When the Past and the Present Collide


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Courtesy of Thomas Robson


When people buy fine art, they go to great lengths to preserve it. No one is to touch the art, roughhouse near the art, or breathe too closely to the art. However, in this new age of digital communication and the democratization of sharing great works, graphic designer Thomas Robson flips this notion of keeping art immaculate on its back by taking portraits of fine artwork and digitally editing them.

From splashing digital paint on the faces of old relics to slicing photos and rearranging them as an old movie star’s face in a film still, Robson is the Photoshop bandit of the Internet art world. His contemporary art collages use appropriation art techniques to turn luxury magazine images into luxe art. They’re all compiled into a collection Robson calls “Narratives.”

His “Fluid Pigments” collection takes pieces of fine portraits from the annals of art history and distorts them to make them appear pixelated or active in some way. Then Robson splatters digital globs of brightly colored paint on the faces or bodies of the figures in the portraits. This is a process Robson calls “remixing” the portraits.

The novelty and value in Robson’s work is not only that he messes with pieces of fine art and luxury media — it is that these are images that we typically idolize as valuable relics. By morphing or altering them in some way, Robson’s collections act to make us question the fantastic spectacle we made out of them before. They’re just images, after all.

Robson has created an entirely new genre of contemporary art called “Collision Art.” It acts to re-appraise traditional imagery in a world saturated with visual stimulation. In addition to his Photoshop editing work, he also creates his own images, such as the “Skullduggery” and “Origins” pieces. Both series are a little darker and aim to confront the viewer with a more striking imagery — such as a womb replacing an 18th century aristocrat’s face, or a man with an elephant head riding a bicycle.

Robson’s “Collision Art” is both provocative and inquisitive — it is at the same time poking fun at fetishizing historical artworks and vintage imagery. Anyone interested in graphic design or the evolution of new genres of contemporary art in the digital age should check out ThomaRobson’s site.


Saskia Kusnecov

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