The Studio of Eric Valosin

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Coding Illuminations

This year Misbits New Media Arts, an arts organization in Oxford, MS, wanted to celebrate its official 501-c(3) status with an alumni retrospective of all the artists who have had a solo show there since its inception.

I had the good fortune of exhibiting there in 2017, showing my immersive pushbutton prayer bead light installation,  For(Loop){Meditations;}, which was really a touchstone project for me. It was the culmination of 3 years of experimentation, and my first solo exhibition in Mississippi, and I could not be more honored to have been asked to participate in Vertical, this second time around!

I knew I wouldn't be able to be there in person this time to install, so I had to do something wall-mounted (as per the guidelines of the show) and low-maintenance in terms of installation. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try out a project I had been mulling over for a long time - an illuminated manuscript of the computer code that makes up my installations. 

To close the loop (pardon the pun), I decided to start with the code for the very project I had shown at Misbits 3 years ago.

Incidentally, my relationship with the gallery actually began on Instagram, so I feel it's only fitting that I allow Instagram to tell the story of this most recent project. Enjoy the evolution and theory behind my first illuminated manuscript in the form of an Instagram Photo Story!

A story about the #font that changed the world: Once upon a time, some 14th Century Italian #scribes realized that their eyes weren't getting younger, and the monotonous verticals of gothic blackletter were simply impossible ("is that i-u-m-n-i? or i-i-i-m... I give up"). Situated at the cusp of the enlightenment, these scribes decided it was high time to look back at how learning was done before the terrible dark ages began. So, two prominent (and aging) scribes decided they should begin reteaching how books were written the last time Italy was at the pinacle of scholarship, the good old days of Ancient Rome. They started retraining scribes in this "littera antica"... ...which unfortunately turned out to actually be a Carolingian script from the 800's. #scribeFail While they unlearned their gothic habits to relearn the not-so-antica Carolingian, one of the old scribes got his hands on a genuine Roman sculpture with a genuine classical engraving. "AHAH! So THIS is how we should have done it!" ...except that he only had capital letters to look at. #doubleScribeFail So the evolving script ended up having a Classical Latin uppercase mashed together with a #Carolingian lowercase, all fraught with signature slip-ups as scribes momentarily lapsed into blackletter. This #HumanistMinuscule font - a severely under-researched script bridging all the way back to antiquity - would propel Italy into the Rennaissance through a renewed scholarship in the classics, and introduced the more secular Humanist texts as befitting of illumination. Morevoer, it would eventually become the basis for modern computer fonts like Times New Roman (suddenly the name makes more sense, right?) This tipping point between antiquity and modernity, sacred and secular, analog and digital, makes it the perfect font for my #illuminatedManuscript project. I'm no #calligrapher, but it turns out a decade of hand-lettered Trader Joe's signage makes one eminently qualified to fake it. So I've been studying archives of manuscripts and trying out pens (including a real nib and inkwell for the very first time - shame on me!) and I should be ready to start transcribing in no time! #worksinprogress
A post shared by Eric Valosin (@ericvalosin) on

