If you are new to this series all the images are based on recent photos of me after basically being fed through a neural network (which can change age, gender, etc.), then edited and painted using various programs. None of the people actually exist, and thus they are like self portraits from alternate universes.
This one is rich in contemporary art and 20th century painting references. The painted-over photo owes its origin, as far as I know, to Gerhard Richter, but that was only really possible because of the painterly swatches created in Abstract Expressionism. Viscous trails of paint streaking across a visage comes from Francis Bacon. The photographic element of one person becoming multiple people hearkens back to Cindy Sherman. To name some of the influences. There’s more when you look at the up-close painting style. The computer techniques are the introduction of another whole set of visual orientations.
When a lot of people first see this, they will just see a photo with a vigorous smear of luminous paint over it. They won’t know the smear was created digitally (it’s not collaged), that the person doesn’t exist, or that when you zoom in, it’s also a digital painting.
The streak of paint is also a rather violent disruption of the “fabric of reality” of the alternate universe. It’s not just a glitch in the Matrix, it’s a tear.
About 3/4th of the way through I improved my painting technique. I use custom methods I developed myself. There is no tutorial on how to do this. It’s my own secret recipe. Same goes for the paint swatch, though it’s a completely different formula and uses a different combination of programs, etc.
One of the things I have to deal with a lot is the antipathy among the general public, and particularly among more traditional painters, towards anything created using the computer. Part of it comes down simply to people not being able to appreciate how something is done if they don’t know how it is done. When I innovate techniques virtually nobody knows how I did it. Rather than being credited with innovation, I am dismissed for not using established techniques.
The image may suggest so many things that it is not, or is not “true” in terms of biography. I never had a dog. The picture was taken in Thailand when I was almost 40, and the neural network makes me look much younger. The dog belonged to the family of a guide I used for a trek. At the age I appear I wore glasses and my hair was probably longer.
But I think the photo gives the impression of a young guy with his Rottweiler, probably in his own capacious backyard in someplace like Santa Barbara. It’s not my life at all. And yet, even for me, it seems convincing. The glob of paint on top suggests that IT is the part that is the addition, and whatever is under it is sound. There are two simultaneous things happening (this was Richter’s visual insight), there’s the record of the photograph, and then there’s the record of the artist’s gesture on top of it, done at a different time.
Everything about this image is not what it appears to be. It’s a fiction even to the point of being a fictive contemporary swath of paint over a more traditional fictive oil portrait.
Recently I’ve been rebelling against interpretation in visual art. I know it’s valuable to other people, and it has its place, but I think people need to tune in much more to the visual communication, which can’t be translated into words. If the story around an image helps people engage it, than that is good, but it can’t replace it. Whatever I know about Beethoven’s biography, or why he wrote this or that piece, is not going to compare to what I absorb via listening to it alone, knowing nothing other than what my ears gradually discern.
While the image is pure fiction in terms of facts in consensual, quotidian reality, it is “true” in terms of being more philosophically complex and self-reflexive than just a straight portrayal of something that is what it is. An abstract painting, for example, doesn’t allude to any external, representational truth. A Lichtenstein painting of a cartoon version of an Abstract Expressionist paint stroke works in a similar way — it is not a vigorously painted brush stroke, but it is a painting of a cartoon printed version of one. A joke is not a true story, but it is real humor and can signal a deeper observation than a direct statement.
More surprises ahead. Stay tuned.
All 20 so far (in chronological order). Click an image to enter the screenshow:
Stay tuned for more entities to emerge. There will be surprises.
And if you like the (experimental) sort of art that I do, and you don’t want me to have to quit or put it on a back-burner, please consider chipping in so I can keep working until I drop. Through Patreon, you can give $1 (or more) per month to help keep me going (y’know, so I don’t have to put art back on the back-burner while I slog away at a full-time job). Ah, if only I could amass a few hundred dollars per month this way, I could focus entirely on my art and writing. See how it works here.
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