The exhibition takes its title ‘Summer Learning Loss’ from research into the effects of extended leisure time within educational contexts, noting that on average one month of learning is lost during a student’s summer vacation. There is a hidden cost to relaxation: information loss, we are warned. This anxiety is played out in this body of weavings, in which digital images of popular vacation locations are cropped from their context and layered until faceless – familiar, but no longer real or ideal. The personal becomes anonymous, the private now shared, the author disappears into the background.
These hot spots are sourced using automated algorithms set up to identify popular geotags and hashtags online. Desktop folders archive the trends, creating a catalogue of mountains, sunsets, forests and seascapes, from which the artist filters and chooses. Wolowiec uses a sublimation dye process to transfer these images onto polyester threads which warp and distort under the heat – abstracting the images further – and loosely weaves these threads together by hand, according to the binary logic of the loom: up/down, on/off – transforming jpegs into textiles, pixels into knots. At once ethereal and concrete, the works emphasise a capacity unique to weaving, to shift between traditions, shuttle between theoretical positions and hover around borders. These works are in-tension and ex-tension; nomadic in essence, they voyage in place. The delight is in the detail – the haptic vibration of yarns juxtaposed. The resultant tapestries are cinematic, yet static – tied down by threads, the material gives form to the data. The ideal is made anodyne through a muddling of colours: woodland on water, on sunset, on sand. Screenshots, stitched together, swiping fast and slow.
Though quick to capture, the speed and neurosis of the imagery is offset by the process of handweaving, which acts as a slow, considered counter-gesture of sorts; meditative in its resistance to time, it allows the artist, to decelerate, process and delay the object’s manufacture and consumption.
A distressed, striated aesthetic remains; disrupted only by diagonal gestures in ink – a scribble or cross to the surface that joins the panels and calls to mind edits on a photographic contact sheet – a punctum, to pull the personal back in. Indeed, Wolowiec’s work can be viewed with 19th Century American photographic traditions in mind, but so too, with the desire to capture the landscape reminiscent of 18th Century landscape painters and the New York Hudson River School.
Her anxious rich abstractions work with technology – old and new – to capture the seen/unseen white noise of a web-ready world. This sonic quality is echoed in her video works, which play on repeat like computer screensavers, aiming to capture the landscape, with a shaking hand – all 360 degrees. Displayed on free-standing acrylic screens, opposite, and at right-angles to the weavings, the imagery floats from one axis of the artist’s body – reversing the movement of the loom: down/up – creating a diaristic, almost painterly map of the landscape, from shore and shrubs to sky.
Margo Wolowiec - Summer Learning Loss
Laura Bartlett Gallery, June 10 - July 31