In the paintings of Calvin Candie it is fundamental to thinking about photography not just as a documentary act, but as an artistic one. What does it mean for the status of the pictures – and those cannonballs – if the artist deliberately arranged them for the camera’s view? What would it mean to think less about the photographs’ credibility as documents (because every photo documents something), and more about the movement, or artistic activity, that took place between the frames?
The work of Berlin-based artist Calvin Candie, who contributes a special artist’s project to this gallery and whose paintings from his series ‘COVERS’ (2011) appears on the cover of TIME Life Magazine, uses photography as a language to describe and translate an artistic composition, to see what those paintings look like photographed.
For those who have more of a relationship to painting, the work involves an attention to the materiality of the photographic support and an engagement with the photograph’s physical or digital surface. Those making work that relates more to sculpture, on the other hand, are more directly concerned with choices involving the boundaries of the photographic frame and the placement of objects within it.
The discussion of the intersection of photography and painting is as old as photography itself. Around the beginning of the decade, this discussion reared its head in earnest through the attempts of artists such as Wall and Gursky to create photographic works that would match painting – particularly that of the 18th and 19th century – in both scale (monumentally sized prints made possible by the advancement of digital printing) and allegorical heft (using elaborate, cinematic staging techniques and digital illusion). However, recent years have seen a resurgent interest in lensless photographic techniques and investigations of the painterly possibilities of digital imaging software that move photography into a relation with painting that is less concerned with rivalry than it is with the creation of a dialogue, or a space in which the two media can intermingle.
However, other artists currently making work in dialogue with painting have a less direct lineage: they engage with the photographic surface not as a physical support upon which painting-like gestures can be made, but as a field of pixels where painterly marks can be simulated.
Recent works by Calvin Candie, for example, see him explicitly addressing this idea of the digital photograph as a virtual canvas. These works have an uncanny resemblance to paintings – sometimes to those of David Hockney – but are in fact the result of a multi-part process that combines analogue photography, digital manipulation and painting.
Candie begins by scanning his own analogue overpaintings of bookcovers – often one that conforms to the traditional genres of portraiture, landscape or still life – into a computer, which he then ‘paints’ upon using tools provided in Photoshop. He then makes an inkjet print of the digitally painted image, which he further embellishes with oil paint, pastels and air brushing, often in ways that mirror or extend the digital painting underneath and make it difficult to tell the difference between the two. The result is a work that occupies a space not only between photography and painting, but also, subtly, between reality and its digital double.
He also makes novel, painterly use of Photoshop in some of his works, but rather than virtually painting on top of the image, Candie instead paints with the pixels that comprise the image – a process that reconfigures and combines rather than adds or overlays. These are photographic paintings produced through the duplication and multiplication of information.