Material Truths at Site Gallery Sheffield opens Friday 17 February 2017

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Material Truths at Site Gallery Sheffield opens Friday 17 February 2017

Wednesday 08 February 2017

Joan’s Hand, Tracey Holland
Image credit: Joan’s Hand, Penny McCarthy. Photo: Tracey Holland

Material Truths, featuring work from Penny McCarthy, opens at Site Gallery Sheffield next week. It runs from 17 February - 10 March 2017, with a preview evening Friday 17 February, 6 - 8pm.

Penny McCarthy: Folder explores the framework of meaning that is produced when representations of material forms are transported between the material world and the digital domain. Through a series of drawings that replicate details from historic works, my research considers the temporal relation between works of art. The drawings are close facsimiles of material found online, citing and reversing the detachment from hand-made processes. Although image reproduction is available at a post-historical click, the painstaking, time-consuming execution of my work is its most notable feature.

Experimenting with Google’s image search engine I ‘return’ my copies to image-search for ‘equivalent’ images. The plagiarism search engine software appears unable to read my images correctly and, on further testing, it cannot locate any of my sources from my drawn copies. The Google ‘equivalents’, the demonstration of what the artificial intelligence ‘sees’, inflects my works conceptually; the old medium of drawing dissolving into the new atomised world. The research locates a ‘resolution gap’ between the digital files and current search technology, meaning that software capable of matching the search does not yet exist. It is possible to assume that at a certain point technology will improve, enabling a different result. However, part of the conceptual content of the work is the process of switching between these images, a dialogue between my works and the source.

This research reflects and depicts new modes of communication: new social spaces, collapsing of distances, establishing new ones. Politics, after John Berger, is at play, in the proposition that works of art represent—and make felt—the inextricability of self and systems.

And, as Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing (1972): ‘the relation between what we see and we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.’

Penny McCarthy is a Reader in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University.

For more information about this new exhibition, please visit

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