re at once harsh and strikingly pretty, the visual manifestations of the artist’s efforts to understand the most fundamental of art’s building blocks: colour.

But what makes them more than just aesthetically pleasing is their narrative. Irwin turns this awesome little show into a powerful artistic dialogue; a visual poem about the possibilities of digital communication and the realities that can be born from the virtual. A video projection shows a spinning Mobius strip, stitched together from different images by the two artists – a rotating visual trick that, again, thanks to its narrative, manages to be more human than a lot of contemporary painting. ‘Cone of Memory’, a floor-based projection that flicks through the colour spectrum while cycling through a quote from French philosopher Henri-Louis Bergson, lacks the immediate punch of the other works on display but is saved by its accompanying soundtrack. Rumbling viciously out of two speakers, the twisting sine waves help to turn the show into a full-on sensory experience; a digital world that’s not just full of possibilities, but is very real.

Eddy Frankel

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