Rob and Nick Carter: Transforming presents a body of work that reengages with art of the past, harnessing the most cutting edge new media to create a sustained engagement with old and modern masters. At the heart of this exhibition is a conviction that the rampant technological revolution in our midst can be subverted from its tendency toward soullessness and image overload. Instead the Carters exploit all that is dynamic and groundbreaking in the digital age to facilitate a return to the art of sustained and deep looking.
The focus for their new body of work is Transforming Still Life Painting (2012). This ‘digital painting’ brought to life an oil painting from 1618 by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder and was made in collaboration with creative studio MPC. It creates a rare intersection between Old Master connoisseurship and contemporary new media art. It is currently on display at Manchester Art Gallery and has been accepted into the Mauritshuis permanent collection but has not yet been part of a Carter exhibition and will be exhibited by the artists here for the first time.
Joining it will be three new time based media works made with MPC that also adopt an old master painting in a groundbreaking form of homage. Transforming Vanitas Painting (2012-2013) is based on the 1630 oil on copper, ‘Dead Frog with Flies’ by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Younger. In the sequence the Carters underscore the original presentation of sensitive vanitas by directing the scene from the last few minutes of the creature’s life through to various stages of decay and ultimate decomposition. The viewer is always conscious that visually this is very much a painted frog.
Transforming Diptych (2013) brings to life a pair of still life paintings by Justus Juncker from 1765. The Carters have drawn inspiration from the monumental and mysterious presentation of the fruits by Juncker. Their work ostensibly appears to be two independently framed, quiet paintings but not only have the Carters brought the scenes alive, they have created a deep interconnection. Rendered in real time, a butterfly will leave one frame, disappear into the space of gallery wall and reappear moments later on the other fruit. MPC have developed sophisticated programming that results in an infinite cycle of activity that cannot be predicted or repeated.
In perhaps their most anticipated endeavour yet, the artists and MPC have also taken on the challenge of Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus in Transforming Nude Painting (2013). The Carters have breathed life into the scene, transporting the viewer to the Venetian landscape where Venus peacefully sleeps as the day passes. In a similar vein to the gentle passage of time in Transforming Still Life Painting (2012), the scene passes from dawn to dusk imperceptibly. This is a deeply evocative, highly naturalistic presentation of a goddess sleeping where her chest rises and falls, occasionally her foot twitches or hand stirs. Presented on a 4K screen, the piece marks a huge development in the employment of digital rendering and sculpting, blending actual footage of a sleeping model with digitally generated imagery. For this series of time based media works, the Carters were partly motivated upon learning that the average time we spend looking at an artwork in a museum or gallery is 6 seconds. These time based media works encourage us to look again and reward sustained engagement, bringing a remote historical period back into focus.
To the same end but via different means, the Carters have created their first two works of sculpture. The artists worked with MPC to turn paintings into completely three dimensional digital files. These files are then given form using 3D printing which forms the basis for a lost wax bronze – allowing for a level of
detail and delicacy not possible even 2 years ago. Sunflowers (2013) gives an entirely new, sculptural form to Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpiece. The finished sculpture is one of the most complex and detailed bronzes ever produced. Black Tulip (2013) is based on a watercolour of a red tulip by Judith Leyster from 1643. There is a quietness and subtle beauty to the Carters’ sculptural rendition. It takes the viewer full circle to marvel at Dutch Golden Age realism and allows us to share in that culture’s delight of an exotic flower.
Chinese Whispers (2013) draws attention to the area of copying and forgeries. The Carters selected various Andy Warhol works which they then requested by copied by hand in enormous workshops in China. The finished copy was forwarded to a second unsuspecting artisan to again be copied many times over, in the form of an artistic Chinese whisper. The mistakes and variations made by each artist were adopted and built upon, completely transforming the original. The Carters have brought together each work to form a large sequential collection. This is a witty series that draws attention to wider concerns of authenticity and Western imagery in the East.
The exhibition also includes works of a photographic nature that relate to the Carters’ past explorations into the central tenets of colour, light and form including Pixelated Paintings (2013), Flowers in a Wan Li Vase in 9 Parts (2013) and 6 Portraits in 6 Colours, After Miereveld (2013) which transform an existing moment in art history with digital manipulation and presentation in analogue format on Cibachrome.
Rob and Nick Carter have been collaborating for 15 years. They have exhibited internationally with exhibitions including ‘Postcards From Vegas’ at The Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong and The Fine Art Society Contemporary, London (2011), ‘Twelve Luminograms’ at The Fine Art Society Contemporary, London and ‘Luminaries and Visionaries’ at Kinetica Museum, London (2007), ‘Into the Light’ at Leeds City Art Gallery (2004) and ‘A Colour Changing Installation’ at Museum of Neon Art, Los Angeles. Their work is in collections of the Mauritshuis, The Hague, The FransHals Museum, Haarlem, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the David Roberts Foundation, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Manchester Art Gallery. They have been shortlisted for the Sovereign Art Prize and The John Moores Painting Prize. They have executed several large-scale public and corporate commissions throughout London including works for Great Ormond Street Hospital, Cardinal Place, Victoria, 200 Aldersgate and Saville Row.