Monday, October 24, 2011

My Message is Unimportant: the Transfigura Collages

In a little bit of a departure from your usual ITAV blog post, this week's takes a detour into the strictly visual realm.  Lacking a proper official online outlet for my art right now, I wanted to share the first five pieces of an ongoing digital collage/photo-illustration series I've been working on for the last couple weeks.  You can click the images for a larger view, if you are inclined.

When I was younger I used to make collages in my art classes, and the most frequent material to cut up and rubber cement back together was catalogs and old National Geographics.  I've tried to approach this series with the same general parameters, only with Google image search as my toolbox -- starting with some sort of fashion image and then building up elements from nature around it.  Although the results look quasi-spiritual, atavistic, or even hallucinatory, I think what I'm going for is a visual representation of creative release.  Especially the outpouring of creative ideas that can be inspired by encounters with the natural world: order, chaos, decay, the persistence of life of all kinds, the inevitability of death.  Without all those processes in constant flux, art would be impossible.

I also wanted to consciously make something that is approachable for a wide variety of people; thus the colorful aspect, clean lines (mimicking an x-acto blade digitally as much as I can), and juxtaposition of easily identified elements.  The payload is buried in the trendy headscarves and parkas that erupt in various colorful ways; the catalyst is often something flawed yet orderly (i.e. titanium-coated quartz crystals) that may have some religious/mystical baggage but that are ultimately derived from the simple elements of nature and time.  My message is unimportant.  These are deliberately open to interpretation.

At the end of the day, these are a good way for me to hone my Photoshop skills.  I've always tried to use the software in a painterly way, and steer clear of it's more obvious filters and effects.  I like to push its limitations, and in the process I often discover it's lesser known capabilities -- much like my approach to playing bass.  I have many more of these Transfigura collages planned, but I wanted to give an early glimpse of them, maybe gather some feedback.

Another parameter I've set is not so much a time limit, as an effort limit.  When these are done, they're done; usually after 2-3 hours of work.  Any roughness becomes part of the finished product, and I move on.  It can be difficult for someone who will laboriously apply 8-10 alternating layers of polymer gloss and matte medium to a painting just to get the right "beeswaxy" lustre to walk away from something that could easily be worked and re-worked and obsessed over, but the point of these collages is not to be precious about the details.  Working quickly, and with prefab imagery, I have to make intuitive decisions and respect that they are final.  It's good for me.

One way or another, my findings from this series will work their way into the cover art and fliers I make, though I usually trend more towards the Blue Note aesthetic.  I've always seen art and music as a continuum rather than as separate creative compartments.  I also think that some of the more accidental, improvisatory moments of making these can translate into confident musical decision-making.  Ever since I incurred some sort of repetitive stress/tendonitis injury on my left arm this past spring I've been working on looseness and fluidity in my music-making -- and breaking old patterns.

I think I'll get out the actual knives and glue at some point, once I've fully codified where this series is ultimately headed.  And for those of you who remember drop-in collage nights at Scene Metrospace (circa 2006), how about reviving that -- even if the venue is just someone's living room?

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