Brian C. Lo’s fuses virtual with reality this Friday at Gallery of Hawaii Artists.
It’s a sweltering Saturday afternoon, around one o’clock or so, and I’m late – extremely late – for a lunch meeting with Brian Lo, a Taiwan-born, Alaska-raised, Hawai’i-based artist whose solo exhibition In Between States launches this Friday at the Gallery of Hawaii Artists (GOHA).
Lo’s work, which I first saw at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Commons Gallery, startled me. Large, noisy, colorful, pixilated, gritty – it was a visual information overload. There were recognizable images, yes, but they had been altered, manipulated and painted on many times over. They reminded me of a 7th generation cassette dub of some rare underground hip-hop recording replete with tape hiss, or a vinyl recording so old that it crackled and popped more than it emitted music.
“I was thinking about the idea of network, and how digital technology has changed our lives,” says Lo, over a bowl of pho. His starting point, he tells me, is Facebook. He takes photos from the social network and begins a long process of manipulation, which involves printing them out and scanning them back in. He uses both paint and Photoshop to transform the images into, well, something entirely different; something that, in his words, comes very close to one’s experience online. Which is to say, chaotic.
In that sense, it’s easy to imagine Lo’s paintings as a way of mediating the world we live in: cascading Twitter feeds, an endless procession of Facebook updates, the relentless desire to connect.
“What interests me is that people feel the need to document, to update their daily experiences,” Lo says. “But is this bringing us closer or bringing us apart?” Our conversation soon veers to the virtual world in general and the fact that many teens and adults are addicted to video games and the online world, which has unquestionably altered their relationships with others.
“What can they get there that they can’t get in the real world?” Lo muses. He doesn’t give me a single answer to the question, but in a way, his paintings investigate the connection between the physical and virtual worlds that today, thanks to social networks and mobile devices, seem inextricably tied together.
Lo, for all his interest in the virtual world, is a face-to-face sort of guy, someone who’d rather meet you in person than be Facebooked or Twittered. He wants to meet you – yes, you! – and have a real conversation. This Friday at GOHA, from 7 pm to 10 pm, is the opening reception for In Between States. A one-night-only video installation piece will provide an interesting compliment to 13 of Lo’s paintings. Come connect with Lo.