We live in a cultish age of technology.
This is machine age. This is my tribute.
Mechanical Woman 48" x 48" Oil on AluBond
Electric Panda 50" x 50" Oil on Belgian Linen
Radar Sisters 48" x 48" Oil on alubond
Accountant 36" x 36" Oil on board
I paint heroic portraits of antiquated technology. I arrange machinery in formal compositions, appropriating the tradition of royal portraiture to evoke the power that machines command in human society today. Like royal portrayals of noble ancestry, my portraits conceptually trace the lineage of 21st century robotics and artificial intelligence back to the steam-powered mechanisms of the Industrial Revolution and the electrification of factories and cities. My paintings reveal an historical continuum, paying tribute to the innovations of James Watt and Nicola Tesla, while also recognizing humanity’s legitimate fears of automation. These machines are preemptively posing for their place in museums of the future, provoking us to preemptively consider the trajectory they embody.
I define myself primarily as a portrait painter, schooled in the European figurative tradition. My aim is to deploy this old-fashioned training in contemporary terms, while also referencing the legacy of 20th century avant-garde movements such as Futurism and Precisionism. I am working to create a hybrid idiom that relates the grandeur of oil on canvas to the radicalism of machine vision. Both humans and machines may ultimately look at these pictures as representations of the past. I want to serve both hypothetical viewers. I also want to evoke these potential future audiences as context for present-day viewing.
Machine Epidermis 42" x 42" Oil on multiple panels
Fallen Soldier 48" x 48" Oil on board
Ich Existiere 52" x 52" Oil on board
Dancing Queen 52" x 74" Oil on Belgian Linen
Quo Vadis Domine? 80" x 52" Oil on Belgian linen
art by Pilat
In my paintings, I treat each machine as an individual. I consider my subjects to be noble and beautiful. They are manifestations of parsimonious engineering, form following function. However I do not look at a machine only in terms of the task for which it was made, but also consider its role as an actor on the broader technological stage. In this framing, all machines are important, whether or not they were the first of their kind or led to the next stage of progress. They are all related, and their most profound impact on society is collective. Although my portraits are heroic, they intentionally subvert conventional heroic narratives in order to represent the way in which machines truly operate.
The body of work presented here constitutes just the first stage of a much larger project. Many more aging technologies deserve depiction, such as slider cranks and vacuum tubes that have played an essential role in the development of computers. The computers they inspired will also necessarily be subjects of my future portraiture, as will other components of the vast networks that infiltrate every aspect of modern life – and eventually I expect my project to depict their artificially-intelligent progeny.
The systems and mechanisms we use every day were not available even to the rulers of the past. Only gods could command the powers of the average smartphone. Given Moore’s Law and the advancement of AI, machines may assume the omniscience and omnipotence of deities in the coming decades. They could help us to transcend human weaknesses or make us subservient to their purposes. We therefore need to engage the technological realm as more than passive consumers. Everyone needs to take an active role in the negotiation of future power dynamics.
Portraiture is notable for the fact that the genre has focused attention on the central figures of every era, from the aristocracy to the merchant class to celebrities. Today formal portraits can provide a means for people to look at machines in relation to themselves. As much as I strive to engage the history of painting, I am equally determined to enlist painting as a mechanism for societal reckoning.
Water Dragon 89" x 49" Oil on Belgian linen
Claire Carino Contemporary
TH Brennen Fine Art