The Austin Chronicle


Jessica Mathews' exploration of digital and physical realities gains new dimensions in this solo exhibition

Reviewed by Caitlin Greenwood, October 11, 2013, Arts

'Stepping Into Water'

Red Space Gallery, 1203 W. 49th, Unit B
Through Oct. 14

"Stepping Into Water" is a departure for artist Jessica Mathews. An Austin transplant by way of Savannah, Ga., Mathews entered the scene with a formal art school background and began expanding her portfolio of photorealistic oil paintings. Much of her work debuted at Up Collective (where Mathews is a newly appointed director) and showcased the early stages of her exploration of digital and physical realities. "Screens," her first series to dissect the relationship between the two, represented the digital workspace as its own creative entity alongside the creative functionality for which we often employ computers. It depicted desktop backgrounds merging with images that Mathews was editing in Photoshop to create a fused portrait of both independent and dependent digital space.

This conceptual agenda dominates "Stepping Into Water," but instead of relying on paintings to carry the message, Mathews has made video and installation works the focal points, with paintings and illustrations also included. The strategy succeeds in fulfilling Mathews' ideas about the digital and the literal far better than her formative paintings.

Red Space Gallery's walls are splashed with a compressed video of water moving. The subject has been zoomed in on to the point that it's almost indiscernible except for quick flicks of movement across the water's surface that translate as movements in the stark blues projected onto the wall. Physical representations of the blocked pixels that make up the digital image have been built out of wood and metal siding, then stacked in front of the projection to help anchor the installation. It's a somewhat cheeky way to let the video be less serene and more systematic in its origins.

Mathews' illustrations and paintings depict macro and micro views of the video installation. A gradient of blue in large scale and smaller scale are accompanied by illustrations of the many hexcodes that compose the image. Hexcodes, which allow computers to translate color, are composed of a six-digit code that correspond to different intensities of the primary colors. Mathews offers her audience a complete list of all the shades of blue presented in her video, which turns out to be an overwhelming number. It's another extension of the sensory pleasure we experience when interacting with technology that is, in reality, intensely multifaceted and complex. Mathews has just scratched the surface of this concept and, as she grows comfortable in new mediums, is sure to become even more intellectually captivating.

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