Ashley Anderson, Study for Still Life with Skull and Panties, acrylic on canvas, 2022, 11 x 85 inches
Ashley Anderson, Still Life with Skull and Panties, acrylic on canvas, 2023, 24 x 20 inches
Pixel art, with its roots in early video games and computer graphics, has emerged as a potent and compelling force in contemporary painting, offering a fresh and dynamic approach to the medium that reimagines the language of traditional art forms. Pixel art's use of a small color palette and precise, modular, scalable compositions creates a sense of play and experimentation that is at once nostalgic and contemporary. The canvas becomes a portal to the past and the present, creating a powerful sense of anachronism. The pixels themselves are the building blocks of the image, giving the artist a remarkable degree of control over the visual structure of the work. Through this precise, pixel-based approach, the artist is able to convey a remarkable level of detail and intricacy, which creates a sense of immersion for the viewer, drawing them in with its seductive combination of structure and pattern.
Pixel art operates in a sort of liminal space between digital and analog media, combining the handmade with the machinic. The artist working with pixel art within a system of rules and limitations imposed by the pixel grid, yet also imbues each individual pixel with a sense of individual character and idiosyncrasy, creating a unique visual language that is both systematic and expressive. Pixel art's embrace of the computer as a creative tool challenges conventional notions of painting, highlighting the inherent tensions between the handmade and the digital. As the pixel becomes the elemental block of the image, the artist must contend with questions of scale and resolution, as well as the inherently grid-like nature of the medium. Yet, in spite of these limitations, pixel art is able to produce works that are lush and evocative, with a sense of tactility and texture that belies its digital origins.
One of the most interesting and talented artists working with the medium of video game and painting in the style of pixel art is Ashley Anderson. Currently based in Atlanta, Georgia, Anderson has had a varied and fascinating journey, marked by an extensive range of professional roles and personal experiences. He is a practitioner of a special kind of intermedia art, a term that indicates a set of artworks and practices blurring the boundaries between traditional art forms, such as painting, sculpture, literature, music, theater, dance, video game and film. Moreover, the term "intermedia" reflects the idea that these works exist in the space between different media, rather than conforming to any one particular medium.
Point in case. Consider this example:
Ashley Anderson, Clouds, oil on canvas, 2015
Anderson's Clouds - a clear reference to Cory Arcangel's appropriation of Super Mario Bros (2002) via modding - was created by mixing cyanotype and pixel art. Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that uses a photosensitive solution containing iron compounds, typically ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide, which is coated onto paper or fabric. When exposed to ultraviolet light, the iron compounds are reduced to a ferrous state, creating a blue-colored image. The process was developed in the mid-19th century and was used for engineering and architectural blueprints, but it also gained popularity as an artistic medium. Today, cyanotype is often used by photographers and artists for its unique blue tones and experimental potential. In this case, it's perfect to evoke the sense of artificial blue of the original video game appropriated by Arcangel and now recontextualized through a different technique.
One of my all time favorite of his is the series Shinobi Marilyn (2012) after Andy Warhol
Ashley Anderson, Elephant Woman #2, 2012, 9-piece gel transfer print on panel, 12 x 12 inches
Now, what happens when you mix Clouds with Marylin?
Ashley Anderson, Super Mario Clouds, Digital collage print, 2012 Edition of 3 24 x 24 inches
More pixel work by Anderson is available here.
Ashley Anderson: Growing up in a small town in central Georgia that bore the scars of Sherman's infamous march to the sea, the artist developed an early appreciation for the legacies of history and the interplay between past and present. With family members who contributed to the building of America's infrastructure, challenged racial barriers, and worked in public service, the Anderson's upbringing instilled a deep sense of social awareness and responsibility. Drawing on a diverse range of cultural influences, his paintings dispaly a playful and idiosyncratic aesthetic that bridges the realms of popular culture and high art. Inspired by everything from classic Warner Brothers cartoons to the visionary science-fiction of Moebius, Anderson has developed a style that defies easy categorization. Anchored by a deep respect for Modernist painting and an abiding fascination with the creative possibilities of technology, the artist's work is marked by a restless and inventive spirit. In an unexpected twist of fate, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the artist into freelancing, providing a newfound sense of creative freedom and the opportunity to fully pursue their artistic passions. Through their various professional roles and life experiences, Anderson has remained steadfast in their commitment to the transformative power of art, guided by their father's sage advice to "support your art until it can support you!"