Visakh Menon is an artist from India, currently living in New York. His interdisciplinary practice spans drawing, video, installations, & media art with a focus on human machine interaction. He received his M.F.A from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2007.
Menon currently also works as an independent art director & interactive designer and is an adjunct faculty with the Communications Design Department at NY City College of Technology (CUNY)
Born 1980, Kochi, India
Visakh Menon is a New York-based multidisciplinary artist who creates inimitable drawings that focus on the transmission of data-forms. He has a rigorous and highly-layered practice built upon the meditative nature of repetitive-mark making. Menon began his relatively more traditional explorations in 2014-15, after having completed his M.F.A at the Maryland Institute college of Art and having spent several years working in a professional and personal context in the digital medium. He would cross the threshold along with many of his creative preoccupations, chief among which is a fascination for the ebb and flow of natural forces as well as the immaterial energies created by technological interventions. The artist is also keenly interested in astronomical phenomenon such as cosmic radiation and the messages it may carry. He combines these through his captivating ink-and-paper drawings, manifesting them in the corporeal dimension as a highly compelling body of art. Presented here is the ‘Tremors’ series, which Menon was prompted to begin for two major reasons, the first of which was to answer the question of how to make tangible the very essence of data representation. Secondly, and with a greater emphasis on positioning this body of art within his larger oeuvre, the artist wished to distil the technique and creative process that formed the core of his general practice.
The works presented at Blueprint12 were created through a painstaking test of focus and precision, and during their development, were the artist’s attention to deviate from the sheet before him, any of these works would surely have been lost. The challenge in Tremors arises from the very nature of the materials at Menon’s disposal: The specific kind of rice paper he uses has a long tradition in Zen calligraphy, where master practitioners are able to complete an image in a single, sustained stroke.
The paper is designed with the aim to maximize moisture retention, which makes it difficult to control, and therefore Menon must be equally decisive and precise, using a small selection of inks of varying diffusivity, culled through a lengthy process of trial and error, in order to create the line-work and stoppages that populate the works in this series. These, in turn, play in tandem to give viewers the impression that they are faced with a scale meant to record the incidence of some unnamed waveform. Here, the aforementioned stoppages, manifesting as blobs through which the artist creates and breaks symmetry, function as both figurative and literal markers of time, as they trace the intervals between the signal’s transmission, but in terms of their size, are also dependent upon the length of time for which he retains his position on the paper.
The artist’s work evokes visions of practitioners such as Nasreen Mohamedi, whose life’s work became an exercise in transmitting the physicality of the natural and man-made entities she encountered during India’s period of Industrial growth. Or, consider the English composer Cornelius Cadrew, whose 200 page long ‘Treatise’ broke through the dogma of Western sheet music, to create a graphic score meant to be interpreted visually. While there are many artists and works to which parallels may be drawn, few encompass the sheer scope of what Menon and Blueprint12 are offering viewers: Tremors reifies the act of data representation in its broadest sense, and challenges visitors to ponder the magnitude of waveforms that surround us, drowning us in a sea of invisible information, throughout our lives, and for all time.-Manu Sharma
Visakh Menon’s new work is a series of drawings created by combining the surrealist techniques of frottage and collage. He utilizes the automatic method of frottage by using a stick of colored charcoal that he rubs over a paper surface in order to highlight the unevenness of its texture that otherwise remain invisible to the eye. Then, by pressing the sticky stripes of the clear adhesive tape against the covered with charcoal paper, he “picks up” the traces of uneven texture to reproduce them on a different surface. As he transfers the material traces of charcoal from one paper surface to another, Menon plays with the micro-topography of surfaces and the micro-landscape of paper as such. The material dimension of work and its visceral nature are especially important for the artist who believes that the immediacy of this process cannot be rendered and, if lost, cannot be remediated.
The series is a result of the endless automatic repetition of similar gestures—pressing, rubbing, and cutting—before the rectangular traces are assembled as a single abstract composition. What might seem as a big departure from Menon’s earlier complex video and installation work still bears a strong connection to the realm of digital culture. Visually, the collages resemble the level maps of the vintage 8-bit video games. The works also contain the small black sprites that reference the game graphics directly, while the traces of paper’s texture create the impression of pixilation.
Besides, the elements of the works are all copied and pasted patterns that follow the logic of sampling and remix where the artist’s intuition and the element of chance are both crucial for composition. However, the series as a whole might also be seen as a variation of just one pattern that evolves in front of the viewer’s eyes like John Horton Conway’s Game of Life, absolutely on its own.
The algorithmic aesthetics of the collages brings up the notion of code as a rule for converting a certain piece of information into another form or representation. One of Menon’s big inspirations is Daphne Oram’s revolutionary work in electronic sound and her technique of “Oramics” that allowed for “drawing music.” Menon’s collages contain the rhythms, as even they are ready to be fed through Oram’s sound machine. As such, they, however, challenge the literal correspondence between the sound code and its visual representation. The series encourages the viewer moving beyond the representational paradigms, to where a code is no longer a convertor that transforms the information patterns in a different form. Instead, by tricking the viewers into playful decoding of what looks like readable sound patterns, the series of Menon’s collages gives birth to the inexistent, unseen or unheard—coming from within the machine.
By: Svitlana Matviyenko (writer, curator & media scholar)