What does one understand when asked to define the premise of Visual Arts? Too broad. Okay lets replace that question with – What all would you and could you include in Visual Arts? Maybe that is still a very subjective a question. Lets break it to bits then- Is Painting Visual Arts? – I hear a loud ‘Is that a rhetorical question?’. Okay, so moving on- How about sculpture? – Yes Yes, it obviously is. Graphic Arts, Performance Art, Installation Art, Photography, Experimental, Site-Specific, Architecture – The list could go on and by way of what is defined, all of it comes under the aegis of the broader Umbrella term ‘Visual Arts’.
Well, lets take a recent art debate, till about a decade ago – Photography as an art was met with apprehension. After all, how could you call something that reproduces an already existent setting without any labour (as in painting or sculpture), and that too in all its literality as art? There is no art in that. All it takes is a click. However at the recently concluded India Art Fair 2014, there was a spillage of Digital/Archival Prints on Paper, mostly photographs. Dayanita Singh to FlorGarduno, photographs are a force to reckon. The so called ‘inclusion’ of photographs never happened as a baptising event, by the Nile, it just happened. So again as the debate rages around Video Games and Computer generated imagery as art, with everybody from Paola Antonelli to Jonathan Jones and even Roger Ebert (why is he commenting on Video games as art, isn’t he a film critic, anyway) debating it.
This brings me to what we call concept art. The fiercest of the disciplines, often left unnoticed due to its silent but mind-bogglingly sturdy pace, it is far from the debate in some part of the world on whether it is art or illustration or design or illustrative design or otherwise (So wait illustration was under art, wasn’t it? and so was design) While the debate is on, millions of copies of concept art books, right up from the critically acclaimed ‘Journey’ to the blockbuster ‘The Hobbit- Desolation of the Smaug’ empty themselves out on the shelves; by the minute video games are conceptualised and a parent is buying their child one as you read this as thousands of concept artists create the most stunning visual art for your experience. The disparities are much, like a person who buys a video game is called a consumer, but a person who buys art is a connoisseur or a collector. But it looks only like a matter of time, as concept art and video games have found their way in to the collections of stalwarts like the Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Museum of Art and the National Media Museum, and are drawing large crowds.
I wonder if Frank Frazetta, who in collaboration with Baily Publishing artist, John Giunta produced the art for a story showcasing one of his characters, “Snowman”, knew what he was to do for the concept art world. The 7 page story appeared in Tally Ho comics, and was published in December of 1944, when Frazetta was only 15 years old. Following him was Sydney Jay Mead or SydMead as the world knows him. Syd concept art brought an edginess with Futurism as he created art from Star Wars to the Bladerunner, and from Tron to Elysium in the recent past. Then of course this is incomplete without the mention of RaplhMcQuarrie for his acclaimed E.T. -the extraterrestrial and Star wars and Jean Giraud, widely famous as Moebius for his acclaimed work on Blueberry (2004). These men of extraordinary and multi-disciplinary acclaim set the base of what we call Modern Conceptual Art, estimated to reach a whopping $87 Billion by 2017.
The works of these contemporary Concept artists have raised the bars immensely, bringing to the viewers not just great visuals but an attempt to create an experience (and they do). Look for instance then, at the art of Pascal Blanche as a refreshing fresh take from that of Moebius’ and Frazetti’ art, both of whom are inspirational to him. The Ubisoft guy uses a mix of 2D and 3D to create his art with stylised compositions; his bright, graphic pieces stemming from combined influences. He says a ‘painted’ touch is an important aspect of his work, and that most of his work is spontaneous. What then is art if it is not inspired from another.Blanché’s work is strongly influenced by the sci-fi and fantasy literature.
“As far as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated by the magic that lies behind science fiction and fantasy worlds. As a kid I was big fan of Ray Harryhausen’s movies; then Star Wars came out – you know, the usual. Since this time, I’ve never stopped reading comic books and art books. My personal library is full of Moebius’s novels, Frazetta art books, Corben, Mignola, Bisley, Otomo – you name it, I read it. I think the biggest influences on my art are those classic old-fashioned visual styles that come from seventies comic books and magazines…”
– Pascal Blanche.
There’s such joy in creation they say and Sieben’s art is a manifestation of the same. The Belgian, Anthony Sieben creates creatures. That very alliteration is reflective of his weird yet amusing creatures, which he even names with much thought, like his vibrantly colored alien monkeys using ZBrush and Photoshop, named with Latinized scientific names; “Simiusvolants” for Flying Monkey and “Simiuspapilio” for Butterfly Monkey.
Considered as one to stay is Barcelona’s Sergio Brosa. There is a certain eye for precision and detail, that governs Brosa’s vibrantly complex work. There is a dash of fashion, architecture and a raw sense of futurism to his art, not to forget his deeply scientific roots. Brosa is currently working on a new project with Kemojo Studios, titled the Wasteland which is already garnering a lot of international interest. For somebody who stumbled into Concept art eventually, he considers anime movies, manga and comics from France, along with concept art for videogames and internet finds in the form of several illustrators and concept artists the chief source of the growth of his art today.
“I think is that having a formal training is important. At least in my case, having a formal training in drawing, having a good base has helped me to develop my drawing style. I would say that everyone, every single person, has a lot of different options in this world, and you never know if you are going to learn more in a usual school, or just looking and learning from nature. I hope you know what I mean. There is not a straight path. Everyone must take the path he likes and works better for him.”
Art needs a cause, well then there is Concept development artist Robert Chew. Chew has brought to his art which is inclusive widely appreciated Big Five series. With Big Five featuring robotic animals, Chew imagines a future in which anti-poaching operatives are aided by mechanical rhinos, lions, and vultures and plans to turn the series into a book to benefit the International Anti-Poaching Foundati
“The inspiration for this series came from their recent application of UAV’s in the operations. I wanted to take that idea further and use the animals themselves as the drones taking their natural characteristics and behaviors to protect their real life counterparts. I chose the Big Five animals because most of them are threatened/endangered and they are iconic animals of the African continent”, says Chew.
Concept art is commercial, but then isn’t art an industry now? Art evokes reactions. Try playing Journey or Assassin’s creed, and talk about reactions. Not only is concept art engaging, it is investing and experiential, border-lined by great visuals, story-lines, thought and research. The influences are varied- painting, architecture, sculpture, science, current affairs, which is further sharpened with the focus of creating an engagement, a connect.
Cover Graphic : Aniruddha Das
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