Die Burger, Monday March 27 2006 (English translation by San Knoetze)
“Intimate circuits” consists of a series of mixed media paintings in which the East Cape artist Tammy Griffin combines “traditional” oil paints with industrial materials such as silicone and small lights.
Handmade marks and personal iconography is therefore often presented side by side with the otherwise impersonal connotations of the mass-produced electronic components. The pace and patterns according to which the approximately 500 lights are switched on and off is controlled by microprocessors that hide behind the deceptively simple canvasses – a colossal task which was made possible through the collaboration of an electronic engineer, Brian Kemp.
The more lights incorporated in a work, the more complex the patterns become and in some cases it is almost impossible to ever observe the same pattern (a second time). The viewer is in this way encouraged to linger a while in order to take in the tranquil “breathing” of these living works. “Friendly breathing”, a painting with built-in sound sensors, takes the interaction with the observer even further: when loud sounds are created in front of the work, all the lights are simultaneously activated and afterwards they begin to fade again according to specific patterns.
According to Griffin the exhibition can be described as a series of abstract portraits. Each of these so-called untitled works also has a secondary title (for example “My dad is…” and “No words”) that might possibly point to family and other intimate relationships. The word “circuit” furthermore refers to both electric circuits (and consequently to relation between individual components) and borders or domains. The latter associations are strengthened through the way in which the lights, that in some of the paintings are found on top of the surface and in others are embedded under various layers of silicone, create the illusion of a landscape at night.
Some of Griffin’s paintings are somewhat “over worked”: the combination of the built-up surfaces and brush strokes with hundreds of pieces of wire and other electrical components is possibly just too busy.
It runs the danger of being written off as purely decorative. The most successful works for me are those that pose simpler and subtler solutions: “Maquette”, for instance, a small work with a magical light blue and orange glow, is hidden in a more isolated little alley of the gallery.
Although this work is, at first glance, not as complicated as some of the other paintings, it is exactly its quiet simplicity that contributes to an almost inevitable/irresistible attraction.