The Artist-Novelist: Doug Coupland on Canada, Culture, and his Hybrid Practice
Douglas Coupland’s edition for the Whitechapel Gallery derives from his 2014 painting titled Better Living Through Windows, which is on display in the 2016 exhibition, Electronic Superhighway 2016 - 1966 at Whitechapel Gallery. The canvas is sixteen feet long and its graphic forms are taken from a TrueType font called Marlett which was used from 1995 until recently by Microsoft to create user interface icons. The canvas is one of a series of canvas works done by Coupland over the past five years, many of which are a conscious revisiting of the work of Roy Lichtenstein that focuses on his late 1960s and early 1970s work.
By 1970 Pop Art was dead, and Lichtenstein spent a decade painting images that were intentionally minimalist, such as mirrors and sunsets. This was maybe his way of coping through a complex decade rife with academic wars and battered by waves of theory. Coupland sees many similarities between the early 1970s and now: “Mostly the utter absence of a dominant ‘ism’—as well as a sense of everything and nothing all happening at the same time.” Coupland’s paintings evoke 1970s Lichtenstein, yet are built from twenty-first century code systems such as printing registration technologies, luggage tag barcodes and new fonts built for new systems such as software coding. The works are a way of mirroring a seemingly evanescent present with a distinct patch of art history that seems to share much in common with the current moment.
Signature: Signed and numbered
A celebrated novelist, visual artist, and designer, Douglas Coupland has been making work about popular culture and the effects of the technological revolution on the human brain for more than 20 years. He published his first novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, in 1991; he has followed it with 13 additional novels, a short story collection, works of nonfiction and drama, and screenplays for film and television. His artworks, which encompass paintings, prints, installations, sculptures, and public projects, reflect his training in sculpture and design and the legacy of pop art. True to his fascination with technology, many of his compositions appear pixelated. “I think that the way my brain is wired, words and objects are almost exactly equal,” Coupland once explained. “I sensorily detect little difference between the two.”
Canadian, b. 1961, based in Vancouver, Canada