A repeated motif haunts Michael Raedecker’s new paintings: a tree house, set high in the forking branches of a tall and leafless tree. This is architecture at its most basic, nothing more than a pitched roof, four walls, a floor, and a long, bowing ladder that reaches down towards the ground. Try as we might, we cannot locate this structure in a particular period or place. It could have been knocked up by a 21st-Century suburban dad, in the hope that it might persuade his kids to put away their iPads, and play outside for once. Equally, it could be the work of our prehistoric ancestors, a refuge from the wolves and bears that roam the forest floor. Significantly, in two of Raedecker’s canvases, the treehouse is silhouetted against a huge full moon, hung impossibly low in the sky. Might the structure’s inhabitants use this celestial body as a clock of sorts, measuring the passing of their days by its waxing and waning? One thing is certain, these works are deeply concerned with time, and how it is encoded in the image.
The process behind Raedecker’s new paintings is complex, a series of archaeological strata. First, the artist applies painted marks and washes to a primed canvas. Next, the canvas is coated in acrylic medium, to which he sticks a found photographic image, reproduced on paper using a standard inkjet printer. Once the medium has absorbed the ink, and the image has been transferred, he tears away the paper, and gets to work with his hallmark lengths of thread, sometimes stitching them through the canvas, sometimes suspending them in the sticky, drying medium, almost as though he were creating a low relief sculpture. What is remarkable, here, is how many different temporalities combine on the surface of a single artwork: the considered application of pigment, the immediacy (and, perhaps, post-production drag) of digital photography, the speedy and indiscriminate chemical reaction that precipitates the image transfer, and the patient labour of summoning up a motif with thread. If these works feel disorienting, even a little uncanny, this should come as no surprise. Here, time –painterly time, lens-based time, computer processing time– is determinedly out of joint.