25.10.2023

Painting the Digital Era

By Fineline + Ethan Platt

The evidence of society’s transformation and tension between technology and tradition is all around us. Ethan Platt’s work sits at this nexus, contrasting the craft of oil painting with contemporary computer simulations and digital rendering. In this conversation with Ethan, he guides us through the conceptual framing and his aspirations to illuminate the human experience in the digital era.

Conversation

A Historical Approach to Painting Digital Society

I often introduce my work starting with the conceptual groundwork and my process of using computers in a traditional oil painting practice. My introduction sounds something like this: “I’m an oil painter using computer simulations and digital rendering software to elaborate on topics of the human experience in the digital era through paint. I begin with computer rendered figures adorned with material such as metal and plastic and translate these references into paintings. I do this to align the contemporary portrayal of the digital society with the historic approach of figurative painting.”

Artwork with a human face with a hand over it

A Fusion of Style Influences

My Fineline collection is grounded in a desire to display the diverse range of my style in a cohesive manner. I’m aiming to showcase the variation in my compositions and motifs while maintaining the overarching theme and visual cues that represent my style. My ultimate goal is to resonate and connect with a broad spectrum of art enthusiasts through my art. In terms of physical influences, I aimed to create standard sized prints in a range of pieces, sized from the smallest original piece (18” x 24”) to the largest (36” x 54”).

Human Experience in a Digital Era

My work predominantly explores the figure and its relevance within the contemporary digital landscape. It represents an attempt to juxtapose something inherently ancient – the portrayal of the human figure – within a hyper-contemporary, digital environment. My objective is to initiate a dialogue on the human experience in the present era. I often pose the body to suggest specific tasks or settings that are natural to physical human life while cropping and composing the scene to skew or disorient the original image. I do this to elaborate on the contorted and fragmented perspectives of the digital environment.

Image of the artist in studio posing in front of two pieces of their artwork.

Beyond the Visual: Addressing Contemporary Themes

The pieces in my Fineline collection touch on different angles of the digital world. When examined individually the main subthemes that could be interpreted include an exploration of the environment, consumption, and sensuality within the digital. With ‘Render 7’ I focus on a hyper-pigmented sunset reflected in the figure to expand on the natural and digital worlds. ‘Shine’ engages with precious metals that would traditionally be seen adorning the body in figurative painting, and ‘Dusk’ elaborates on sensuality and anonymity within the digital space. While I engage with diverse visual cues in individual pieces, my conceptual foundation remains focused on the broader examination of our modern existence.

An artwork in the process of being created.

Artistic Evolution

This work holds significance for me as an artist because it represents the evolution of my creative journey over time (see the archival images from when I first started this style, in contrast to my most recent collection). Each piece contributes a unique perspective and narrative to my broader body of work. This collection of prints serves as an accessible alternative to my larger paintings. I hope it reaches new audiences and brings artistic expression into private spaces.

Two pieces of artwork in the process of being made.

Inviting Contemplation

Ultimately, my hope is that viewers of my work will relate to the synthetic elements of contemporary life that I am presenting. I strive to depict the figure in a manner that evokes awe and is desensitized to the human being. I do this to align with, and contradict, the longstanding tradition of figurative painting, while also inviting contemplation on the profound changes that have reshaped our world. I hope that these themes will spark conversations beyond the formal visual qualities of the work and contribute to our perception of digital surroundings.

Collection

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