200209192002, digital image and limited edition of 20 archival pigment prints
Copyright S.Monnier 2002
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A blog post related to this work:
December 10th 2009
I just stumbled on a website (in Italian...) displaying four renaissance works as zoomable images. It allows to enjoy every brush stroke of the master, but also all the cracks and the patina which appeared with time. The resulting texture is pretty interesting at full zoom. It is really a part of the work, and as it wouldn't be so convenient to have one's nose stuck on the painting in a Museum to admire it, this is just another use for zoomable images.
I had a discussion about this with an art collector. We were speaking about a polychromatic buddah statue which had almost completely lost its colors, but displayed a beautiful patina. Even if its current look has nothing to do with the original vision of the artist, it would occur to nobody to try to perform a resauration on such a piece. Its original bright and flashy colors would paradoxically look awfully kitch to us. A good deal of the interest of this artwork comes from its patina, a witness of its long travel through time.
This is something that contemporary artists often try to fake. For an example, see Kris Kuksi's sculptures, featured in this blog post, do really look like they have a long history, what is part of their beauty.
In some sense by definition, digital images lack patina and the feel of the underlying material. This is maybe also a reason why they can easily look kitch. I tried my hand at patina in some works. The fractional brownian motion, obtained by piling Perlin noise, is often a privileged tool to this end. For some reason, the best examples are not so recent. Anyway in these works the patina is definitely not a goal, maybe just a subtle enhancement. Too much patina would interfere with the fine details which make their main interest.