Dan Hays’ lecture focused on the experience of doing a PhD at Kingston University: the interests that led him there and the impact on his work.
His interest in landscape and the screen started back in 1996 with paintings based on slide photos of snow scenes, taken in France when visiting his father; and how the slides looked when held up to the light. He experimented with dragging and blurring techniques. These overlapped with a concurrent interest in mail order catalogues and the effects produced by poor colour registration on already-poor-quality images. He talked about the different ways of
playing optical games
He tried painting from stills of tourist videos; these secondary images were disintegrating because of the loss of image information. He added to this with the kind of stripes and wavy distortions you get on TV screens.
While trawling the web for images, Dan discovered another Dan Hays in Colorado, who had a website with images of the local landscape. These were also stills from videos, and offered more opportunities to work with degraded and degrading imagery. He also painted his alter ego‘s ‘Self-portrait’.
At the end of his talk, he mentioned that his father had been a TV director, so TV screens and images had played a big part in his childhood. This may account for screens as a starting point but his underlying themes – the distancing effect of screen imagery, the ability of paintings to offer different views from afar and close up, his exploitation of the persistence of images in the brain – have wide application in the contemporary world.
As well as using repeated processing to break up the images, he also used painting techniques that disrupt the surface: the underlayer often carries the image and composition, while the top layer is a pattern of dots or dashes which modulates both colour and surface. These images illustrate his contention that electronic information has no physical presence and creates a distance between the viewer and the physical reality of the subject, even as it appears to bring the whole world into our living room.
He talked about ‘the persistence of landscape’ even in paintings which have colour systems imposed on them, as well as stripes, grids and distortion. On the left is a photo of Colorado, sourced from the web; he discovered that when he inverted both the photo and the colours, a new landscape was created as shown right. The resulting paintings are below.