This large landscape painting is from a series based on images the artist found on the personal website of a man also called Dan Hays who lives in Blackhawk, Colorado, USA. The website (www.countertrade.com/dan/home1.htm) includes photographs of the countryside near the American Dan Hays’ home in the Rocky Mountains. Colorado Impression No. XIB is based on a print-out of one of these photographs. In the immediate foreground telegraph wires rise above bushy foliage. Beyond the wires lies a house with a steep roof set in a densely wooded area. Trees extend up a gentle incline to the right of the image. Blue-tinged mountains are visible in the distance. The painting is made up of a sequence of small squares of bright colour, which retain the pixelated quality of the computer-generated image the artist used as his source picture.
In addition to using appropriated images rather than creating his own landscape compositions, the digitisation and subsequent manipulations of the electronically stored images are important elements in Hays’ working process. The photographs on the website are in JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) format. JPEGs are compressed digital images that have become the standard format for use on internet sites. The compression mechanism allows a picture to be stored in a relatively small size, but detail is lost when the image is decompressed. The amount of loss varies according to the size of the JPEG file, but decompression always accentuates tonal changes. The pixelation heightens the differences between individual colours. Hays replicates this effect in his painting, squaring off the canvas and systematically applying small areas of colour which are matched to a digital section of the image stored in his computer.
The Colorado Impressions series is a response to the growing proliferation of information, particularly visual information, on the internet. This abundant source of images has implications on artistic production in terms of subject matter and technique. Hays is able to reproduce a landscape in Colorado from his studio in London.
Hays has a long-term interest in mediated imagery. In previous works, he used found images and his own photographs as sources for his paintings. He claimed, ‘My aim has been to emulate the qualities of video and poor quality printed material (like mail order catalogues) in paint’ (quoted in Dan Hays: Paintings, p.30). These early works, like paintings from the Colorado Impressions series, raise issues of authenticity. Hays does not claim the source material for this painting as his own; the work’s title refers to the other Dan Hays, complicating the question of authorship.
Hays’ meticulous process recalls the experimental techniques of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in late nineteenth century France. Hays the artist described this connection to his American namesake in an email, saying ‘There is a parallel between the way computers compress images with “JPEG” and the way that the Impressionists or Cézanne strove to reduce the amount of painted information to aid in speed of production and capture, yet also to reveal the essence of a scene’ (quoted in Dan Hays: Paintings, p.30). Hays has made several paintings based on the view used for Colorado Impression No. XIB, recalling the landscape series of Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). Hays’ method of constructing his image from small, unblended blocks of colour also recalls the Pointillist technique of Georges Seurat (1859-91).
Ulrich Krempel, Dan Hays and Frank Lamy, Dan Hays: Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Junge Kunst e.V., Wolfsburg, 2001.
Simon Grant, Dan Hays, exhibition catalogue, Entwistle, London, 2000.
Alex Coles, Barry Schwabsky, Catsou Roberts and Stephen Hepworth, Shimmering Substance / View Finder, exhibition catalogue, Arnolfini, Bristol, 2002