Paintings (collection #2/ Haute Couture Humanism)

Year: 2010-2011

A higher culture of Beauty sustained by the politic of Youth

We came to accept the omnipresence of marketed Beauty formats as if we accept an element of climate. These images belong to the moment but speak of the future; they need to be kept up-to-date constantly. Yet they never speak of the present. Publicity is the culture of the consumer society. It propagates through images society beliefs in itself. There are several reasons why these images use the language of oil painting.

Oil painting, before it was anything else, was a celebration of private property. As an art form it derived from the principle that you are what you have. It is a mistake to think of publicity supplanting the visual art of post-Renaissance Europe; it is the last declining form of that art.

Publicity is, in essence, nostalgic. It has to sell the past to the future. It cannot itself supply the standards of its own claims. And so all its references to quality are bound to be retrospective and traditional. It would lack both confidence and credibility if it used a strictly contemporary language.

Publicity needs to turn to its own advantage the traditional education of the average spectator-buyer. What he has learnt at school of history, mythology and poetry can be used in the manufacturing of glamour. In the language of oil painting these vague historical or poetic references are always present. The fact that they are imprecise and ultimately meaningless is an advantage: they should not be understandable; they should merely be reminiscent of cultural lessons half-learnt. Publicity makes all history mythical, but to do so effectively it needs a visual language with historical dimensions.

Lastly, a technical development made it easy to translate the language of oil painting into publicity clichés. This was the invention of cheap colour photography. Such photography can reproduce the colour and texture and tangibility of objects, as only oil paint had been able to do before. Colour photography is to the spectator-buyer what oil paint was to the spectator-owner. Both media use similar, highly tactile means to play upon the spectator’s sense of acquiring the real thing that the image shows.

Yet, despite this continuity of language, the function of publicity is very different from that of the oil painting. The oil painting showed what its owner was already enjoying among his possessions and his way of life. It consolidated his sense of self-value. It enhanced his view of himself as he already was. It began with facts, the facts of his life. The paintings embellished the interior in which he actually lived.

The purpose of publicity is to make the spectator marginally dissatisfied with his present way of life. Not with the way of life of society, but with his own within it. It suggests that if he buys what it is offering, his life will become better. It offers him an improved alternative to what he is. Publicity persuades us of such a transformation by showing us people who have apparently been transformed and are, as a result, enviable. The state of being envied is what constitutes glamour. And publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour.

The overall effect of publicity is closely related to certain ideas about freedom: freedom of choice and of speech. Actual facts and fictions have fluid borders and tend to run over in each other. They are not merely an assembly of competing messages: it is a language in itself that is always being used to make the same general proposal: making the right choice to be enviable (and eventually be happy). Publicity is about social relations, not objects. Its promise is not of pleasure, but of happiness: happiness as judged from the outside by others. You are observed with interest but you do not observe with interest – if you do, you will become less enviable. It is this which explains the absent, unfocused look of so many glamour images.

This general proposal turns consumption into a substitute for democracy. The choice of what one eats (or wears or drives) takes the place of a significant political choice.

Publicity is set up to catalyse daydreams of enhanced versions of one-self. They explain reality in their own terms with room for projection. They offer interpretations of one’s own world. And the daydream is the logic of that system.

I believe it is meaningful to discuss the evident. There have been a lot of artists whom criticized this as being visual pollution or investigated the psychological impact and the affiliation with mass manipulation. Since 2009 I changed my viewpoint and instead of a critic-perspective, I searched for an interior perspective. I imagined people to accept and interiorize this climate and all characteristics it implies. To that effect I came back to an old theme from a contemporary perspective: the opposition nature versus culture, systematic versus organic order and the quest to overcome them by uniting them. Because of the significance that is given to the objects we attribute ourselves with and the importance of presentation, with today’s technologies in mind, I consider the idea of people who understand themselves as an architectural construction that is reconfigurable to adapt to new trends, new modes of happiness. As an individual-driven thought process I started creating autarchic worlds where I experiment with the idea of uniting human bodies with features of the objects and the self-image they desire. Thus creating new forms of individuality and self-objectification by recomposing humans with the commodities, patterns, graphic designs, glossification, styling and other elements so vividly marketed to invade our daydreams. By using the elements that add up to their subliminal I conduct an investigation of their properties and the ways in which they interact, combine, and change: through an incomplete series of aesthetic re-compositions. I choose a contemporary, ubiquitous visual language that on an artistic level intertwines the mimetic and the formal, culture and nature, system and intuition.