58 DIGITAL SKETCHES ON THE THEME OF FESTIVE MASQUERADE
Together with MASQUERADE (A) this was planned as a single series that encompassed caricature, masks and masquerade in public spectacle. It was to offer a spectrum from actual portraiture to fictive figures. Festive settings were largely inspired by the ribald satirical processions that celebrate pre-Lent in Rhineland cities. My scenes are less specific. It is a ‘carnivalesque’ turn, with an eye firmly on commerce and politics. This expansive range of interests quickly proved impractical as a single page, however, taxed sub-pages, even sub-sub-pages. It was just too ambitious. So I split it in two.
Even within B, works divide sharply between very elaborate and detailed scenes and much simpler, rougher compositions. This is more so than previously. On the one hand, I was intent on demonstrating a full range of stylistic options, from realism to abstraction within a single composition, on the other, I was anxious to summarise the array, (and with a view to painting the pictures at a practical scale). At some level I am always juggling necessity with desire I suppose.
Notes continue at the bottom of the page.
(Sub-pages present more than three variations on a given composition and are linked as VARIATIONS following its title).
MASQ-B-01A – VARIATIONS
MASQ-B-03A – VARIATIONS
MASQ-B-12A – VARIATIONS
MASQ-B-13A – VARIATIONS
MASQ-B-18A – VARIATIONS
The theme overlaps with preceding series, not entirely deliberately. The love of parades and performance goes right back to art school (although examples there have since been lost) and again points to deep-seated inclinations. The more variations I spin, the more fundamental the theme becomes. Robotic and cartoon characters are again present, this, more deliberately, following on from LOVED ONES and attention to popular fiction. What is new is the inclusion of caricature and topical celebrities from various realms. This gives events and their treatments more iconographic edge than previously.
On a technical point, I wanted to avoid soft-focus backgrounds, something I’d relied upon perhaps too much in ROBO and ACTIVISTS. It was time to look to other solutions. This drove a lot of the complexity. The pictures are realistic for some objects, deceptive or fanciful for others and with the more elaborate examples, the range of stylistic options is carefully attenuated. They were slow to do not because of exacting detail or technicalities but because they proceeded in modest increments or stages. I would start with perhaps a setting or figure and initially alter parts by say, size, proportion or colour. But this was just a substitution of content and no more than conventional ‘compositing’. I had no real idea where it would lead, apart from smoothly away from sources. I then just left them and worked on other things until I could see other options, perhaps eliminating some objects, introducing others, further departing from a standard or easy identity for objects. After another interval, I then became slightly bolder and skewed even a coherent space or volume, so that cartoons, mascots or masks sat precariously in a world and its picture, or clung to a precarious world and picture. In other words, I started from objects and realism to end with features of the picture space and fiction. At each stage the picture amassed detail (and the files many layers) but steadily grew more fragmented, also making it hard to know where to stop.
This process to recent series often feels a bit like movie making, shifting characters on and off a stage, reconfiguring them, changing locations, art directing, editing. A series feels a bit like a feature length movie or perhaps novel. The flexibility of digital means has definitely aided this tendency. Interestingly, an artist like Neo Rauch who shuns digital and photographic options also finds his figuration movie-like. Perhaps it’s something in the air or times.
Finally, I am puzzled by the lack of presence on the web of other painters adopting digital means. I know I’m not doing anything extraordinary with Photoshop and in theory many other artists must be looking at the same options. But I have found very few examples of ‘digital painting’, apart from crass commercial applications. One exception is the young New York artist, Avery Singer, who uses the 3-D modelling software ‘SketchUp’ to generate striking silhouettes and oblique projections. While I accept I am an outsider on broader social and cultural issues (see my statement) the use of digital imagery is such a central issue for pictures, and to which painting is uniquely placed to respond; I feel even further from the mainstream for this commitment, baffled by its indifference.