Christopher Friesen on Graffiti Flags and Money Games

“I'd asked around 10 or 15 people for suggestions. Finally, one lady friend asked the right question, "Well, what do you love most?" That's how I started painting money.” – Andy Warhol  

When Warhol said this, he was accurate in that the images he was working with were indeed money; it was a U.S. currency backed by gold, in fact the world’s reserve currency, and the straight forward representation reinforces that reading. However, Warhol made this statement in the mid-1960’s, but in 1971 the rules of money changed in the U.S., leading to the financial crisis the world has now. Money had an intrinsic value, gold. Now the money became currency; gold no longer backed the paper but rather it was now backed by debt. It became a fiat currency, valued only by government decree and intrinsically only worth the “paper” it’s printed on (most of the worlds money is now digital anyways). The world has been participating in an economic experiment as the result of this decoupling, gold from the dollar. This experiment is beginning to unwind. We can see inflation of assets (real estate, stock market both currently at all-time highs) and the birth of cryptocurrencies that dialogues with both an honest money system and the societal dissatisfaction with inequity.

The intrinsic value the artist brings to the work is labour, an aesthetic vocabulary and the conceptual meaning a piece of art has through its originality. Even though this series of work has some semiotic indicators like the flag, spray paint graffiti, iconic stencils, at its core is the language of screen printing. Like the increased printing of U.S. currency, I have used print-making in this series as a mark-making device and not a means of numbered reproduction. Every piece in the exhibition is an original that exists from components and contains gesture and aesthetic decisions unlike the traditional print-making process where flaw free reproduction is valued.

Instead of presenting the currency in a straight-forward way like Warhol, I am interested in trying to communicate the over-printing of currency that distorts the original intention i.e. a store of time value.  A gestural application of paint onto the piece is about an erasure much like the Keynesian economic system the U.S. is engaged in that controls the expansion and contraction of currency in the system. This exhibition uses both traditional and contemporary approaches to art-making that references both canonized art historical figures as well as the avant -garde.

“I like money on the wall. Say you were going to buy a $200,000 painting. I think you should take that money, tie it up and hang it on the wall. Then when someone visited you, the first thing they would see is the money on the wall.” – Andy Warhol

The harder you look, the harder you look” – Christopher Wool