Living at the intersection of edgy and unique, this artwork involves videography and oil painting, impressionism and 90’s computer graphics. Imagine a 19th century French impressionist, except with a minesweeper high score.
Our Piece of the Week is Warren Keating’s Woman under Umbrella Running in Paris Rain (40”x30”). The work is both narrative and abstract. There is a story: a woman, half obscured by an umbrella, hustles down a drizzly street clad in a pale yellow raincoat and matching boots. However, there are undeniable abstract qualities: the overhead perspective that foreshortens the subject into pure shape.
The piece comes from a series entitled Overview. The paintings in this series share several distinct qualities: the overhead perspective, the pixelated aesthetic, and the (generally) oblivious subjects.
Keating calls his signature style “Pixel Impressionism.” It is both a throwback to impressionism and a toss back to old school computer screen.
The origins of this style were “quite accidental,” says Keating. While he was in Paris with his wife for an anniversary trip, he began to film passersby with his new video camera out on the balcony. When he returned home, he used stills from the video stream as a reference for his paintings.
These scenes are neither momentous nor flashy. They are more remarkable because they are so ordinary and subtle. Keating says his aim is “to capture the imagination of the viewer in hopes of inspiring renewed interest in the everyday.” The pedestrian is not pedestrian.
(The video still)
The brushstrokes are quick, and fitful, and perpendicular. They express movement and the slick, rain-sheened pavement. The horizontality and verticality of the brushstrokes also work to mimic the pixels of a digital image.
“At first, I was eliminating the artifacts from the video files as I painted the walking figures, smoothing out the pixilation and stair-stepped contours,” says Keating. However, his style changed and he gave into the grid-like background. Now, “my work is about rectilinear marks creating organic forms. It is also about motion and texture.”
Like an artistic commandeering a computer’s binary code, Warren communicates with his own sets of opposites: still and motion, video and stills, blurry and sharp, digital and painted.
He achieves the elusive optic dimension inherent in a pixel. Considered individually or too closely, pixels lose their context. But at the right distance the team of these tiles coalesces into an image. They are like a carefully balanced grid encoded into a larger perspective. Similarly, his paintings are “abstract and expressive up close and photo realistic from a distance” says Keating.