Chiaroscuro “is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. It is also a technical term used by artists and art historians for the use of contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects and figures.” – Wikipedia
I thought I’d begin this post with a quote from Wikipedia. My recent Tweedle paintings have taken a darker turn, and I thought I might elaborate on them today. A few years ago I came up with the Tweedles without really knowing what to do with them. They were a creation without a purpose. I have given them rules, emotions, a mind, a soul… each of them even has its own backstory, and the story of Tweedles as a species (which I am still writing. Maybe I should try making a graphic novel rather than writing a book…) exists entirely in my head at the moment, awaiting it’s manifestation onto canvas, text, video and music. But even so, I still had no idea where I was going with my Tweedles… They were my creations, but they had no purpose. No reason to exist in my artwork. And then I realised that they were my creations. They were what humans are to a god. They were artificial life of a sort, and I began to explore that.
In my fictional world, Tweedles are created with artifical brains, mixing organic matter with analog and digital technology in nano scale. Because of the way they are made, they think, but differently to us. They feel, but do not understand how to express their emotions (especially with a stitched on mouth that holds their head cloth in place). They can sense the world around them, but cannot truly touch it. Tweedles don’t instinctively have free-will, and need to learn how to be free. Their existence is a confusing one once they can actually develop enough to stop and think about it. Their creators are not omnipresent. They are not omnibenevolent. They create Tweedles for reasons more linked to power and greed, and they create the Tweedles for reasons that are not entirely good but in fact selfish in some ways. Tweedles are made to be servants and slaves. The eventual development of true emotion and free will is just a side-effect of their construction.
I thought about how that would relate to what it’s like to be human. To live and die without knowing why. What your purpose is, if you have one. A lot of people live lives dedicated to a god or supreme being, but without ever questioning whether their creator is really omnibenevolent at all. The amount of suffering in this world seems unjust. Perhaps there is an evil, possibly sadistic being that enjoys messing around with humanity for entertainment? I was thinking about these deep philosophical and theological concepts and questions, and then suddenly the Tweedles had purpose after all. They were a vehicle for this philosophical exploration into life, death, morality, the creators and the created… through painting my recent Tweedle pictures, I am confronting some of my strongest fears in regards my spirituality, humanity and existence. I wouldn’t really call myself a spiritual person, but if there is a god, how do I know they are good? If he told me that he was, could I really trust them? And in regards free will, I assume that it exists because I think I can make decisions. But do I really have free will? When we look closely, living cells are made up of lots of dead matter and elements that are having a chemical reaction with each other to make the next part have a reaction and so on. Theoretically our entire bodies are a prolonged chemical reaction, so does that mean that we are even alive, or is humanity (and by extension all life) a strange and complicated quirk of chemistry that never was ‘alive’ in the way we believe we are?
Tweedles are made up of a few bio-engineered and grown brain cells linked into mechanisms and machines which allow them to move their bodies, repair it, respond to stimuli and even potentially build more Tweedles… but by our current definitions of life they are not alive because they are not composed entirely of cells. Are they alive or not?
Is this Tweedle really dead or can it be repaired and brought back? Was it ever actually alive, and were we as humans ever truly alive?
By using heavy, dark backgrounds in the paintings (a greenish-black colour) I could help express the gravity of these questions and the weight the answers would have on us if we ever knew them. I wanted to highlight the Tweedles in bright colour to emphasize that they are surrounded by darkness. The specific Tweedle that is the subject through my recent series of paintings walks its entire life treading through the unknown. And then, without realizing how or why, it dies.
No-one will ever truly know exactly what when on in our mind; we can only guess. Sometimes you may meet someone so like minded that you think you know what they’re thinking, and they can seem to read your mind, but in the end we can only hazard estimates and guesses as to the thoughts of other human beings. Eventually all our thoughts, our personalities, our very selves will disappear, as they are only made up of memories, and will eventually fade into darkness…
…and whether there is a light after that darkness will forever be completely unknown to us until we actually experience it.
“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone.” – Orson Welles
This week, on Monday, I had my college induction. All the students were divided into their courses (with the Art 1 group being so big that it was divided into three groups) and we were shown around the rooms of the building. Afterwards I was taken to the printmaking room, where we were given our timetables, the rules and a health and safety talk, before being assigned a mini-project.
To my surprise, classes wouldn’t start until next Monday, leaving me all week to gather both art supplies and research for this mini-project. Having Aspergers, I found that the change from home to living on my own was very stressful, and I was still adapting to my surroundings.
The day after the induction, I just stayed in, sleeping in and doing a little bit of painting. The next day, I ventured outside and walked around my local area, exploring the roads and getting a bit lost before finding my way back. Gradually over the week, I could get into town and learned how to use the buses, and bought the art supplies that I needed. On Thursday afternoon, I returned home and got on with my mini-project.
For my mini-project, I was given this sheet (see right):
I had to do some research so that I could develop my research/ideas in class, and I decided to use the theme ‘Man Made Machines’. After about three pages into my sketchbook, I started focusing on machine parts and clockwork mechanisms, drawing watch and clock mechanisms that I could find around the house.
Below is a photo of part of sketchbook; it didn’t come out as well as I hoped, but hopefully it’ll give you a rough idea of what my college sketchbook is like at the moment.
I still don’t have Internet in my student accommodation, so I can’t update you on my college life until next Saturday at the least, but needless to say, I can’t wait for college classes to officially start tomorrow!!
I apologize for the recent lack of posts – over the last few weeks I’ve just had my Leaving Cert. art exams. I would post photos of my work from the exams, but since the exam is done anonymously, the examiners might think that I copied my ideas from my own site, not knowing that I’m the same person. Therefore, I can’t put any of my examination work here until I get the works back from the examiners, which could be anywhere between 3 to 6 months, maybe longer.
Because of these recent exams I don’t have much to post, except for a drawing I’ve been working on in between study and school:
My drawing was based on and inspired by Alice in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll. Parts of my sketch were also inspired by the steampunk aesthetic, albeit very loosely.
Since I was young, I’ve been drawn to the mad, mad world of Carroll’s Wonderland. I like the way that it questions why we do the things we do, or say the things the way we say them. It is fairly thought provoking for a classic children’s book and it even seems to be as popular now as it was in 1865. It allows us as readers to get in touch with our crazier sides and ignite the imagination. It is simply brilliant.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”
I’ve always been particularly interested in the Mad Hatter as a character. With film and television adaptations building upon his character, he is even more interesting as he has been developed into a 3 dimensional character rather than just a 2D character. In my opinion, Tim Burton’s film seems to delve the deepest into his personality and background.
There seem to be a few similarities between the Hatter’s personality and my own. I can be very random at times, sometimes talk to myself, sometimes experience emotions stronger than other people can (or at least I think I do, I’m not 100% sure), be fairly impulsive and I am a heavy drinker of tea. Some days I feel more like a fictional character myself than an actual person. I guess some of my personality traits are down to my Asperger’s Syndrome, but I’m not sure what’s me and what’s the condition, or if it even matters.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy my drawing and thank you for reading!