Seth Price

Before and After Writing

While reading Seth Price’s statement for his exhibition Before and After Writing, memories surfaced of a conversation I had with curator Mihnea Mircan about his project Allegory of the Cave Painting in 2017. Mircan shared insights into a 2010 archaeological study on the remarkable ‘rejuvenation’ of Gwion Gwion paintings in Australia, dating back approximately 1,800 years. The research revealed that the paintings were inhabited by red bacteria and black fungi, forming a biofilm of ‘living pigments.’ Such a renewal process, which involved absorbing nutrients from previous generations, contributes to the vibrant colors of the paintings. Thus, in Mircan’s exploration, the Gwion Gwion paintings served as an allegorical lens through which to examine concepts of contamination and purity, prehistory and modernity, lost knowledge, and scientific progress.

In relation to Price’s works, the Gwion Gwion paintings evoke in me a complex interrelation of mutability, perennial cannibalization, elision, and repetition. Despite Price’s practice originating from the same matrix, the installations, UV-cured prints, drawings, and vinyl record presented in the exhibition unveil a polymorphic multimedia expression. These works are bound together by a self-perpetuating process of interpretation of technology, critique against the commodification of images and information, and strategies of deep listening.

Drawing upon earlier photo-collages that interweaved synthetic film with human skin, Price unveils the series Untitled, 2022, conceived by pouring raw gesso onto rugged, paper-like wood fiber surfaces. These prints immediately hold the viewer’s gaze with their cracked surfaces and unsettling forms, evoking tribal masks. The artist pushes boundaries by scanning select face-like compositions into 3D software and overlaying them with realistic imagery of human muscle tissue. Through this blend of traditional painting techniques and technological manipulation, he provokes a forced reflection on the indiscernibility of the sensorial realms of physicality and virtuality while investigating the mutation of eye perception through digital alteration.

The urge of indulging in the physical gesture of drawing to question the fruition of an image is untamable in the two series of framed works on paper, a collection of ink drawings titled Startup Era from 2015, and a series of pencil drawings created during the pandemic. While in the first, the artist conveys a sense of cute aggression through emoji-inspired drawings, depicting ambiguous acts from both humans and anthropomorphized animals; in pieces like Untitled, 2012, Untitled, 2020, and Forest Life, 2021, Price revisits his early twenties attraction towards Surrealism. His pencil veers between bizarre and intuitive techniques such as the exquisite corpse and polymorph perverse imaginations.The use of tactile strategies is also evident in the handmade leporello book, featuring pages adorned with 360-degree photographs of natural vistas interspersed with printed text on rice paper and glass blocks.

The senses of sight and touch are enhanced by presenting a newly composed vinyl soundtrack, conceived as a companion piece to the exhibition. Featuring a blend of original recordings, curated playlists, and contributions from local musicians, the vinyl encapsulates the immersive experience of Price’s work, inviting viewers to engage on multiple sensory levels.

In this exhibition, what had been discomposed, scattered in different works is reconciled and synchronized as an unbroken continuum of Price’s research, constantly overwriting itself and yet making it difficult for us to write on it.

Seth Price
Before and After Writing
Review by Giulia Colletti

Galerie Gisela Capitain, Naples
23 March – 04 May 2024

All images:
Installation view, Zweigstelle Capitain V, Kristi Cavataro, C.A.S.A Palazzo Degas, Napoli, 2024
Photo: Alwin Lay
© the artist, courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne