Sophia Oppel

Sophia Oppel /

This project began with the analytical desire to deconstruct the components of the contemporary painting zeitgeist. I have begun to notice recurring motifs in contemporary painting, and their transmutations to consumable goods.

In order to address these developing canonical  aesthetics, I indexed brushstrokes from paintings by living artists. This work has been shown recently and adheres to a particular aesthetic trend in private contemporary galleries. I would characterize these zeitgeist brushstrokes as heavy, and vaguely juicy or bodily, yet simultaneously bland, somewhat digital, vacuous and anemic. As contemporary art aesthetics engender easily reproducible trends, these same aesthetics have simultaneously found their way onto consumable goods in “trendy” stores that cater to young professionals with hip taste and disposable income. I am fascinated by the translation that exists within the monetization of an aesthetic, especially when certain aesthetics emerge digitally, and then become physicalized as commodities. I do not think this process is necessarily a negative one, I simply believe it is one that is worth being aware of and analyzing.

This piece partially embraces popular aesthetics and the democratic amateurization of art production using digital software and web based remixing. Ultimately, I believe it is more productive to acknowledge one's collaborations with corporatized software and ultimate reliance on popular aesthetics than to deny one’s adherence to these regimes.

This work takes the form of laser cut re-iterations of the original “brush marks” I indexed from contemporary paintings. “To Glass” is to scan, and as I was participating in this act  of looking over or surveying, the material I used was transparent to reflect this semantic definition. This materiality also served the dual purpose of camouflaging the marks with its space; the work itself becomes validated by the canonical space it inhabits. Additionally, the transparent medium serves to discuss the supposed “transparency” of creative online infrastructure and the illusion of total agency, even when one is being guided by pre-sets of corporate software.

In order to prepare the “brush marks” to be laser cut, I imported them onto Adobe Illustrator and traced them with a correction brush, which masked over their human inconsistencies and translated them into more corporate forms. I worked with a friend who is employed at a promotional products corporation; he helped me to stream-line the marks into more brandable forms.The dissection of the contemporary paintings began to take on a scientific, formulaic quality, wherein I was aware of myself creating a simulation of a painting through a series of prefabricated parts. The brushstrokes became further detached from the artist's hand as they were further mediated, and I started to read them as readymade objects or linguistic signifiers. The integration of the algorithmic and corporatized with the painterly addresses the systematization of aesthetics that are seen to be pleasing or trendy. In this sense, the painterly and corporate markets undergo an amalgamation through the recurring use of these signifiers which become stand-ins for a sense of aesthetic awareness.

These brush marks were installed on two adjoining walls to activate the space of the wall as part of the work and partially camouflage themselves within the “white cube” space. Alongside the installed pieces was a projection of an interactive web site I created that the viewer could manipulate: “”. The website hosted the digital iterations of these brushstrokes after they had been streamlined, 3D rendered and manicured into logo-like objects. The viewer was able to use a drag and drop function in order to arrange their own “painting” with these trendy brush strokes. While the site seems democratic, it is simultaneously limiting the viewer’s agency to create something immediate or personal, as they are confined to a small set of mass produced tools which can only reproduce a dominant aesthetic.   

The website can be found here:

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