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The Digital Glitches in These Oil and Acrylic Paintings Are Just Wonderful

Artist Lauren Pelc-McArthur creates a feedback loop between digital art and traditional painting.

by DJ Pangburn
Jul 14 2014, 2:10pm
heisofproxiesanditmakesmountainsfade (2014). Image: Lauren-Pelc McArthur

Digital errors like datamoshes and scanner drags can create oddly beautiful effects in videos and still images. Ray Tintori (aka Data Mosher), for example, used the datamoshing glitch to great effect in Chairlift's "Evident Utensil" video. And now this type of digital glitch and others find their way into the paintings of Toronto-based artist Lauren Pelc-McArthur

As a student at Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), Pelc-McArthur was originally interested in "hyperreal portraiture." Starting out as a photography student, she soon switched to a type of painting inspired by collaged imagery. Disjointed, non-conventional portraiture also appealed to her, and this led to her current back-and-forth movement between digital art and painting. 

In her latest work, the end results include both digital files and paintings. A digital painting might, for instance, include visual samples from an oil or acrylic painting. Pelc-McArthur then keeps a camera handy to photograph areas of her work which could later be used in digital pieces. It's a type of visual sampling that becomes something like a feedback loop, where the format is simultaneously digital and physical. 

peakofthewallboughtmirrors (2014). Image: Lauren Pelc-McArthur

"The digital works are primarily compiled using Cinema 4D and then Photoshop," Pelc-McArthur said. "I approach Cinema 4D like I would a painting, building up base objects (like base coats) and then adding to them." 

Pelc-McArthur then exports and further alters images in Photoshop, where she'll flatten the image, add more flat-looking brush strokes, then build upon the image once again in Cinema 4D. This process is repeated, and continues until she's satisfied with the result. 

Apart from datamoshing and scanner drags, Pelc-McArthur also tries to replicate glitches known as final compression, fractures, and scrolling. Final compression, also called compression artifact, occurs when a compression algorithm fails to completely and accurately reproduce all image data, resulting in distortions. 

heisofproxiesanditmakesmountainsfade (2014). Image: Lauren Pelc-McArthur

"My painting seeks to capture the motion and blur of scrolling through Tumblr," Pelc-McArthur said. "When you scroll through Tumblr posts, the images meld together as one. And my titles read like someone is only receiving bits and pieces of a conversation, as if it were very loud on a street and you only are hearing bits of conversations."

Three new works, heisofproxiesanditmakesmountainsfade, shiftysilkharlot, and peakofthewallboughtmirrors, feature both digital and painted visual glitches, and the fractured bits of conversation that Pelc-McArthur likes to deploy in her titles. 

Pelc-McArthur said that these new works, like her past efforts, are influenced by the visual or physical representations of what makes digital objects work; in particular, data centers. Science fiction elements also make their way into her art, much of it inspired by the cyberpunk body horror found in Katsuhiro Otomo's (the creator and director of Akira) and David Cronenberg's films.

The influend of Kristine Moran's painting You Used To Be Alright, What Happened? can be seen, in colorfully distorted fashion, in a number of Pelc-McArthur's paintings. 

shiftysilkharlot (2014). Image: Lauren Pelc-McArthur

"I’m always striving to respond and represent a state of discombobulation brought on by total reliance on machines," said Pelc-McArthur. "I’m creating fairly traditional works (landscapes and portraits) but painted through paranoid, digital filters."

"Yes, these works resemble glitches and screen-based imagery," she added. "But the works are still painterly and they are intended to be, for lack of a better word, visceral."

In a way, the feedback loop of digital and painted glitch in Pelc-McArthur's mirrors Cubism's response to the rising influence of photography and film in popular culture. The Cubists realized that if they were to compete with these new media, they would have to create a sense of motion and abstraction. 

But Pelc-McArthur and other painters working with glitch (like Justin Bower) aren't introducing fractured digital artifacts into their work in a concerted effort to keep painting culturally relevant. It's a matter of the digital realm, of data, bleeding into three-dimensions because of the virtual world's overwhelming influence on our lives. And so this type of work becomes just one more node on the ever-expanding new media art rhizome.