Nick Gentry Artist Analysis Essay

Drawing on recycled and obsolete technological materials as the grounds for his paintings, London-based artist Nicholas Gentry creates a conversation between digital and analog processes. Gentry constructs his painting supports out of materials such as 35mm film negatives, VHS cassettes, X-ray prints, and floppy discs. “These objects are no longer in the spotlight,” the artist has said of obsolete artefacts, “but by placing them there for a second it becomes easier to comprehend the speed and extent of the changes that are taking place today.”

The materials are sourced directly from members of the public in a ‘social art’ project. This open working practice is a fundamental starting point of each new work and allows shared histories to form collective identities. The rigorous conceptual basis of this work explores the areas where reality meets illusion, while drawing on references from consumer waste, to pop culture and found art. Known for his portraits and installations that treat the human form not as a subject in itself, but rather as the vehicle to carry the medium. In his art, Gentry questions the fundamental relationship of the human being to both our created world and what we call reality. Further info on Widewalls.

I don't know about you but I grew up in an era when floppy disks, cassette and VHS tapes were carried about in everyone’s school bag at school. We used to share our music by borrowing handed out tapes swearing we would return it safely. Computer games where shared through multiple floppy disks and we all had our own iterations of the best mix tape straight from the radio. So much content, information and data was embedded into those storage devices and now they seem to be only a slight flashback of our past. What is it to do with this media that we invested so much time, taste and emotion? Even though the days of sharing VHS, floppy disks and cassette tapes are gone, Nick Gentry, a British graduate of Central St. Martins has a strong connection to these media forms and wants you to send him yours if you have any.

Growing up with those devices, he is inspired by the sociological impact of the new internet culture. His portraits use a combination of obsolete but unforgotten media formats. The layering of these elements speaks in tomes on issues of identity, information and waste. By utilizing these old formats, he is able to prolong and their lives thereby creating new meaning. Using them as canvas or as I like to call them, Floppy Pixels, the portraits create an interesting connection to the media.  When looking at his work, one cannot help but think about whether there is a strong connection between the media and the portrait. What kind of data do these floppy disks contain? What does it say about the character portrayed? The experience of his art layers the dichotomy of whether the character is liberated from technology or entrapped by it. Do we master technology or does it master us?

The exploration of how humankind is integrating with technology continues to be pivotal to Nick Gentry's work. As we continue to be beings of social learning, our evolution to adopting and innovating in technology will continue to increase this fragile tipping point of intense dependency.

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