Telaesthesia: reality, painting and technology


“We have exchanged the reality of the world we see with our eyes for the reality of the world we see through screens,” says curator and artist Tony Lloyd when explaining the motivation behind Telaesthesia at Hill Smith Gallery. The consequence of this, argues Lloyd, is “that the virtual and the actual have equal weight.”

Telaesthesia is an exhibition that explores how technological realities have altered the practices of both painting and how we perceive the world. Bringing together the work of five artists (Tony Lloyd, David Ralph, Darren Wardle, Stephen Haley, and Camilla TadichTelaesthesia is a vast exploration of painting under contemporary conditions. As Lloyd sums up, “The works in this exhibition are mysterious, romantic, sci-fi, baroque, sleek, gestural, colourful, subdued. They depict the natural world, the man made environment, the virtual world and the artist’s imaginings.”

Like many exhibitions, Telaesthesia began with conversation. “The five artists in this exhibition all shared a studio space for several years until 2012 and we would sit around our kitchen table and talk about what it meant to be painting in a post-digital and post-internet world,” says Lloyd.

“The digital screen-based world had created a style shift in all of our work and also in the work of other painters we admired, but we didn’t see any curatorial investigation into this effect.”

While Lloyd’s motivations are quite clear, the exhibition needed a concept to ground itself in. Fortunately, Lloyd came across the word ‘telaesthesia’ when reading the work of the media theorist McKenzie Wark. “It’s a para-psychological term meaning perception at a distance, as in a psychic vision,” explains the artist. “I immediately thought that it was a great metaphor for how we all work in our studios using digital means to summon images of things that are far away.”

The pivotal exploration of the show is how digital effects have subtly reprogrammed how we actually see and represent reality. Telaesthesia looks at how digital manipulations such as Photoshop layering, smoothness and virtual lighting are influencing the very brushstrokes and compositions of painting.

Hill Smith Gallery
23 September – 14 October

Preview Words by Tiarney Miekus