For years, my paintings have examined the politics and structural implications of surveillance in the digital age and how painting, photography and technology can be combined to create new visual experiences that foster this dialog. I worked with surveillance video and isolated ambiguous frames that allowed the viewer to fill out the narrative and suppose what had passed and imagine what was about to happen. These isolated images were then painted using an automated technique I developed that allowed me to further isolate the relationship between the viewer and the work.
The line paintings have their roots in digital photography, industrial technology processes, and classical painting. Using personal photographs from Nature as source images the paintings represent a sample of digital information from these images expanded to create an abstract work while maintaining the emotive essence of the organic view. These paintings are created using a process I developed for paint application that utilizes both commercial and proprietary manufacturing technologies and software applications.
I execute the work in acrylic or oil paint using colors mixed specifically for the image. The paint is applied one color at a time, one line at a time. While time consuming, the process allows for a high level of detail and resolution without which the paintings would fail to reach their potential. The resulting paintings capture and amplify the essence of the view by focusing on their organic rhythms and color relationships while removing other objective information.
Living in a world where we are constantly watched from satellites, airplanes and stationary video cameras on our roads and in our cities, Betts’ latest paintings address a contemporary world in which surveillance is widely used as both a deterrent and for social control. Inspired by the writings of Jeremy Bentham on the Panopticon and Michel Foucault in his work Discipline & Punish, he explores the sociological and philosophical implications of video surveillance in contemporary society. “I am interested in how far removed I can get from the subject and the painting itself and still make paintings” says Betts, “today we have so many layers between the individual and direct experience, it fundamentally changes how we see the world”.
“Betts has adapted existing CNC (computer numerically controlled) technology to create paintings by layering lines. He determines the angle, the spacing and the width of each set of lines, printing them in specially mixed paint, then responds to each set of colored lines with another, slowly building up the designs. He calls the process "neurotic and anal yet improvisational." It results in spectacular patterns of grids and v's that shimmer like "moiré paintings." As you look around the gallery, each painting has an optical hum, and some of the color and pattern choices, like the turquoise-y blues and greens of M-0023 (2006), are gorgeous. Betts is showing eight paintings in the gallery, each 45 inches by 45 inches.
In the future, it would be interesting to see him experiment with a larger scale or combine multiple canvases. It would also be intriguing to see his paintings hung alongside those of Houston/New York artist Susie Rosmarin, who has been doing similar work for quite a while, but laboriously taping and painting her lines by hand. I'd like to see how handmade and machine-made play out side by side. The new paintings really showcase Bett's deft sense of color and design, as well as his ability to bend.”