We all check our phones on average 221 times a day. To make that retweet, favourite a photo on Instagram, take a quick scroll through your Facebook feed. We're bombarded with images, new stories, light-hearted videos, memes and petitions, and artist Celina Teague seeks to explore that overload of social media in her paintings.
Her new exhibition, 'I Think Therefore I #' is showing at the Kristin Hjellegjerde until 5th September 2015. With a series of colourful, jumbled paintings that explore the humourous but also serious side of the news as it appears on the Internet, it's a relevant, thought-provoking show that's also a feast for the eyes.
We caught up with Celina to ask more about her exhibition and her thoughts on the phenomenon of social media.
Congratulations on your solo show ‘I think therefore I #”. Can you explain the themes behind this exhibition?
Several of the paintings in this show grew from the biggest news stories of the past 18 months, particularly those that created a storm on social media. I began by interpreting the news on an introspective level. This led me down many different avenues - exploring issues such as freedom of speech, cyber bullying, hashtag activism and slacktivism. For sure, social media is a new and evolving language. We have little idea where it’s going, which is exciting and terrifying. There is no grand governing body - WE are shaping social media. It blows my mind when I think about it.
What do you mean when you refer to the ‘in-between space’ of social media that is explored in your paintings?
I feel that the news and the way we use social media is, by and large, split between extremely vacuous and lighthearted stories and extremely depressing ones - often lacking in much critical analysis. The Mail online, the world's most wildly read news source, with its news column side by side with the showbiz column, is the perfect example of these two extremes. I think there are several risks with this way of consuming news. Knee jerk responses and snap judgments is one. And with new stories always clambering for our attention on the phones that we look at on average 221 times a day, we risk becoming entirely apathetic to other people’s suffering. This in-between space that I talk of is the unfiltered, unedited and more ambiguous space, where I can attempt to draw my own conclusions, in my own time.
Do you have social media accounts yourself, and if so, what do you use them for?
I use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Instagram is my favourite. I follow lots of art galleries and love seeing what’s going on all over the world. I follow my friends obviously and people who make me laugh like the Fat Jewish or Ricky Gervais. I use Facebook and Twitter less but I go through bursts. I am something of an armchair activist - passing around petitions and links to videos - but I also like to share the good news - new music, interesting creative things that my friends are up to and so on.
Your paintings are bright, busy and full of character – what would you say influences your painting style?
Yes, I’m definitely no minimalist. The subject matters that I paint about are often minefields in and of themselves and I can have a very complex relationship with them. This seems to translate onto the canvas. Perhaps subconsciously I am trying to lure the viewer in and encourage them to spend some time with my paintings and the issues that I hope they throw up.
Which art materials couldn’t you live without any why?
Good brushes - they don’t need to be the most expensive but I need ones with very fine tips so I can go into the details. As for paints, I usually go for Michael Harding or Sennelier because they have the best range of vivid colours. I love Sennelier's Manganese Blue and Cadmium Yellow Lemon. Recently I have been using a lot of Prussian Blue by Winsor & Newton and Rembrandt have a wonderful deep blue black called Indigo. For the basics and for whites and blacks, Winsor & Newton does the job perfectly.
What advice would you have for students leaving art school and trying to make it as a full time artist?
I just came across a lovely quote by Maya Angelou: 'Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.’ This is a good goal. The love for what you do needs to be there and it will carry you though the times when you feel you are going nowhere. Beyond that, like with most things in life, you have to be tenacious and focused and work long hours in order to hone your skills. Also being proactive is important. If you don’t have a gallery interested in showing your work just yet then club together with friends and find a space - or take your work to Speaker’s Corner if you have to. Just keep going and find the joy in the process.
Finally, what’s next for you after your exhibition ends in September?
A couple of weeks off with some quality family time and then back to the studio. I’m taking part in the London Art Fair in January and there is something exciting that might be taking place in Berlin before then.
Visit the Kristin Hjellegjerde gallery website to find out more about Celina and her exhibition.
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