Matisse’s Large Reclining Nude (The Pink Nude), 1936 provides the starting point for Ziegler’s new series of paintings and a new two channel video work (all 2016). Ziegler was drawn to the painting’s embodiment of a shift from figuration to abstraction.
The development of Matisse’s painting between May and October 1935 was documented in a series of 22 black and white slides that illustrate the painting’s evolution from illusionistic to two dimensional space. Through this surviving documentation we can see how Matisse edited, cropped, flattened and stretched the body in its context to greater effect in the painting, retaining the human figure, whilst tightening and streamlining the motif like a piece of typography or a logo. This analogue animation of two dimensional work and the painterly process is echoed in Ziegler’s two channel video. Looping simultaneously on two large freestanding LED screens, the first screen depicts digital images of The Pink Nude which Ziegler sourced through Google image searches.
Using a digital technique of progressive pixellation, Ziegler presents a systematic degradation and abstraction of the reproduction of Matisse’s painting. The second screen shows the results of Ziegler resubmitting each modified Pink Nude image back into Google image. We witness the imaginary painted body disintegrate as perversely Google summons fleshy corporeal images such as sickly sweet pink mouths, feet, and make-up whilst the next screen fades to reveal images of Chinese currency, clouds and idyllic skies. Ziegler homes in on our predisposition to find resonance and meaning in incongruous images and forms; the slow pace of transformation of the films’ frames enhances our ability and desire to make connections whilst simultaneously seducing, repulsing and evoking ambivalence.
This is Google as Delphic Oracle, I Ching or collective unconscious, revealing the associations that a particular configuration of colour and tone provoke in the hive-mind of Google users. This transfiguration performed by Google, from image to pure data and back again, acts as an analogy for Ziegler’s process as a painter. Meticulously painting and reproducing the Pink Nude image on large scale aluminium supports, Ziegler brings art history in and out of focus, utilising analogue means to zoom in and out of the image, inverting it, tessellating it, saturating or paring back the colours to black and white, before further subjection to painting on top of the image and sanding it back with a rotary sander.
This process echoes how computers process images, losing information and data through translation of the image and recreating a facsimile that perpetuates a new visual currency for us to consume and disseminate. This homage and corrosion of the image sets up a playful surface tension that is utterly compelling and of its time.
The resultant paintings shimmer and glow, with the scale, process and layers of painting and light reflective sanding marks simultaneously recalling Roman graphics, pixels and screen resolutions – a marriage of past, present, future that situate and question the body in relation to technology, the object and the image.