With a background in architecture, Freeman’s paintings are informed by the language of architecture and the use of digital design tools as a preliminary means to explore the action of painting and the painted surface itself. Most of Freeman’s paintings begin as sketches made on a computer screen or tablet. With the use of her fingers and sometimes a stylus, she gesturally creates compositions using layers, eraser tools, and imported imagery. The small scale of these initial digital sketches (created using a tablet in a similar vein to David Hockney’s iPad drawings) heavily influences the composition, which she then relays onto a physical two dimensional plane. Of great interest to her is the absurdity and uncertainty of translating these preliminary digital sketches into physical objects.
For Freeman, the analogue action of painting doubles as a printed process: where the human hand errs and where the machine has its own shortcomings. So as viewers we begin to further understand that the paintings are meant to be seen as imperfect realisations of the ‘perfect’ images created by digital technology. In her own words: ‘the back and forth actions between the machine and the physical realm of creation produces a hybrid experience that I strive to capture in my work.’ Whereas a digital line would cross a canvas with flawless accuracy and trajectory, Freeman, through the physical act of tracing the line with her own hand, creates imperfections and irregularities that prove the marks to be distinctly and irrevocably human. As such, the works house a sort of frenetic energy – in statis between their apparent digital nature and the painterly gesture.
Also of importance to Freeman is completing each work within a previously allotted timeframe. For certain artists, the notion of time is fundamental to the reading of their work. Luc Tuymans, for instance, never spends more than one day on a painting. For Freeman, placing these constraints upon herself likens her painterly process to that of the machine. Tools such as an airbrush and spray paint are attempts to metaphorically emulate the ‘touchless’ application of a delayed finger swipe on the computer screen, meaning each completed piece is the successful enactment of a fusion between the human and the machine.
The resulting works are bright and eye-catching, with striking use of bold colour, shape and line. Purposefully awkward and imperfect, to view one of Freeman’s paintings is like peering through a window that looks onto a world where the digital and the physical amalgamate. It is hard not to be reminded of the influence of the digital realm upon our everyday lives, and to ponder the future impact of these technologies, and to consider the ever encroaching ubiquity of technology upon art, society, and our lives.
RUTH FREEMAN (b. 1989, Enid, Oklahoma) received both a Bachelors of Architecture degree and Bachelors of Interior Design from the University of Oklahoma. She received her MFA in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She has been involved in curatorial and exhibition design in both the US and Japan. Her paintings have been featured in several exhibition in California, including select group shows at the Berkeley Art Center, the Sanchez Art Center, in Pacifica, the San Geronimo Cultural Center in San Geronimo, The Hive Gallery and CK Gallery, in Oakland, and the Diego Rivera Gallery, SOMArts Gallery, Space Gallery, and Red Ink Studios, in San Francisco. Freeman's paintings were exhibited at PULSE Art Fair, New York in 2016 and her work is published in New American Paintings Northeast (Issue #122). Freeman partook in a month long resident at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT in June 2015 and currently lives and works in New York City.