Italian-born, UK based visual artist and filmmaker Davide Quayola’s running series Captives explores the space between digital and physical sculpture. The work also navigates the space between man-made perfection and chaotic, natural formation, while delving into the gap between modern and Renaissance sculpture. Quayola’s series allows viewers to look at the these deviations and compare the balance as well as the strains that come into fruition from such divergences. Each piece in Captives features work from different renaissance sculptors, we will focus in on Captives #B04 which is Quayola’s 2014 interpretation of Michelangelo's Prigioni (1513-1534). View the original sculpture below.
The Captives series utilizes time-based algorithms that generate evolving geographical formations that endlessly morph into the classic figures of the renaissance sculptures. Quayola then uses computer-driven, industrial robots to sculpt the abstracted geometries into various materials. In the case of Captives #B04 the robots carved into high density EPS (expanded polystyrene foam). View footage of these robots sculpting Captives #B04 below! His finished sculptures are presented with ambient audio that resembles plant growth or subtle tectonic movement displayed with surround sound, the sculpture itself is encased in glass.
Calling these sculptures finished is sort of absurd as he made a strong point to keep these works “unfinished”. Quayola’s work is in constant reference to Michelangelo's s stylistic technique of non-finito. Michelangelo famously did not finish his works, leaving them to look as though they were a growth of the stone itself! Quayola believes this to be purposeful, saying-
“I’d like to think that during the process he realized that the main subject was not the human figure, but the actual articulation of marble and the metamorphosis of matter itself” Quayola, Davide (2013), Bitforms
Davide Quayola’s algorithmic sculpting maintains such functions. While the Prigioni figure is constantly abstracted by the geologic formations that evolve around them, the form still seems to be fused with the slab of matter it comes from. But by implementing said formations the figure seems to come from the Earth itself rather than the slab of marble. It gives the sculpture a sort of organic sensation.
“Pure geometric abstraction takes over as he reframes his subjects using a computational method of triangulation, leaving the final work ‘unfinished’” 2013, Bitforms
The geometric abstraction utilized by Quayola also functions to shift the spotlight away from the “perfection” of the form but really towards the matter in which the form is forged. By simulating geological evolution he makes matter the subject in which we can compare the subject of Michelangelo’s work, that being man-made perfection. Quayola deliberately pairs the concepts of perfection with chaotic natural systems to draw out the harmonies and tensions that exist between the two. Nature’s fusion with perfection allows one to get a deeper understanding for the concept of perfection itself. The piece seems to be a commentary, representative of matter being perfection, rather than the form itself. It is a merging of both styles and techniques of two very different times and bridges the gap between the eras. This merger really evolves into something incredibly beautiful, the conglomeration allowing for the locus of the work to shift. Davide Quayola’s focus on matter with Captives also is a commentary on the fact that matter made the sculptures what they are. Flaws in the marble made a sculptor completely re envision their artistic intentions. The matter, at the end of the day, dictated the final form the artwork took. The shift of focus, from the form of man to the matter that allows the form to exist in our physical plane. Quayola describes this translocation of focus-
“Whilst referencing Renaissance sculptures, the focus of this series shifts from pure figurative representation to the articulation of matter itself” Quayola, Davide (2013), Captives #B04
The sculptures are presented alongside a multi-channel video display. Animations of the endless geological formations morphing into the iconography of perfection itself are presented (from three different angles) alongside the sculptures that are forged from the process displayed on the screens. These videos are presented as the first half of the Captives series and can be viewed below.
Quayola’s work with the Captives series is not his first time working at with classical art and warping iconography to shift focus from his pieces. Davide Quayola uses a similar algorithm to that of the Captives series in his Iconography series. This algorithm is different in that it translates these classical renaissance and baroque pieces into complex abstractions based off of the color schemes and compositions of the original pieces. Unlike the Captives series, this work scraps the iconographic forms that contextualize the religious and mythological narratives of the original works. This allows the works to loose their original context thus they are viewed with completely fresh points of contemplation. We can view a scene in shapes and color, a new perspective on an old story. These pieces are created on a computer and then printed into chromogenic prints, displayed in chunks rather than one large image. Iconographies #20 was Quayola’s digital interpretation of Paul Peter Rueben’s 1615 piece The Tiger Hunt. Both the original and the digital presentations of the work are shown below.
Quayola’s recent works, particularly Captives, have really been focusing on presenting classic art to a modern audience. He does so in a multitude of mediums, both digital and physical. While this project does not abstract the classical pieces it attempts to modernize, Fly Art Productions does attempt to present classical pieces of art to the modern masses. Fly Art Productions is a Tumblr page that attempts to showcase classic artworks inscribed with hip hop lyrics that correlate with the paintings itself. The images aren’t obstructed with geometric algorithms, they aren’t cut from their classic iconography. Instead they just implement verses from the likes of Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar to classic pieces. It is a very interesting attempt to merge artforms, to show that art transcends time and medium. While Quayola’s Captives do not share much in common with Fly Art Productions, they both attempt to bring classical works of art to a modern audience in a manner that they would find interesting and different. Giving classical pieces a modern audience is invaluable. In reconnecting with these older pieces we gain an appreciation as well as better understanding for works that have inspired many artists throughout history and can continue to influence art to this very day. Check out Fly Art Productions Tumblr by clicking here as well their piece You young men are dying of thirst…do you know what that means?, which is their conglomeration of Joaquin Sorolla’s 1908 Sad Inheritance Study/Beach Rascals and Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst below…
Quayola’s Captives Series is available for viewing on his website and was at the following locations:
> Seoul Museum of Art, 8 Jun – 23 Aug 2015
> Import Projects, Berlin, 6 Mar – 12 Apr 2014
> MU Gallery – Eindhoven, Holland, 19 Oct – 22 Dec 2013, Solo Exhibition – The Sculpture Factory