Sachin Kaeley’s paintings shift between image and object, and for his first solo exhibition in Germany, Accompanied By Sound, they revolve, as they often do, around the topic of digital reproduction. The paintings – all from 2015, untitled and abstract throughout – are predominantly small in format, and were hung on the gallery’s vast walls like forlorn thumbnails. The majority of them are made with plaster and spray paint on wood panels; each in the series was a variation on a previous work. Despite this procedure, no clear hierarchy is visible: the order jumbled, rather than telling a linear history of origins, the individual works form more of a flatly structured group.
These paintings rehearse potentials contained in the original abstract work. Variations in sharpness can be detected and sometimes the paintings look craggy, fissured and impastoed; sometimes even strokes flow smoothly into one another. The result is that these paintings seem at once extraordinarily plastic and oddly flat. As well as the different degrees of impasto application of the plaster, the spray-painted colours, with their emphases of light and shade, bear at some points a rather loose relation to the ‘actual’ texture of the surface. Sometimes they are downright at odds with it. Additionally, the wooden panels of the paintings’ base, have themselves been laboriously bent and worked so that they add a further layer, which corresponds neither to the application of the plaster, nor to the spray-paint. This is not just abstract painting, but an abstraction of all elements involved: surface, colour and base are decoupled and take on new roles.
In the digital world (mainly the video game industry) there is a concept of ‘2.5D’ which describes the combination of a three-dimensional object and a two-dimensional surface. If a photo is overlaid onto a rendered sphere, for example, the sphere takes on the photo as a surface. At the same time, the surface also occupies that same three-dimensional object. Both become paradoxically entwined. Simultaneously they fall apart from, and into, one another. In Kaeley’s works, this odd, intermediate dimension is echoed on various levels: the forms, produced with plaster and spray paint, evoke light and shadow, and thereby a tangible surface; however this surface is in turn predetermined and prescribed by the working of the wooden base. Depending on your vantage point the paintings shift between 2- and 3D, determining whether the work is perceived as surface or form. In this way, the perspective itself becomes a kind of ‘material’, more than a mere optical effect.
Nothing can be copied in perfect detail – perhaps in this respect, the physical world really is opposite to the digital. In physical reality, everything is unique: too chaotic, too fleeting, too unruly to be able to be grasped in purely mathematical form. Kaeley emphasizes this, pointing here not so much to the digital realm itself (in which – and only in which – the exact digital copy is possible), as to the gulf between the digital and the physical. The DNA of things, their underlying structure, may well be decodable, but from that point it’s a long way to making a perfect reproduction. As code acts outwards upon the world, the world in the opposite direction, acts upon code. So it’s logical that in Kaeley’s works it can no longer be discerned which way his physical forms and digital-looking images move.