This is a large format digital painting that can be printed 4 feet wide at magazine cover quality, and 8 feet wide at poster quality. It’s in a style reminiscent of classic American painters such as Edward Hopper and George Bellows, though that wasn’t exactly deliberate. It started as an experiment working in a different approach than my last work, which was extremely methodical and included a fully realized black and white drawing phase. Here I never made a drawing, and just started directly with color. The imagery is loosely based on a real fight I discovered in a YouTube fight compilation. I took multiple screen shots, reassembled and recombined them, invented a background, and reinterpreted them to create my own scene which never occurs in the actual footage. It’s essentially about the eruption of violence, spectator-ship, voyeurism, and contemporary culture at large. It fits within my larger project to create meaningful imagery, and which contradicts the century-old notion that it’s impossible to do so because it’s all been said and done before…

smaller fighter
Head of the smaller fighter.

While addressing violence, this piece doesn’t condone it, unless while looking at it you wish you were one of the guys depicted getting busted up. Neither is it an overblown moralistic indictment, since I watch fight compilations to begin with, and once fought in the ring myself. Outside of sport, I do abhor violence in general, and recourse to violence in disputes is an admission of an inability to argue ones case rationally. For a human to assert superiority because of physical dominance only lasts until he is paired up against a member of the animal kingdom. In the realm of physical domination, a spotted hyena or Komodo dragon is our lord and master. So why depict a scene of naked violence?

Big fighter with finger
Big fighter with finger. Is he being accused with a bloody finger, or has he been poked in the eye?

This has something to do with instances where we are jarred from our complacent role-playing in the game of civilization. We typically exist within a filtered interpretation of reality – a consensual, conceptual context forged in shared ideas and language itself. Call it “the matrix” if you want, though it’s not necessarily pernicious, and is constructed by ourselves rather than some other, alien force. We have a place, most often defined by others, in an elaborate play, and here and there we snap out of it. This is why people go on exotic vacations, bungee jump, do psychedelic drugs, or go on the quest for the guru. It’s an attempt to escape the mentally constructed world that we together superimpose on reality. An outburst of violence, with blows and smashed faces, short-circuits the agreed-upon, master narrative. The TV goes off for an instant. We may be dislodged from the virtual world.

spectator. Very Impressionistic treatment here.

True, there are better ways to break out of the mold and glimpse open reality, and fighters don’t necessarily “get it” at all, but it often takes situations we do not want to find ourselves in – situations we can’t control – to let us out of the room. In our day to day lives, on the contrary, layers upon layers of context envelope us to reinforce whatever the dominant paradigm is, and whoever it is in the service of. The lowly servant must have constantly been reminded of his status in the time of the ancient Egyptians. One may not be able to break out mentally – it’s a lot of work to out-think the masters – but anyone can break out of mentality itself.

other hand on the fence
Hand on the fence. I dig the wood texture. Oh yeah, the fence was completely pulled out of my imagination.

In this piece I was attempting to capture some of the spontaneity of an outburst of violence (the crisp sky echoes the unbridled nature), and a contemporary tableaux in general, and infuse it into the fine art context via traditional painterly devices.

Below is the full version again.

Bare Knuckle Brawl, 12/2013. Digital painting by Eric KUns
Bare Knuckle Brawl, 12/2013

See stages of development here

10 replies on “Details and commentary on Bare Knuckle Brawl

  1. Love your technique! The sky is so pretty, which is a great contrast to the ugly fighters. I feel like I’ve stepped into the pages of a story. A good writing prompt, and an interesting interpretation. Cheers.


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