Lauren Pelc-McArthur: ‘Blanking Field’

Born in 1989, Lauren Pelc-McArthur is an emerging artist from Toronto. Having graduated from the Ontario College of Art & Design in 2012 with a Bachelor of Fine Art in Drawing and Painting, Pelc-McArthur explores various facets of technology and internet culture through painting, sculpture and 3-D animation. Recipient of an emerging visual artist grant from the Toronto Arts Council in 2014, she has participated in International and Canadian residencies including Kaus Australis in Rotterdam.


Blazing Lights at Stops While Brainstorming (2015-2016)

Q: I love how your pieces seem to showcase the horror of technology’s frantic cacophony infiltrating our every moment, while also acknowledging the beauty of our fascination with this addiction. What are some of the themes or issues that you aim to highlight with your works in ‘Blanking Field’?

A: Sensory overload was something I thought about while making this work. I’m interested in how we constantly receive and consume information; often in fragments or gists. To explore this idea, I fluctuate between styles of paintings and ways of making marks. One mark disrupts another but competes for space with a third.  Intense colours are used to both tantalize and repel, like the conflicting feeling of nausea and addiction that arise after staring at a bright screen for eight hours.

At the end of the day, I primarily use painting to explore ideas about digital culture. I’m taking areas of digital culture and converting them into another medium. I’m interested in what is lost or gained when it is converted to painting.

Q: Can you elaborate on the title of your exhibition, ‘Blanking Field’, and what this refers to?

A: I like using words that have multiple meanings. ‘Blanking’ has many meanings; my favourite definitions are how it can be utilized as a word to describe something obscured. More colloquially, it can refer to forgetting. As mentioned in an earlier question, this work has been influenced by the idea of sensory overload. When being bombarded with information and media, retention becomes difficult. Forgetting is easy.

I like words such as ‘field’ or ‘stage’ that describe a vague (possibly empty) space.  In real life paintings are a vague space to me.

Q: Can you explain a bit about your process in creating the works in this series?

A: I usually have an underlying image in my head. Often, I am considering my digital work (from memory) when painting. The marks I make are definitely influenced by programs I use just as much as the history and act of painting influences them.


Cold Stage IV, (2015)

Q: The pieces in ‘Blanking Field’ are highly textured. Some pieces feature smooth tubes of bright colours, while others have crisp lines that seem elevated from the canvas, defined by glowing blues, pinks, yellows. What importance does texture have within your works?

A: Texture is important because it can have more of a physical presence compared to super flat areas. I use texture in conjunction with flatter areas so that they are at odds and competing for space.

The multicoloured and heavily textured areas of these paintings are influenced by a common computer modelling texture known as a “tangent space normal map” and is used in 3-D modelling programs to formulate the bumps, ridges and shapes of a 3-D object visually. When I’m trying to explain it to a person, I usually say it looks like a pastel heat map. Normal maps are striking to me, and they are something that I immediately associate with digital space.

Q: The titles of your pieces range in connotation, but generally have a sleekness to them, or have an onomatopoeic playfulness that I associate with the kind of wordsmithing found in cyberpunk or science fiction novels. Can you speak a bit about the titling of your works?

A: I  want the titles to sound nonsensical and collaged. When I’m thinking of these titles, I want them to look like those bots creating asinine twitter updates from a trawled website or sound like jumbled words you would hear if you were walking down the street listening to various conversations.

Having said that, I definitely have a formula for creating them. I think cyberpunk novels were a definite early influence for the titles of the work. While painting, I spend a lot of time constructing the titles and playing with words in my head.

I have an ongoing list of words that I use as a prompt to (at some base level) drop connotation to what has informed the work. Words like ‘congest’ or  ‘mass’. I like words that are used to describe environments which commonly change the way they look (‘field’, ‘arena’, ‘stage’).

Q: What effects do you believe technology and digital manipulations have on the future of art?  How do you see your work fitting into the bigger picture of the evolution of contemporary Canadian art?

A: Digital art isn’t always commercially viable in the same way as sculptures or paintings, which might be why artists are creating captivating work with it. It’s interesting that people are making work to exist solely on computer screens.

The Electronic Superhighway show at Whitechapel in London is a massively important show and indicates that the effect that technology is having on art is on a lot of people’s minds.


Untitled, (2016)

Q: What strikes me most about the pieces in ‘Blanking Field’ is how well you are able to convey movement in your work with a frenetic and energetic intensity. This seems fitting because technology is never stagnant – it is defined by the interactions it has with itself, and our own ways of interacting with it. Do you have a few examples of interactions with technology that you find inspiring, or perhaps help to influence the creation of your work?

+Aimless scrolling through blog platforms/social media
+Twitter bots
+Aesthetics which are associated with photoshop or modelling programs
+Various types of signage for advertising: Neon is interesting to me because it reminds me of pop culture depictions of busy city centres (Akira, any depiction of Times Square from the 70s-90s, Blade Runner). When I am mimicking neon signage in these works they don’t resemble words or any discernible symbol or icon because I want it to look like something you see very quickly (as if you were driving by very fast in a car).

Q: In some of your previous works, you have sampled parts of your oil paintings, and then incorporated these into the creation of new digital pieces. Will parts of the pieces in ‘Blanking Field’ be used in future digital works? What does this self-reflexive kind of sampling mean to you?

A: All of my paintings are documented and included on a drive that I syphon from when I create digital work so it is very likely these pieces will pop up in other areas of my practice.

I am interested in what happens to an image when it translates into another. In addition, by switching between painting and constructing images on a computer I can showcase where these two areas are similar and where they differ.

Q: Who are some of your favourite artists?

A: Isa Genzken, Jenny Holzer, Yves Klein, Evelyn Statsinger, Albert Oehlen, Daniel Richter, Jon Rafman, Yves Tanguy, Elizabeth Peyton, Joe Hamilton, John Currin, Camille Henrot, Manfred Mohr.

The opening reception for Lauren Pelc-McArthur’s exhibition ‘Blanking Field’ will be held from 6-10pm on Thursday, February 25th, 2016  at Project Gallery (1109 Queen St. E). The exhibition will be on display Wed-Sun from 12-5pm until March 13th, 2016.