For the past decade, questions about how the digital computer is transforming our conceptions, attitudes, and outlooks about the world have deeply informed my practice. Of particular interest to me are questions about the “shape” of our knowledge – i.e., the means by which we know the world – and the significant role digital technology is playing in this shaping process.

Recently, my questions have come to focus on the relationship between the analog world – the continuous, seemingly unbroken world we experience with our senses – and the digital world of pixels and bits presented to us by computers. Can computer models, with their binary language of separate, discrete units, accurately illuminate to us the real world? Or, is there a fundamental gap between the digital and the real – the virtual and the actual – that can never be closed? 

In my work – which comprises paintings, works on paper, sculptural objects, and light installations – these concerns are reflected in the tension between the discrete marks that create my patterns and configurations and the seamless, unified ground of my surfaces. This tension is also apparent in the marked difference between what the viewer sees from a distance –which appear to be continuous organic forms floating in a homogeneous space – and the distinct, particulate, pixel-like points that are revealed as the patterns' constituents on closer inspection.

In several recent series, my mark has come to be constituted by a kind of void or absence. In the works on paper, this void is created by means of a steel needle that I use to pierce holes through the surface of the paper. On hard surfaces the mark becomes either a deep puncture, which produces a small black shadow-hole, or a steel nail, which, protruding from the surface, casts a shadow on the white ground of the painting. In each case it is the absence-as-form that interests me, as the tension between presence and absence, light and shadow, introduces a new layer of meaning to my epistemological concerns. Visually, this approach of marking-by- voiding produces compositions that are often so faint and delicate as to be “barely there”; if one is to see anything at all, close looking and sustained attention are required. This, too, is resonant with my larger interest in how we know what we do – if indeed we know anything – about the world. 

Although I find the source of my inspiration in science and technology, my work is ultimately a poetic exploration that traffics in ambiguity and polysemy rather than in facts. My process generally begins with some kind of “informational image” – i.e., a non-art image gleaned from the realm of science and technology – that strikes me as having poetic potential. As I study the image, I begin a series of rough drawings in which I explore selected features of the original image, abstracting, altering, distilling, and simplifying as I go along. When I am satisfied with one of the drawings, I leave the original image behind altogether and begin translating the marks on the drawing into arrays of holes, punctures, or nails. By the end of the entire process, what results bears only a dim resemblance to the image I started out with. Something of its essence remains, but the mechanical quality of the source material has been lost to the language of the human hand, and the image has been transformed into something that transcends “mere information” and enters the realm of complex, multivalent meaning.

More on Taney Roniger:

Image: print on Hahnemuhle for the new Soft Luminosity IS box, 20x34cm.