John Cronin

For many years now my work has been concerned with painting in the age of artificial intelligence. An age, in which, our visual understanding and appreciation are continually being upgraded, as technological advancements evolve. While at the same time I have strived for my work to reflect the society in which it was produced.

For my 2011 exhibition Augmented Reality, I produced a body of work that focused on my curiosity about how augmented reality (AR) technology was molding our understanding and perception of reality and how it is changing our relationship with first and foremost painting, but also traditional media. As AR shaped how we interfaced with the world around us, it was also transforming our ability to perceive and process information. When I came to the end of the Augmented Reality works my original feeling of celebration of this “Brave New World” was replaced by a feeling that all was not as it seems and that the processing of information made for bleak reading. It was after all 2011 and reality, for anybody who had a social conscience, had

changed greatly. Everyday we seemed to be bombarded with, often contradictory, information compiled by statisticians purporting to explain things. When in the plain light of day things were obviously falling apart.

Standard Deviation became an inspiration for me. Correctly or incorrectly it conjured up an idea that things despite varying greatly could still be explained, and therefore understood, quantified and possibly controlled. The theme resulted in the exhibition Standard Deviation in 2013. The Standard Deviation works, while abstract, were often kaleidoscopic and contained a multitude of references. Many featured a series of spots or forms, (possibly the mean), that in most cases had become corrupted. They had deviated from the standard.

ZXX, my latest body of work is a logical development of Augmented Reality and Standard Deviation as it sees me trying to take control of their corrupted elements and deviations while reflecting my continuing concerns about the processing of information. The name ZXX comes from a system the US Library of Congress uses to denote a book’s written language. In this context ZXX means “No linguistic content” which in itself is a beautiful metaphor for Abstraction. And Abstraction is also involved in the other use of ZXX; that of being a covert typeface designed by a former NSA agent Sang Mun. His idea was to produce a typeface to avoid optical character recognition as used in surveillance. Letterforms are obscured with various camouflages or visual noise rendering the message visually illegible to prying computer cameras. I came across it while ferreting around for images, ideas, ideologies, in fact anything really that synced with my thoughts and aspirations for my work. With my desire to push the work into new areas, while still reflecting my preoccupation with painting in the age of artificial intelligence, I felt I needed something that was current and that reflected the society the works were being produced in, a society under surveillance. Around this time Edward Snowden, another former NSA agent,had come to the world’s attention when he revealed the shocking extent of numerous global surveillance systems. In this climate ZXX became more enticing as a title. It seemed in tune with the zeitgeist while at the same time reflected people’s growing desire to hinder the surveillance”. John Cronin.