Ten Canadian Artists | Ten Styles of Painting


Space Art, Action Painting and Branding | Marina Malvada | Artist | The Ten Collective

Space Art, Action Painting and Branding.
What does it all mean, anyway?

When the exhuberant humanism of the Renaissance discarded the shroud of the dark ages, postmodernism was  a zygote. Or perhaps it was just some twinkles in the eyes of the forebears of cultural theorists like Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes.

But we can’t have postmodernism until we've experienced at least some degree of modernism.
As a former 'post-neoist'*, I ought to know.

Thanks to the Guttenberg press, the subsequent dissemination of ideas, dethroning of doctrine and superstition, both the artist and the scientist were liberated.

Or so we thought. It seems we really dig dogma, especially the covert sort. Enter The Age of Enlightenment (queue the trumpets). A time when truth, through science, would unlock the gates to a world of good things, things that are right, and free us from our former oppressions.

Garden of Eden 2.0.

Standardized production and advanced means of transportation enriched our lives. As initiates of the new  consumerism, we learned to expect certain things. Apparently, we could also expect to ascertain a man’s intellect by examining the contours of his skull. How marvelous!

So what happened? When did we evolve out of the soup of Social Darwinism and other pseudo-scientific rationalizations?

Some of us never have, and that statement itself foreshadows the fragmentation which characterizes postmodernity.

And that’s ok.

There are two major events thought to have awoken our collective consciousness from the roughly 300 year long romance with reason. The first occurred when the United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Like a qabalistic demon, science could no longer be accepted as a purely benevolent force. The second event was the spectacle of all spectacles; the mass dissemination of the first photograph of  Earth in its entirety, taken from space. I wonder what Walter Benjamin would have said about that.*

Death by Astonishment | Marina Malvada

Death by Astonishment | Marina Malvada

 For me, it isn’t hard to make a sobering connection between these two markers. Barbara Kruger nailed it in 'Untitled’, a pre-digital montage showing a cropped black and white photograph of a mushroom cloud with the words ' Your manias become science' emblazoned in stark Futura Bold Oblique. The dominant culture, however, soon devoured and regurgitated that bitter pill when the Supreme logo scandal blew up.  Pop really will eat itself. Here’s what happened:

Supreme is a clothing company, geared toward the skater subculture, founded in 1994 by James Jebbia.

They're well known for their box logos, especially the one that simply says, 'Supreme'. The contention arose from the fact that its style and formatting is virtually indistinguishable from what Barbara Kruger used in her paste ups.

Mr. Jebbia freely admits to taking the liberty.

What's particularly noteworthy is how Ms. Kruger's initial silence was broken only after Supreme sued Married to the Mob, another clothing company, for copyright infringement over the use of a similarly designed box logo.

“What a ridiculous clusterfuck of totally uncool jokers. I make my work about this kind of sad foolish farce. I’m waiting for all of them to sue me for copyright infringement.” - Barbara Kruger.

It don’t get more po-mo than that.

What does all this have to do with Marina Malvada, other than the mere chronological accident of her birth?

What’s a budding poststructuralist* to do in the wake  of wildly successful friends and peers like Floria Sigismondi, Peaches and Bhat Boy?

It ain’t easy. It’s hard to stand your ground, when the ground itself is constantly shifting, so I’ve relinquished my attachment to stances. It’s like my recurring dream in which I can fly. Not soar-through-the-air fly, but something considerably more modest . It goes like this: I suddenly realise I can defy gravity. “Hey everybody, check this out.”, I say as I proceed to kick and flap my arms vigorously in order to maintain an impressive altitude of about a foot and a half. I think it’s pretty darn cool as they look down on my performance.*

In my art practice, a wide range of approaches and disciplines inform each other. I think of it as synesthetic cross pollination. Painting gives rise to inspiration for a musical composition on the flute, for example. What it cannot do is improve my embouchure.

Could my planetary paintings as portraits of our nearest solar neighbours have the same kind of cultural impact as the first images of Earth did? No. I’d have to be pathologically narcissistic to think they stood a chance. I know they do have varying effects on a few kindred spirits, and that’s enough to satisfy my need to contribute in some small may to our collective experience.

In composing this article, I’m also reminded of how important writing is for an art practice in the postmodern age.

It brings recollections of my studies under Ian Carr-Harris, whose nomination essay for Shirley Wiitasalo's Governor General's award I happened to read recently.

Ms. Wiitasalo has been one of my favourite painters for some time.

Although I saw and pondered the cave work mentioned in Carr-Harris' essay, I was first struck by a medium sized tableau of varying shades and hues of off-white which I admired at the National Gallery.

Thanks as well to Eileen K. Hennemann, founder of the TenCollective, for urging me to pull these musings out of mental storage. The opportunity to work alongside such talented and diverse artists is invaluable.

Post Script:

I realize I haven’t said anything about action painting. I’l have to take that up in another article.


·       ‘Post-neoism’: a pseudo art movement I was involved with during my studies in the Experimental Arts Department at OCAD. It’s sole tenet was it’s lack of parameters

·       See: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, by Walter Benjamin 1936.


·       An oblique reference to The Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord, 1967