David Blatherwick : Cheese, Worms and the Holes in Everything

The Painting Pathogen: Recent Works of David Blatherwick
Text by James D. Campbell

Colonisation or colonization occurs whenever any one or more species populates a new area. The term, which is derived from the Latin colere, “to inhabit, cultivate, frequent, practice, tend, guard, respect”, originally related to humans. However, 19th century biogeographers borrowed the term to describe the activities of birds or bacteria, or plant species. — Wikipedia

David Blatherwick’s new paintings betray a polychrome profusion of sinuous shapes and invasive signifying units. Before we even know it, they have insinuated themselves inside our thinking. Like a virus that has performed a containment breach between painting and our own environmental (lived) space, having moved with alacrity outside both the bio-safe facility of the studio/lab and the Art Mur exhibition space alike, they overtake eye and mind before we even know we have been colonized.

When I look long at the paintings of David Blatherwick, and then longer still, I don’t think necessarily of the work of his brave confreres, his peers, or even his predecessors, in painting, I see in my mind’s restless eye images out of supercomputing, wetware, wireheading, the whole biocybernetic software of mind – and, not least, bacteriology.

Slippery like wetware, segmented like an Inuit hunter’s trap, with all the unfettered infinity-loop antics of a Fibonacchi sequence, Mobius strip, Mandelbrot fractal or viral code, Blatherwick’s recent paintings bleed full-frame in real space – and bring us to our knees.

An infection is universally understood as the detrimental colonization of a host organism by a foreign species. In an infection scenario, the infecting organism uses the host’s own resources in order to proliferate. However, in terms of experiencing Blatherwick’s wily abstracts, think of a symbiosis between parasite and host that is consummately thoughtful – and altogether benign.

After all, most multi-cellular organisms are colonized to some lesser or greater extent by extrinsic organisms, and by far the better part of those exist in a commensual relationship with the host. The sheer virulence of Blatherwick’s paintings is noteworthy. Consider the symbiotic parasitism that is the relationship here of painting to host organism construed as exhibition hall, and proceed from there to what they are doing to the inside of your own forebrain.  Blatherwick’s seizure of real space (the space outside of painting) is coextensive with that of cerebral space (the thought from outside) – but with an intent to influence, change, colonize. After all, colonization – coup d’etat of the viewer’s own thought waves, but in a good way — is his avowed goal.

If Blatherwick’s subversive works are akin to pathogens, they also find another analogy outside painting in programming, especially in Unix systems, where semaphores are a technique for coordinating or synchronizing activities in which multiple processes compete for the same operating system resources. Semaphores are one of the techniques for inter-process communication and every time the undulating shapes in Blatherwick’s paintings seem to morph and multiply, they are signaling their own mutations in real time as we absorb them. Quite suddenly, his paintings become something else. Their viral codes seem to constantly assemble, diassemble and reassemble and keep us on our toes.

If symbols are traditionally been readily more associated with paintings while metaphors are reserved for poetry, well, Blatherwick’s work helps reverse this trend.  If his desire as a wetware hacker of a painter has been to take advantage of analogies with a physical interface with the brain; he has pursued the pathways of visual perception to alter the mindset of his viewers, and lead them over the threshold into what were, just yesterday, tomorrow worlds, but are now more present than future. Blatherwick creates his own hot zones (1) and containment is simply not an option.
His telematic, viral games of snakes and ladders not only resist stasis and keep the optic hopping, they boldly go where no painter has gone before and thereby signal both their promise in and pertinence to the present tense of painting.

1. ‘Hot zone’ refers to an area that is considered hazardous owing to biological, chemical, or nuclear contamination. The “hot zone” also refers to the area in which dangerous biological organisms are handled, such as the Biosafety Level 4 of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.