Sunday, October 1, 2017

Two Dimensional Depth

"Sky Flow ll"  by  Chiaki Shuji
The Memorial Art Gallery

Artists have faced this dilemma for to describe depth on a two dimensional surface.  In the Renaissance, the breakthrough came with the "invention" of perspective - the technique which allows an artist to describe depth without resorting to distortion or dealing with real sculptural space. A depiction of depth was a step forward and outward from strict two dimensional flatness.  Of course artists are still dealing with a notion of depicting space, and this ability will probably boost the careers of many artists in the future but now we can add a new element to this mixture, and that is the relative realism that a computer program can offer the budding artist.

Setting Sun

In this image the computer can render space in a very suggestive way, a kind of mirror image of a setting sun, without any distraction, the color works to suggest space.  This is a computer rendering I made of a mathematical equation - the kind of language that the computer is programmed to "read".

The computer can add the illusion of depth, but the artist has to have that intent, it has to be structured into the image.  Once the artist has the tools, the imagination can take off and go where it wants to go - very liberating.

"The Return" Rene Magritte, 1940

In the early 20th Century, the variety of visual art known as surrealism came to be identified with artists such as Salvador Dali, Giorgio DeChirico, and Rene Magritte ( see above ).  They put their wildest dreams onto paper and canvas and the world took notice.  Something unusual had happened, and it was this mixture of dreams and reality that created such a frisson.

"The Choice",  24" x 24", 
Marcus Conge

I thought about this while I was inspecting the artwork of Marcus Conge at Axom Gallery last week when the show opened.  I had spent the previous day at The Memorial Art Gallery with David Wagner, and I found an interesting print in the Asian Collection of a red explosion that the Japanese artist Chiaki Shuji calls "Sky Flow ll", from 2007.  See it at the top of this post and note that it is a print; that it is an etching and aquatint  with extraordinary energy and power.  The next day I saw the prints of Marcus Conge and there was a resemblance and a difference.  The energy was there, but now the images had much more depth in the "realism" of the image which is both stimulating and disconcerting at the same time.  That is the feeling of surrealism - it is in the world but not entirely of it.  These surreal prints by Marcus Conge do the strangest things like the image above ( The Choice ).
That is where the use of the computer technology comes in...the programs allow the artist to use imagination in ways that the surrealists could have predicted.

Marcus Conge grew up with art, and has been a teacher of art, especially the digital kind, and he uses the latest technology to develop a universe where anything can happen and it usually does.  On one wall a mossy covered skull floating in the sky has a blow-out.  This limited edition print is called "The Mis Take".

Marcus Conge at Axom Gallery

The show is called Curious Curio and each print is presented without a frame, so that you can really get close to the piece, and see all of it's very fine detail and color.  Images like these must take some time to conceptualize, and to render all the parts.  There is a fine sense of invention, along with a sense of anxiety --as in the image above.  Maybe these are nightmares.  If anything can happen and usually does, that means the viewer can be exposed to some pretty but terrifying images.  The universe that you invent in the surrealist image may not be the most sociable place, but luckily not all the prints in this show are so charged.  I thought that the image called "Warm Inside" had a bit more inviting ideas, but I guess it is all in the eye of the beholder.

Marcus Conge
This print is called "Warm Inside"
exhibition is called "Curious Curio"
at Axom Gallery, 
Rochester, New York