The art of the past is the art of the future

The art world, like any visual realm, runs in cycles. Art’s reliance on changing trends, shifting popularities, and reactionary tendencies of artists makes it a world in which certain styles, techniques and influences reappear throughout time. The old is often reinvented and moulded to form the new, something that JonnaP Arts, Vini Naso and Adria Gil all reference in their digital work.

JonnaP Art’s Ra Meandros harks back to the art of ancient Greek and Egyptian civilisations. The geometric frieze-like patterns of these eras appear in this work which relies on straight lines and triangular features along with suggests of the ‘evil eye’ which is a prominent belief in both cultures. The artist draws on his own Greek heritage to examine notions of the past and in contrast, progress. JonnaP shows how these ancient stylist tendencies lend themselves to a modern reinvention in this piece as these linear patterns and shapes continuously shift and reform. Ra Meandros shows how the past can be digitised and continues to correspond with the demands of the art market as it becomes focused on technology. Not only that, but the two - typical ancient art and modern technological advancements - work hand in hand without compromise to create wonderful hybrid works as exemplified by JonnaP Arts.

Vini Naso’s ‘The Masks We Wear’ series again sees the recalling of the past and examination of the role that it currently plays in the designing of the future. These works explore how old and new notions of beauty and identity are expanding in our current digital age through the meshing together of folk art influences and modern fashions and styles such as cyberpunk. Across the images we see an intricate baroque style fabric that plays the role of the skin surface, recalling the wonderful silk fabrics used in traditional Asian clothing. In The Jester, the fabric figure avoids appearing typically traditional however as it is decorated with glistening gold accoutrements that suggest piercings (both a reference to the rituals of ancient civilisations and modern cyberpunk fashions) and ambiguous silk clothing. These digital images create an uncanniness that presents something both familiar and unknown to the viewer that, due to the digital medium, is heightened through the highly realistic rendering of the figures. Again, Naso exposes the extent to which the past is crucial in the continuation of art-making in the future. Here the two bounce off of one another to create both a seamless mix yet also a disharmonious combination that elicits a slight sense of discomfort in the viewer.

Finally, we see an intermixing of art of the past and art of the future in the ‘pain and pleasure’ portrait series by Adria Gil. Using Feral Rhythm as a specific example, this image has roots in the long legacy of portraiture in art history and yet reestablishes the visual language of the genre as something distinctly modern. The artist infuses the traditional portrait composition with AI techniques that work to isolate and repeat certain areas of the face - here we see an echoing red mouth and teeth descending down the lower half of the image. Much like in Naso’s works, these images are undoubtedly uncanny and unsettle the viewer through the suspending of anything too recognisable. The face becomes a raw site of flesh and bone that is unnerving and almost disgusting yet still contains the elements that make up our own faces. The ‘pain and pleasure’ series shows how the past continues to have a place in the new, however, the future of modern technology and digital techniques will take over the traditional, reworking it into something new. In Gil’s work, this ‘Frankenstein’ effect is displayed wonderfully and truly shows the power of the digital medium in the art today and of tomorrow.

These artists show the beauty of a world in which the past is never lost. Art is self-referential, meaning that it has a legacy which connects each movement, artist, location and medium even when they seem to be separated by a great distance. The artists highlighted here stand true to the nature of art’s long history, showing that even when working with the latest, most modern medium, the visual past remains present. In this, it can certainly be said that the future is in the past - it just may not look how you would expect.

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