At The Fine Art Society stand at TEFAF, I enjoyed watching people watching art. British duo Rob and Nick Carter are showing three works that reinvigorate Old and Modern Masters through their technological bravado: Transforming Nude Painting and Transforming Diptych (both 2013), both ‘digital paintings’ that animate the works that inspire them, and Sunflowers (2013), a lost wax bronze after Van Gogh, created through a process of digitisation and 3D printing.
Many viewers do double takes in front of the digital paintings. What might at first look like a light-box depicting an Old Master painting – unusual perhaps, but not so strange – catches you with a small movement, drawing you into its charmed and softly uncanny vision. This is particularly the case with Transforming Nude Painting, which gives life to Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus (c. 1510). The work sets footage of an actual sleeping model against a digitally generated landscape that shifts to diurnal and meteorological patterns.
Someone I spoke to at the fair said that, yes, the works were innovative, but that there was nothing challenging about them. I’m not so sure. With Transforming Nude Painting, the look of tradition is itself a challenge: a spur to reconsider the radicalism of the nude body – its vulnerable poise and its contortion into art. There is something very moving about this sleeping figure, with her involuntary jerks and twitches, only just retaining the pose she has inherited.
Then there is the way these digital paintings not only ask for, but enact our concentration. They harness the digital media so often blamed for our mislaid attention spans. And they make such things – screens, pixels, devices that seem charged in multiple senses – the foundation for pausing, for watching, and for seeing.
Thomas Marks spoke to Rob and Nick Carter in the lead up to TEFAF. Watch the video here
TEFAF runs until 23 March 2014.