As the world fills up with visual material, nostalgia is often a safer haven than the harsh stringency of approaching a clean ground. It could be argued that there is no such thing as a ‘fresh canvas’ in the confusion of visual bombardment, both historical and contemporary.
There was very little garbage during the Second World War, everything from vegetable scraps to rubber tires was recycled. Today, it is an ecological choice to build upon the existing rather than add to the over-thinged and populated earth. It is an intrinsic part of working on recycled surfaces. On record album covers dating back to the forties, fifties and sixties, Scott Waters superimposes imagery of the times. But whose times? What times? A raging fire eclipses the prim concentration of folk singers, dressed and poised for a promotional shot on a record album cover. The original intent of setting up the image – in this case, the folk group presenting a visual to contextualise the music that will be heard on the album – is interrupted by an act in what has become the future tense of the original visual. There is an immediate sense of gapping, of being at odds with the visuals and the reception of the material is perceived as a jolt into the present tense. The hand of the artist becomes overbearingly apparent despite the fool-the-eye facility of Water’s adeptness with paint. A bemused and comic jibe at the self serious concentration of the group of singers meters the shock of the blazing turmoil that has landed in their midst. Always, there is an unaware victim of a joke. The fishermen on the postcards are dwarfed by giant birds, illustrative and unaware of their context. The crux of the schism lies in who is the knowledgeable one, the new addition or the original setup and yet the only ‘all-seeing-one’ is the artist, Scott Waters.
Often using military imagery, the civilian world is thrown off kilter by the intrusive visual but there is no apparent change in the context other than the necessary obliteration of information from the visual addition blocking out a portion of his chosen backdrop.
Like a private joke that has been passed on to an audience through a discrete aside, the structure of nostalgia is skewed by the addition of new information. The joke on the past is at no-ones’ expense however and only serves to illuminate the present by layering an unconsidered option on the present - an option that takes into account the inescapable impact of the visual material that has already filtered through and escaped the garbage bin. That a vintage record, postcard or romance novel can play, communicate and entrance with new vitality shows the power to convince that can be awakened by the hand of a practiced magician.
Copyright © 2007, Julie Oakes