"Search Engine" (2006):


Lipstick-smeared fruit bats crowd around an emotionless portrait of a subject who is imagining modern haute-couture models bathed in blue digital light. Facial features of a blonde reproduce and dissolve into landscapes of cellular structures, while lines of beautiful exotic women parade past she-beasts and cosmetics products.

Is it surrealism? Is it a mad woman's collage of self-image issues and hysteria? No. It is an interpretation of the collapse of modern image representation, organization, and meaning through the eyes of a society viewing life and existence through cyber windows. Living in a computerized image databank culture, we are overfed on a constant stream of über-information, obese with hyper-entertainment and immediate quick fixes of adrenaline-infused knowledge. On a single computer screen we are able to overlay endless boxes containing related and unrelated, historic and contemporary, researched and fabricated, real and cartoon material, accessible with the click of the mouse. My canvases teeter on the brink of visual chaos as I collapse these windows into a single frame. Thick textured areas are combined with flat delineated forms overlaid with translucent figures, all rendered in oil. Even the canvases themselves appear to be stacked one on top of the other with their multi-layered construction.

The images used are sourced using the modern information guru: Google. For the painting described at the beginning of this statement, "beauty is skin deep" was typed into the search engine. I work with figure-of-speech models, for which there are no generally accepted universal visual descriptions. Other idioms I have used include: "wolf in sheep's clothing", "dog eat dog", and "walking the line". I selected images from the hundreds of thousands of returned websites for their power and their connect and disconnect with the other images selected.

The paintings encapsulate, rather than literally illustrate, the googled phrases and create a new multi-faceted contemporary meaning for them. The viewer attempts to establish narratives and concepts in the mass of images in the same way that we endeavour to make sense of our chaotic, over-stimulated, digitized lives.

all content © Lisa Birke 2015