August 2011: Becky Hunter selects David Riley

David Riley’s images drew me in, attracting my modernist art historian brain, which must have made some connection between the artist’s colourful, linear outputs and mid-twentieth century painting and sculpture – both hard-edged and expressive. But I admit to being, at first, a little baffled by the premises behind all those alluring lines, dots and squiggles. Not being scientifically minded, it took a while to figure out. But, in this way, Riley’s blog did what Artist talking blogs should do. It sent me on a quest across his websites, texts, images and historical references, in order to piece together the puzzle of his enigmatic work, motivations and background.

While I love reading about artists’ personal struggles and triumphs, philosophical ideas, and legal wrangling in other blogs hosted here, I’m interested in Riley’s “black box” persona, which regulates his posts, and prompted a stream of comments in June on the online self as “avatar”; what happens when you delete a post; and the balance between self-absorption and committed engagement in forums like this one. I also enjoyed Riley’s discussion of the iPad as a playful device for “21st Century style finger painting.” He appears to move back and forth between digital and analog with ease, seeking a gently human side to technological systems. On iPad finger painting, he says: “(Possibly) as near as you can get to touching the materials while making an entirely digital outcome. The closest you can get to feeling your way to an outcome.”

Riley’s use of Twitter, as recorded in his blog, also stands out. For example, he has been tweeting his followers’ names back to them using an algorithm to produce the dots and dashes of Morse code, which formally is lovely. As someone who is used to coding my own web-based stuff, I appreciated his brief critique of the Artists talking blogging platform’s limited possibilities, and his subsequent adaption of the Morse code system into regular keyboard characters. By dealing with this problem so simply, he also prompted Jane Boyer to comment delightfully on the “8” he used as a substitute for a Morse symbol – she called it “binary infinity”.

Go to David Riley’s blog