Critical Essay



Apophenia Series (photographs):

Apophenia is defined as: The human tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between seemingly unrelated or random things. In psychology, this intrinsic ability for seeing connections and patterns is thought to give rise to the perception of conspiracy theories. The images in the eponymously titled series of photographs by artist Daniel Sullivan depict what may be clouds, or perhaps something far more sinister. They iterate modernism’s love of seriality, abstraction and the near omnipresent grid, and perhaps reference the serially produced cloud studies of John Constable or Alfred Stieglitz. But now the act of anthropomorphizing we all take part in, questions on a much deeper level, what is it we see and what is actually there? In addition, one must also inquire as to why the perception of patterns, if innate, was recently classified as a psychological malady?










Project Monarch Series (paintings):

The grid also is used as the basic framework for the artist's "Project Monarch" series of acrylic on panel paintings. They are the painted results of the artist segmenting and color-averaging personal photographs. Pixelation, on a grand scale. Implicit in these image-modification experiments, are questions of public vs private and what actually constitutes portraiture. They are perhaps intimate images, willingly obfuscated in this tell-all age of social-media. The title of this series originates from a CIA-funded program that is described in some detail by the Agency's own documents, which have been heavily redacted and released to the public through FOIA requests. Spoken of, is a dark and nefarious series of experiments intended to fracture a person's psyche through exposure to trauma. Self and non-self, co-existing within the same physical form… now a vessel for others' use. The artist may be using these segmented and non-specified "portraits" metaphorically, for the fracturing and re-integration of a whole from dissonant, yet co-existing and interdependent parts. Separate but complete. 

























Color Theory Series (photographs):

Sullivan’s digitally manipulated photographs from the Color Theory series also employ modernism's grid, this time superimposed on, and atomizing the depictions of surveillance cameras. The division of a collective whole into individual elements is an apt metaphor when one realizes that the role of these cameras are to identify and isolate inciting individuals within a crowd, or culture. The visual grid attempts to impose a sense of order and control upon an image with deeply emotive implications, and begs the question as to who really is the viewer here? The questioning of power, informational control and who owns the gaze is relegated, as the title implies, to the equivalent of a visual, and perhaps mis-directed, aesthetic exercise. 

Sullivan’s work superficially references modernism’s fondness for seriality, grids and muted content, but move past this initial veneer, and it calls even the act of viewing itself, into question. Beneath these stoic exteriors lurk the dark and foreboding underbelly of a covert history, that we can only catch fleeting glimpses of. 

*reprinted from Peripheral Vision (Vol. 1) #7