The Visual Splendor of Joy Garnett’s Yangtse Three Gorges Dam Series

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Four paintings from the China Yangtse Three Gorges Project Series on display along with their internet source at the Winkleman Gallery’s PULSE booth this year. I thought the lighting of the paintings was poor but the works rich.

There’s something wonderful about seeing a painter turn an internet image into something that transcends its historic moment. Joy Garnett paints from reality as portrayed on the web. It only seems appropriate, since the web is how many of us are coming to view the world, through jpegs that pass into our consciousness often devoid of context.

Joy has curated official Chinese government photos of the Three Gorges Dam construction project–the largest hydropower-complex project in the world– and she had created a painting from each which artistically peels away the candy-coated kitsch to reveal a seductive scene that chucks any inkling of romanticism. The Three Gorges Dam project has displaced 1.24 million (though some say millions more) in order to complete a series of hydroelectric dams to power China’s energy hungry megacities.

Her Paintings: China Yangtse Three Gorges Project series (there are more than four in the series, see them here) began last year and she uses a fresh and seductive palette to lure you into each canvas.

They remind me of Pierre Bonnard and his tendency (particularly late in life) to break up the painting’s surface into patches or lines of color that challenge the original representation. Obviously her energy is more contemporary and less stodgy than that old skool modernist but nonetheless she breaks down the image into a mosaic of parts.

Joy’s not the only artist to paint from the web, but she does it with a finesse that others can only hope to acheive.

On her website Joy calls the works:

Landscape at the crossroads of nationalist propaganda and eco-rhetoric.

She adds:

The project has grown to become one of China’s worst environmental nightmares, contributing on a massive scale to erosion and pollution levels, and adversely affecting fault lines, the vitality of wetlands, fish populations, etc. It has nevertheless become a model for similar proposals from countries on other continents, providing a high profile stage for global one-upmanship.

Last year, she had an exhibition at the Winkleman gallery that culled ominous seeming imagery from the internet (fires, smoggy scenes & explosions). One painting in particularly reminded me of the work of Albert Marquet, in fact all the works seemed informed by Marquet’s loose brushwork (for example: compare this with this). The fact that Joy marries an early modernist aesthetic with a contemporary medium (the internet) speaks more about our moment in art, a time when we are at the crest of a nascent energy that we’re still learning to embrace. It’s worth noting that she is able to humanize her figure-less scenes easily.

I think part of the success of this series (and her last show) lies in Joy’s vast knowledge of the internet and the visual dialogue that takes place online, she is an art blogger after all (Newsgrist).

Joy Garnett

River (3), 2008

Joy Garnett Internet Pics for Paintings

Joy Garnett

River series

Joy Garnett Internet Pics for Paintings

Joy Garnett

River series

Joy Garnett Internet Pics for Paintings

Joy Garnett

River (5), 2008

Joy Garnett Internet Pics for Paintings

More internet images on display and obviously source material for the Three Gorges series:

Joy Garnett Internet Pics for Paintings

Coincidentally, you can view a video of her talking about her show last year here.

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