barbara bolt: technosublime

Noosa Regional Gallery
I I - 27 October 2002

How can I convey the deep thundering bass which is felt more than heard? The mass of bobbing bodies: blurred, colour, dimly outlined and unceasingly in motion? The space itself, which fleetingly seems as though it has no edges, no end in time or space, yet at the same time only stretches as far as you can see into the lights, the black walls, the heaving dancing masses? The sensation of dancing of moving without thought, of moving beyond thought, of just letting go, letting it all out? Words fail me; words become redundant and unnecessary, words become pointless.

(Malbon, B., 1999: xii-xiii, quoted in Bolt, B. 'The Techno-Sublime', unpublished paper)

Dance and movement, drugs and alcohol, screen and colour, performance and paint. These are the shifts that polka across Barbara Bolt's painterly explorations into the technosublime. lt is a subject Bolt has explored previously in her research and academic writing in which she examines the impact of technological change on our understanding of the sublime.

While traditionally used to describe 18th century landscape painting and its evocation of something other-worldly, the sublime is, perhaps, closer to the dance party experience than it may at first appear. lt may take us out of body into the world of the spirit - a rare enough experience in 2002 - and one more likely to be attractive outside the sanctified institutions than within. And while the dance behaviour is at first glance more profane than sacred, consider King David of old who 'danced before Lord with all his might' (11 Samuel 7, 14).

In October 2002 the technosublime became the subject of an exhibition of paintings at Noosa Regional Gallery. lt drew together Bolt's interest in performative practice, took her from the representational into the abstract, and was also, in some way, inspired by computer screen colour and the change of place dictated by her move across the continent from Perth to Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

The stylistic shifts across this show are breathtaking, and suggest an artist in firmly exploratory mode. While the work Bolt exhibited earlier in 2002 included shadowy figures on a blue background, nailed to the canvas by the intense red glow of a cigarette, the work in 'Technosublime' was almost completely abstract.

The intense psychedelia of screen colours was echoed in Suicide Pink, a diptych matching an all over pink panel with another, brightly coloured, patterned one. Bolt's interest in landscape was evident in Tropical- Techno which also evoked the vibrancy of Aboriginal dot painting in the foreground with op-art eye-straining green dots over a vibrant red background. With their stained surfaces and sense of he performative, these works naturally give up their historical antecedents- Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Lewis. As such, they undermine traditional definitions of the sublime. According to Bolt, human endeavour has become its own inspiration. Technosublime is not a mastery but an interaction with technology- a collaboration and co-emergence.

Technically, these works are a hybrid. Bolt used a textile technique of overlaid transparent layers, necessary to achieve the desired depth of colour. Accident and serendipity played their part, and wet paint was allowed to speak, in a mode similar to watercolour technique. For this regime, Bolt was forced to let go of what she knew (akin, in some ways, to the dance party reveller) a performative practice into which new things emerge and come into being. She describes it as an embodied sublime.

We all seemed to want the music to take us over; to become us in some way. Clubbers were losing it all over the place, people are just so close to each other; proximately and emotionally ... The intensity of this fusion of motion and emotions was overwhelming.