Art Research :: Lawrence Argent

Recent studio endeavors

Life and Art have always intertwined themselves in peculiar ways for me. I have sought to use experience as a trigger for the propulsion of an idea into another reality. Somehow, through some course of creative banter or happenstance, this "other" reality necessitates further examination and revealing. This body of work shares a drive to uncover a sense of familiarity: that feeling one gets when you sense you have been someplace before and the moment when the uncomfortableness swells to interest. Over recent years my domestic landscape has altered considerably. I have two young children that in perpetuity litter my terrain with new forms, some recognizable and others not so. As I lay there with the side of my face imprinted with the fine weaving of the living room carpet from my much needed catatonic slumber, I crank open my eyelids to a new vista. It is here I began looking afresh at these pieces of plastic, wood, rubber and fur alongside my assumptions of my children's own possible perception and association. As I was decoding their language of materiality and form and removing subjectivity from this digestion, it became apparent my journey was to play with how something, "an object" once de-contextualised has potential for unnerving the familiar.

In particular, I began looking at pacifiers and toys of comfort. With an element of mystery and intrigue I am using the camera to capture these ordinary objects and transform them, somewhat reinventing the objects physical relationship in a new order of discovery. I approach this by actually sitting my "still life's" on my child's high chair. Arranging them back and forth, I am composing through the camera; with the aid of specific lens configuration I am able to approach these with a minute depth of field. The sharpness and subsequent blurred surroundings create a playful abstraction of familiarity, opening challenges to view the commonplace with new insight. These are humorous explorations into a discourse of the recognition of object as subject and the mystification of the subject by the ambiguously presented object. The sculptural works capture a parallel concept whilst exploring a larger vocabulary of scale and material.

The monumental nature of the classical marble stones, paradoxically belies the origin of form but magnifies the essences of our relationship with the familiar because of this contradiction. The pieces are scaled to be approachable and are meant to be touched. Likewise, the larger pieces use scale as leverage into a dialogue. Their form and absence of form for that matter have to do with losing the solidity of something recognizable and how they move beyond mere form and evolve into a visually complex object settling on the familiar side.

Not unlike the imprint on my face, intersections of abstractions occur giving rise to a product that has the ability to vacillate between the recognizable and the not so recognizable.


The aspects of things that are most important to us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity

-Ludwig Wittgenstein

In my research, I am interested in an arena of visual discourse that resides elementally in the perception and recognition of form. Whilst this statement is overwhelmingly obtuse, there lies an avenue of exploration that I find extremely fascinating. Quite simply, it unfolds into how one interacts with the visual world and the process by which we as participants exchange and relate with this data. My work emerges as a consequence of this insight, focusing my interests in the relationship of assumptions, passages of thought and preconceived sensory filters.

Somewhere in the gap between stimulus and response, I attempt an investigation into the known entities of form, material and the language derived from the relative subjective and objective associations. My interest is in the articulation of meanings that become attached or assigned to what one observes. These assumed interpretations aid in our digestion as we process this visual landscape, but are more often than not, fused, and as such, can block progressions of perception. I realize myself how I also, am stuck in the hold of this presumptive storage. This gives me much fodder to leap at this intersection and apply my interventions that eventually invade all areas of my creative activity. Mediums become vehicles by which I explore particular aspects of these assumptive/presumptive associations of form/meaning. The results surface in experiences/products that possess the ability to vacillate between the recognizable and the not so recognizable. My creative endeavors continually move across a variety of terrain which I think is because I place myself or try to place myself in challenging positions relative to the things I don't know I don't know. One component in my own field of experimentation into a new visual territory involves the translation of three-dimensional objects into the digital realm and the output associated with this translation.

I have been working with 3-D laser scanners, 3-D rapid prototyping equipment and programs associated with digitizing the three-dimensional object. The digitization and the subsequent translations in material have prompted me to think about avenues of ideological exploration involving many aspects of technology's translation of imagery/form and the acceptance and assumptive cognition of such information/abstraction as a new reality. As an artist, I am invested in the physical nature of our surroundings, the stature of the object (historically, hierarchically, materially and experientially) and the cognitive integration of the former with the latter. Parallel with this thinking, I am in wonder at the same instinctual, material concerns that assist in the emergence of a new language infused by such translation. For me the excitement lies in the possibility of exploiting this technology to acknowledge and shift formal parameters alongside questioning the assumptive aspects of a new perception. My explorations, both in the studio and in the Public Art realm are now offset by this interest in new technologies that now create this visual landscape and have become more vested in how we respond as participants to this emergence.

"The primary problem with most public art, both contemporary and historical, is invisibility. The wide and diverse "general public"- however that set of people maybe defined or construed does not notice the works of art that now crowd American cities. Unless the artworks provide some sort of amenity (a bench, a fountain, or signage), most people walk right by them, oblivious to their presence. And who can blame them? Too much public art is intentionally abstruse, misdirected to a minutely narrow audience of critics and cognoscenti. Or, the work is just plain poorly designed and executed. Or, as with historical examples, the statue has moldered on the village green for so long that it melds with the scenery, taking its place as perceptual and cognitive background rather than foreground. From Sculpture Magazine (Vol. 20 No.7)"Brainstorms"

Whilst I don't necessarily swallow all of this, there is something that remains at the core that is worth investigating. "The experience of art." What is it that we want people to experience? It's all relatively subjective. We all have different ideas and opinions about what it is that art should do. That's what is so exciting about finding a common element that swims in both the deep and shallow ends of the art experience.

The creation of art in public spaces appeared to surface along paths of similar challenges manifested in the studio. There's the drawing, the ideation, the modeling (both physically and digitally), the mistakes, and eventually and hopefully, the multiplicity of outcomes. Admittedly, its' process is intertwined in gaining knowledge of site, history, social/political conditions and ecology which gather momentum to formulate criteria in a very different paradigm than the work that emerges solely from my research interests. Whilst circumstantially different, the result is wrapped in parallel complexities of thought and visual language. In doing so, the inherent relationship of the public and art emerges to be addressed as a "collaboration." Therein lies a tangential path that through the machinations of its' own process and growth requires specific attention.

This collaboration stems from many branches - myself, fabricators, appointed committees, city engineers, architects, landscape architects, parks and recreation management and the relevant community development administrations. By its very nature, it grows and meshes pragmatic and artistic concerns from many perspectives. It ultimately exists as a result of this joint effort.

As a creator and facilitator in this dialogue I am attempting to somewhat reduce the hierarchical nature of what is assumed to be art. So much of what audiences gather as the definition of art, particularly contemporary art, is a fear of not knowing what "it" is supposed to be. My philosophy is to break down these barriers. I do this not by placating to the generic, but perhaps confronting this generic and reinventing a presence that can illuminate and stimulate.