Parenthetical Constructs is one artist's reflection on the effects of technology–both on the individual and on the greater society. J. Kung Dreyfus seeks to re-embody symbols from the digital world by taking seemingly random and abstract artifacts and giving them a very real, tangible placement in a physical work of art. The results are simple yet intricate, refined yet playful paintings based on her initial studies (created with the Google Slides application).
The work had its genesis after Kung Dreyfus engaged in a prolonged state of contemplation and literal “unplugging” from our contemporary landscape of screens and keyboards.
"From 2010-2012,” explains the artist, “I completed a 450 day meditation retreat with my husband. Together, we spent a year and a half in silence without a cell phone, without internet, without a computer.”
The “experiment” resulted in a greater understanding of the things not said (or not communicated) with words, sounds or symbols. “This unique experience informs every aspect of my life today, coloring how I see and respond to the world.”
When she emerged from the retreat, she moved to San Francisco and experienced what she would later describe as an “extreme change in landscape.” She left an atmosphere completely void of technology to enter “the tech center of the world.” While she "simultaneously embraces and questions the innovation,” she feels a strong need to both utilize and critique the tools of technology.
An artist who also teaches yoga and meditation, Kung Dreyfus feels uniquely posed to study the effects of this Digital Age.
"What has technology done to change how we relate to our world and our bodies?” she poses.
After 450 days of silence, she believes she gained a new understanding of the ways in which human beings communicate. "I learned something simple. Silence is not the absence of language, it is another language. In the absence of the spoken word, the pause, the period, all the moments of punctuation create another realm of engagement: a visceral experience of language as a container for energy."
The more our contemporary social world pushes us "towards the disembodied,” Dreyfus believes Art continues to find "a way in.” Her work employs Google Slides and the simple “tools of shapes and text signifiers.” Starting with this commonly used application, she discovered that the digital shapes "demanded something more.” From the slides, she created vector files which she used with laser technology to create shapes in wood and plastic.
"The digital took root in the physical realm,” when she used these cut out shapes as a type of interchangeable template for the images of her paintings. Looking at the work, the world, time, and history tilt a bit, as the viewer both reads and synthesizes the information, but in a purely aesthetic, rather than language based manner. The result is a very striking form of communication, resounding with both beauty and emotion, as well as a quiet and personal kind of narrative.