Claire Corey (*1968) lives and works in New York. She studied fine art at the University of California in Los Angeles and, in 2001, was honoured with the Aldrich Museum Trustee's Award for an Emerging Artist. On the occasion of her first solo showing in Europe, Galerie Bugdahn und Kaimer is presenting works on canvas and paper, completed since 2001.
Claire Corey's pictures are developed and produced entirely by means of digital hard and software. She began with a 'traditional' painting approach; but in 1995, produced her first computer sketches. For some time now this has been the route to her paintings too, which she builds up using generally available software, scanned material and obsessive processing - cutting, copying, altering, layering, saving or rejecting versions, selecting and combining. Then she prints out the results directly on watercolour paper or canvas. Corey names her works, which can attain sizes of up to 180 x 250 cm, according to an alphanumerical system (thus, 5Z11D), which, on the one hand, bars the interpretative keys of the usual kind of titling, but, on the other, marks out for her the chronological genesis of her forms.
For contemporary art, the computer has already become part of the stock in trade, both as a tool and a subject. In visual art, photography has been tangibly the most consistent and persuasive field for digital technology. Painting, along with drawing, was always the medium epitomising an unmistakable hand and the concept of the Original; so that the digital as a source in that genre tended rather to be viewed with scepticism. Yet in a historical perspective, currents that anticipated aspects of computer art have arisen again and again from the beginning of the last century on. The repetition of patterns, a phenomenon that first emerged with Matisse, was resumed towards the close of the 1970s as 'Patterning Art' and later by artists such as Lydia Dona, David Reed, Philip Taaffe and others. One finds Polke practising the quoting and assembling of heterogeneous elements in concentrated form, and the principle of mathematical permutation was pioneered in trends such as Op Art and Concrete Art. The common factor of diminishing artistic subjectivity meant, in summary, that the individuality of brushstroke and composition were abandoned in favour of an objectifiable and cool serial mode.
That is the contextual environment of Corey's artistic position, for all its abstract-expressionistic air at first-glance. The viewer soon senses that the hybrid, complex structure of these works cannot have come about manually. With her concept of a painting oriented on the abstract and decidedly painterly, while the process of its making is digital, the artist has set herself no mean challange, and her masterly handling of the technical repertory at her disposal achieves that in every sense. An important function in this is her composition as a cogent, exciting arrangement of individual elements into a pictorial whole. It allows Corey to stamp the digital medium with individual authorship to the extent of crystallising out a perceptible style.
The many different patterns in these works (squares, stripes, circles, etc.) catch the eye from the beginning. These graphic fields of rectangular or biomorphous tendency blend into more painterly areas with defined brushstrokes. Transparency and density, hard and soft edges, different positions in the pictorial space and differing directions and layers are combined in rapid alternation and to a height of perfection. The overall effect of these pictures is of high alertness and almost electric pulsating structures in juxtaposition with forceful broad sweeps of colour.
Claire Corey's fundamental attitude to computers is not so much enthusiasm for technology as one of subversion. She has a fine instinct for turning the limitations of the medium, the programme errors, to good account for her art. She also plays skilfully with our assumption that looking closely means better perception and that we can thereby the better 'get to grips' with the picture. Instead, the viewer's gaze is wrapt again and again as it moves in fractions of a second from one detail to the next and is fascinated by the infinite colour variations and an inexhaustible wealth of form.