Saturday, March 22, 2014

Analog in a Digital World

Within our lifetime, perhaps the greatest revolution in the way we communicate information since the invention of writing has occurred.  And this revolution has been seamless, all pervasive and universally embraced.  I'm talking about the shift to digital from analog.  My practice as an artist is firmly routed in the analog - I mean how much more analog can you get than smearing charcoal on paper.  Increasingly what interests me is what happens when the analog bumps up against the digital - the intersection of the accidental, imprecise and ephemeral with the clear logic of the binary.

The exhibition, A Brief History of Fashion, christopher pelley / recent drawings, currently up at Illinois Central College in East Peoria, Illinois explores this friction.  The drawing process begins with a digital photograph, which is cut up and projected onto separate sheets of paper. The outlines are traced, and each section is worked individually.  This process is not about understanding the whole, but rather trying to make sense of marks and shapes out of context. Each sheet is an information byte.  At the end, when the individual sheets are assembled, the result is not so much a competed photographic image, but rather an interpretive memory.  It is an approximation of the photo - it is understandable, but something doesn't quite add up. Something was lost in translation.

Christopher Pelley  TOGA  charcoal/paper  90" x 88"
Christopher Pelley  CARAVAGGIO  charcoal/paper  90" x 88"
Christopher Pelley  HOODIE  charcoal/paper  90" x 88"
As an aside, I subscribe to the theory that optical devices have played a role in the studio practice of many artists from the 15th century on - Caravaggio (1571-1610) included.  The image of Caravaggio's Boy Peeling Fruit (1592) that I have appropriated for this exhibition has always felt a bit awkward.  The boy's right sleeve appears disjointed, disconnected from the rest of the body.  I had a very difficult time working on that segment of the drawing.  The shapes I was drawing did not convey information to me.  It was only after I assembled the completed sections that I understood what I had drawn.  The boy's right arm is viewed from a point that is slightly different and slightly out of focus from the rest of his body.  Did I stumble upon tangible proof that Caravaggio used optics, at least for this early work?

The exhibition runs from March 19 to April 18, 2014 at the Performing Arts Center Gallery at Illinois Central College.

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