Working with diverse methods that range from the cyanotype process to digital printing and satellite mapping, contemporary artist Hugh Scott-Douglas explores the potential of photographic media while reconfiguring the medium of painting in his printed abstractions. His works are equally diverse in their concerns, including the constantly shifting nature of light, economics, and the value of objects.Read More
Scott-Douglas first gained recognition with The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, his solo exhibition at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, in 2013, where he arranged 18 cyanotype prints into a grid on the wall. Each artwork was a product of both digital and analogue processes, begun by creating lattice-like patterns on the computer. After printing the motifs on transparent film, the artist laid them on canvas with photosensitive solution and exposed them to the sun to make cyanotypes. In an interview with Canadian Art that same year, the artist explained that he was drawn to the cyanotype process because of its historical use as the architect's blueprint, which is, in his words, 'the image before an image'. Through his cyanotypes, Scott-Douglas explores the shadows or marks that are left behind when light and objects are removed.
Cyanotype is one of the diverse processes Scott-Douglas employs to experiment with varying levels of control in art-making. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari also featured linens made using a laser-cutting machine. Unlike the unpredictable nature of sunlight in cyanotypes, infrared light in laser-cutting allows for a precise cutting of the fabric. In an interview with the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada in 2012, the artist likened his laser-cutting process to creating lace—both become 'beautiful through destruction', or subtraction, of materials. At Blum & Poe, the patterns on the laser-cut artworks were based on the photographs of his cyanotype prints, an instance where the by-products of nature were digitally altered.
Scott-Douglas continued his interest in technology, especially that of digitisation, at the solo exhibition eyes without a face at Croy Nielsen, Vienna, in 2014, when he presented two sculptures comprising of newspapers stacked on EUR-pallets. The images in the newspapers were lifted from Delcampe, an auction site for collectible items such as stamps, postcards, books, phone cards, currency, and badges. While the website continues to evolve, the artist's sculptures represent a frozen moment in which he accessed the site to gather whatever materials were available at the time. The exhibition also included the 'Chopped Bills' series, begun in 2013, for which the artist alters banknotes with stamps and ink. This enables the paper currency to be scanned—otherwise illegal in America (software programmes are designed so that they cannot recognise banknotes)—and enlarged digitally, then printed in portions on linen. Untitled (2015), for example, is a pair of blown-up images of banknotes, each featuring a stamp of a bee in blue.
Another ongoing concern in Scott-Douglas' practice involves economics, global maritime trade, and its impact on the ocean. For the series of digitally printed paintings titled 'Trade Winds' (2017), the artist used the live vessel tracking software programme FleetMon to map out trade routes in various regions of the world, such as MEDITERRANEAN SUEZ ASIANTIC ROUTE (2017), which depicts the data in abstract patterns in shades of red. 'Natural History' (2018), another series of printed paintings, employed a similarly complex process that the artist began by taking photographs of the wildlife dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He then used computer algorithms and screen-tone plastic films to make the texture of the images resemble products of four-colour printing, and scanned and printed them for a final time in ink and resin. As a result, the works belonging to this series—all titled Natural History—feature photographic pictures of coral and other underwater creatures with an overlay of a dotted pattern found in analogue four-colour presses.
Since graduating from Toronto's Ontario College of Art and Design in 2010, Scott-Douglas has shown his work internationally. Selected solo exhibitions include Hard Rain at Gallery Baton, Seoul (2019); Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you at Blum & Poe, Tokyo (2019); Trade Winds at Casey Kaplan, New York (2016); Hugh Scott-Douglas at Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts (2016); and Consumables at Simon Lee Gallery, London (2015).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2019