Eye of the laptop
David Haines is a phenomenal draughtsman. His works look like black and white photographs, razor sharp and completely lifelike. You will, however, never encounter in reality, what he draws. The drawings for which Haines has become known over the past twenty years are peopled with members of specific subcultures in the gay scene. They dress like hooligans - tracksuits, sneakers, shaved heads and smileys everywhere. Haines finds his models on escort websites, youtube and chatrooms. Often they are placed in the derelict city landscapes of his birthplace, Nottingham, in Great Britain.
Haines is certainly not alone in his use of digital imagery. Up to now his drawings could really only be fully appreciated by viewers versed in post internet art. In this new work he breaks with that. He has exchanged the realism of the everyday for another sort of realism. This is the realism of a world which reaches us via a screen, in which the world is a screen. We turn ourselves towards the matt grey of our laptop, tablet or smartphone in order to send images of ourselves out into the world. In doing so we hope not only to reach others, but also to get to know ourselves.
In the video ‘Two Way Mirror’ Haines clearly shows us how futile these attempts are. Two screens, placed opposite each other, display gym trained torsos of men on a dating site. You see alternating images, both clear images thrown into cyber space against the grim grey reflection in which these narcissuses see themselves. Two copies of bodies and egos about which you can ask yourselves if they actually exist at all.
Haines then translates that virtual shadow play into the tactile intimacy of drawing. His series of portraits of men in front of the webcam have all the sensitivity of renaissance portraits. Only the hairstyles and tattoos betray the fact that these are contemporary models. But there is more in their gaze, away from the viewer, both fixed and glazed over at the same time, the gaze of the addicted.
Time and again Haines lets the viewer’s eyes collide with the barrier of the screen. In ‘ Meatboy and Bob Starr’ whipped cream on a back and transparent trousers is rendered completely lifelike, but this three dimensional world is abruptly dismantled by a flat moiré pattern in the background.
‘Still Life with Screen and Chicken Legs’ Crawls even further into the computer world. It is an authentic meme : a pin up with scratched out eyes, combined with chicken legs bought from the supermarket. But even as a collage is this image secondary. A floating cursor and a patch of reflected light make clear that we are first and foremost looking at a screen and only after that at a created image.