Tony Garifalakis: Information Discharge Systems

Tony Garifalakis has taken to hoarding. But it’s not any sort of physical object that has captured his attention. Rather he has, over the past few years, been meticulously collecting and scanning imagery from obscure print materials – old Greek romance magazines, Italian product catalogues from the 1970s, vintage hotel interiors books – to create a veritable ‘Cave of Wonders’ in pure digital form. Now enormous, this immaterial archive forms the basis of the artist’s latest body of work.

Garifalakis is by nature an interrogator; an obfuscator of information systems. Across his two-decade practice, he has investigated the signs, symbols and images through which we create meaning in our world. And particularly how this meaning can be ascribed, conveyed, transformed and even subverted.

It’s difficult to forget the ominous spray-painted faces of his ‘Mob rule’ 2014 subjects; the eyes of Vladimir Putin, Robert Mugabe, Princess Diana and other powerful figures peering from an impenetrable layer of black. Or the gun-toting, explosive-wielding gentleman of ‘Affirmations’ 2012, their confronting portraits overlaid with New Age clichés like ‘Make time to dream’ and ‘Every day in every way… I grow better and better’.

Through his juxtaposition of different signs and mix of signifiers within a given image he presents a touch of dark, incongruous humour. Garlifalakis asks us to question our social, political, religious, artistic systems of belief and the institutions that uphold them.

‘Information Discharge Systems’ comprises three distinct series of around 10 digitally-manipulated images sourced from his archive. Some are face-mounted onto acrylic and displayed in hand-painted frames; others are presented on cork. ‘There’s something to the quality of these printed images that I really like,’ says the artist. ‘The colours to be found in these older texts, the registering, the printing that’s just a little bit off… all those little details really appeal to me.’

Tony Garifalakis, Untitled 3, 2017, inkjet print on cotton paper, 30 x 20cm. Courtesy the artist and Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne

The new work continues his interest in doing away with the prescribed meaning of an image. But this time, in place of black spray cans, the computer is his weapon of choice. If you look closely, you might discover hints of what once was; the faded yellow of a magazine page, the dot screens used in a catalogue printing process. But Garifalakis is more interested in us considering the new image, rather than getting bogged down in the original source material. Process has become key.

The work flows on from ‘Future History’ 2017 a smaller suite shown at Spring 1883 in Sydney’s Establishment Hotel last year. ‘Archiving is quite the time-consuming process, you naturally start to consider the possibilities of what the images could become,’ says the artist. ‘Using the hotel interior images seemed to work really perfectly for a show held in a hotel. There was a solid contextual resonance that worked.’

‘Future History’ was the starting point for ‘Information Discharge Systems’, which is already inspiration for an upcoming year of experimentation. ‘I was forced to make these works a physical reality,’ says Garifalakis, ‘to think about how they will exist outside the screen, outside the digital realm. I was pretty pleased with the results and thought there was more worth exploring. I’m really looking forward to getting into the studio, looking at the ideas I’ve had in the back of my mind, and just making.’

Camilla Wagstaff is a writer based in Sydney.

Sarah Scout Presents
2 February to 3 March, 2018