Medieval #illuminatedManuscripts were typically done in Egg #Tempera on #Vellum Parchment (calf skin). ...But if you try to google tempera, vellum, or parchment, those things today, you get a smattering of kids’ washable craft paints and anything from tracing paper to wax cooking paper to goat skin to toothy Bristol drawing paper. Certainly not the high quality egg based paint and calf-skin of the Middle Ages ...where’s the disconnect? Turns out the media have evolved through the centuries, responding to the scarcity/expense of animal skins and byproducts, the advent of machines that could produce plant based fibers and synthetic alternatives more efficiently, and a centuries long game of “telephone,” in which the names were passed along to other products that had similar properties to the original (wax paper’s “parchment” like color; tracing paper’s “vellum” translucency; the rough “vellum” tooth finish of drawing paper; the skin of an animal regardless of breed; the water reactivation and chalkiness of kids’ “tempera” paint...) Seeking a more shelf-stable and alternative to egg tempera that retained its layerable blending, Gum Arabic replaced casein as the binder and led to the development of modern oils. Switching the binder to PVA to retain the water base and matte, chalky texture led to modern acrylics. But really, the most similar to the original egg tempera is probably modern #Gouache: water reactivatable, layerable like oils yet washable like watercolors, opaque, chalky and water-based like acrylics, but using gum Arabic as a binder. So, like the Humanist Minuscule font I’m using, the materials I’ve selected - gouache on synthetic parchment paper - sit at the intersection of the past and the present; modern descendants inheriting the qualities of the medieval materials. Fittingly - like most things in my practice seem to - they too reach all the way back to Ancient Greece, tying the two ends of the metaphysical/phenomenological spectrum together with a “knot” of medieval #mysticism. #THEMEDIUMISTHEMESSAGE #conceptualart #codingillumination #worksingprogress #sketchbook #diagram
A post shared by Eric Valosin (@ericvalosin) on

Where do mistakes fit into a theological art practice? For centuries scribes have found clever ways to append forgotten text or illustrate away errors (see the last 3 pics - two medieval examples and one contemporary example). I was fascinated by this, and wondered how I would handle a scribal error in my own work. It wasn’t long before I was forced to figure it out! Do we hide our imperfections? Scrap the page for a total redo? Or embrace the flaw and make it something of value (note: I say value, not beauty. beauty is not always an option, but value is more than beauty...)? Mine is a processual theological/artistic practice in which mistakes are inevitable and lead us onward. In a zen fashion, imperfections must be accepted in the same manner as perfections. It’s all process. (That being said, viewers often have less aesthetic tolerance, so must there be a practical threshold between what we accept and incorporate versus what we accept and move on from? I’m still debating myself on that. In any case...) To embrace the imperfect is to revise the metaphysics we unknowingly stand on, paving Plato with the messy interactions of relational poststructuralism as we experience them everyday when the phenomenological rubber hits the road. So what did I do with my forgotten line? Gild it. It is of sacred equivalence to perfection, after all. Art doesn’t happen any other way. This is grace. #theology #art #artandtheology #codingillumination #illuminatedmanuscript #goldleaf #oops #philosophy #code
A post shared by Eric Valosin (@ericvalosin) on

“For(Loop) Illumination” 2020 Ink, gouache, and 24k gold on synthetic parchment paper; online digital media 8 pages: 11” x 8.5” Eric Valosin An illuminated manuscript of the computer code that went into creating a prior installation “For(Loop){Meditations;}” (2017), reimagining sacred textuality in the digital age Making its way to Misbits New Media Arts in Oxford, Mississippi as we speak, for the group alumni retrospective show “Vertical” @misbits_nma @rebekahflake 🔥🔥Newly discovered pro tip💡💡: if you plan on framing the work yourself, buy your frames online. Assuming the frames make it to you unscathed, you’re guaranteed packing materials and boxes perfectlay suited for shipping it back out on the other end! #ericvalosin #pushbuttonprayerbeads #illuminatedmanuscript #codingillumination #drawing #painting #gouache #gold #goldleaf #celtic #medieval #middleages #calligraphy #humanist #sacredart #artandfaith #finishedprojects #art #newmediaart
A post shared by Eric Valosin (@ericvalosin) on

Plot Twist...

As we fast-forward a bit - now two weeks past the scheduled closing date of Vertical - never could I have predicted that my work would end up being self-quarantined in this show as nobody is allowed to view it because of the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic!

Since my art can't get out and you can't get in, I decided to make the manuscript available for virtual viewing. Click the image below

At least I know my work is safe - as I hope you are - and I have this exhibition as a memento, marking this moment in time as one of the more bizarre occurrences we may ever face. Couldn't think of a better way for my work to be spending this time of social distancing.

Be well!

No comments:

Post a Comment