Kyoto, 2013—My second trip to Asia. It was becoming apparent that my obsession with beauty and art would never let go of me. As I passed through each torii gate into another new world, I somehow sensed that I wouldn’t be designing user interfaces for much longer. Within three years I found myself no longer in the technology sector, but instead, formally committed to abandoning computers as tools for creativity and getting paint on my hands. The tech geek in me, however, has persisted. I think you can tell by looking at my work.
I kind of want my paintings to look like a van Gogh that has, instead of swirling strokes, the pattern of the information age. And since I essentially live online, that’s what I paint, the Internet. Most of my models are people I’ve met on Instagram. The reference photographs are ‘ready-mades,’ already beautiful works of art which I respond to with a hand painted echo of sorts, processing and filtering the images through my consciousness and perception. I add dots, inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms and ‘pixels,’ as I explain below.
You may have noticed that Asia strongly inspires me. It seems to me a much-needed discipline to master, the falling completely in love with the opposite who we are. In my case, the love of eastern yin through western (yang) eyes consumes me.
The pixel –I know it well. As a product designer working in the technology sector for two decades, I had often found myself hyper-aware of a tiny dot on a screen, trying to decide whether to nudge up or down slightly, to the right or left. Sometimes, in designing websites I would create a one pixel by one pixel transparent square to fill, stretch and make as a background on a web page. Just add a height and width to the code and that tiny pixel can be any size you wanted it to be. This thought that the world of technology can be visually reduced to this most minimalist element always intrigued me.
You may have heard of the theory—that our physical world is just a computer simulation like a video game, and that we’re living in some kind of matrix, and just as the pixel might be the smallest element on a computer screen, something like a sub-atomic particle or some fluctuation of energy might be that smallest of elements in the universe. Physicists disagree about this theory, some even claim to have debunked it. However, for me, the pixel is more of a concept, a metaphor.
When I magnify an actual pixel on my computer, it’s always just a square of solid color. Yet, I wonder about the possibilities—in a lyrical sense, in a painterly sense. What if we were to find some most basic element to the pixels of the imagination, and instead of boring solid colors they had textures and gradients and shadows and maybe even words or images that had nothing to do with existence, but something like inverted hypercubes, doorways into another dimension—a form of communication that resembles a cryptic code, that, at first, says one thing, then another thing backwards and maybe a third thing sideways? Would it not be interesting, if in our imaginations, we find that our consciousness is a mirror to everything we can experience? —A glimpse into truth, that we are all just tiny parts of a bigger picture.
Whether you believe in God or some higher purpose or reality, I think it’s quite possible that in this world, in this life, you’ve met someone that you were grateful for beyond words to have shared even a moment with. Relative, friend or lover, all the messiness of existence somehow made it possible to know rare and sacred moments. Through the miracle of evolution, we crawl towards one another with all our birth defects, imperfect DNA and all the baggage we inherit as a species. I think this is all part of a divine plan. Imperfect and messy, but all worth it, despite the dangers, horrors and atrocities on this planet. To form a friendship or fall in love, to laugh and cry –we’ll never know this side of eternity how beautiful it all is. And as time passes, we progress, become smarter, wiser, sometimes even going backwards, but ultimately forward. One day, collectively as a species, we’ll have an awakening, a realization of what truly matters.
This beautiful and violent world is an opportunity for magical things to occur. So as you make your way through the minefield, the crossfire, the natural disasters and human deception and malevolence, diseases and everything that can possibly go wrong, to survive even for a moment, is to see, hear or somehow feel the essence of love, a phenomenon that is deeper than oxytocin, neurotransmitters or anything that can be explained away or cynically derided. It is the moments of connection that we live for, the conditions upon which caring and compassion manifest—fragile yet infinite love holds it all together. Ultimately, every moment is precious, but the connections reveal the very fabric of the cosmos, one like an endless pattern of pixels.
Thanks to my teacher, William P. Harvelle and my wife, Jean for always and consistently and perpetually blowing my mind.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org