Saul Chernick

Spirit in the Flesh • Artist Statement 2015 

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word Spiritual as “relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”. If all thought, emotion and sensation, are manufactured within the body, can living beings experience the spiritual without it?  My recent drawings represent an effort to develop a visual language that speaks to the interconnectedness between these two, so called, entities. Through the art making process certain characteristics have become especially important:

 There is a connection between spiritual spaces and virtual ones in their desire to transport us into realm that feels separated from the messiness of everyday life.  Framing and staging devices appear frequently in my work to achieve a sense of separation. My images blur the line between still-life, landscape, and narrative vignette, situating subjects in an indeterminate space that fluctuates between the pictorial and the psychological. Elements of trompe l'oeil and illusionistic rendering coexist with passages of flatness and pattern to further abstract the space and create tension between the physical and immaterial.

 My subjects are depicted along a continuum ranging from the pictographic to the naturalistic. The pictographic representations strip away specificity to yield platonic forms that function symbolically like verbal or written language. I use naturalistic representations to emphasize the tactile qualities of material form, eliciting a visceral response in the viewer. My subjects are never purely one or the other, but operate in both arenas simultaneously.

 The mark language in my work represents a yet another visual continuum, that of graphic representation as a form of technology. I use various matrixes of line and pattern to articulate the properties of form, surface, and light. These systems where originally developed to accommodate the medium of printmaking. In it’s earliest stages, images could only be printed in one color (generally black). As a result various forms of hatch work were designed to create optical simulations of grey tones. These conventions became the lingua franca of classical illustration and gave birth to the visual language of comics, clip art, and the earliest digital graphics. Encoding the visual world into a binary language is, in essence, a spiritual pursuit because it seeks to employ a unified system to represent all things. However no system is broad enough to truly achieve this goal. When forms confound the system, new rules must be invented.

Book of Hours • Artist Statement 2013 

What does a touchscreen and a Medieval Book of Hours have in common?

 Both were intended to be held in the hand and used daily for long hours at a stretch. Both place images of other worlds at our fingertips, yet the things they show cannot be physically touched. They also hold a similar promise; that through connectivity, whether it be to a higher power or a network of data streams, our daily lives can be improved, and maybe even transcended.

At the heart of my work is in interest in the intersection between old and new forms of media and how cultural ideas evolve, as they are adapted to new technologies over time. For instance, the contemporary concept of “branding” in the form of corporate logos and digital icons is foreshadowed in the designs of feudal family crests. In my work I try to blur the lines that differentiate these things so that they are not quite one or the other. My images also feature many tropes of religious iconography (particularly the Western variety) because I am attracted to the way they can evoke a sense of mystical power that can be terrifying, awe-inspiring, utterly absurd and, at times, oddly comforting. I experience a similar thrill from the “magical aura” that seems to animate the glossy trompe l'oeil surfaces of the pallets and windows that in habit our screens on a daily basis. There is a connection between these things that transcends time and culture. My work celebrates virtual realms--both old and new.

Lower East Side Printshop Special Editions Residency • Artist Statement 2011 

I have long been fascinated by Medieval and early Renaissance Woodcuts from Northern Europe. They represent the earliest examples of mass produced imagery in Western culture. Through blunt yet economical lines these images reduce the visual world into a glossary of graphic icons. The prints I created for the LESP merge the conventional idea of an icon as a representation of the sacred, with the modern-day, technological conception as an image that represents a specific file, directory, window, option, or program. Renaissance motifs commingle with the framework of the computer’s Graphic User Interface (GUI) to depict a series of portals. Just as the symbolism behind religious iconography grows more obscure over time, so too will the easily identified buttons, frames, and drop-down menus. How long will it take before the traits of past and present become indistinguishable to viewers in the future?

Timestamp • Artist Statement 2009

We can never really revisit the past because the mind invents too much as we attempt to stitch fact and memory together. My images evoke the sensation of looking at something from an earlier time but there’s no attempt at historical accuracy. These are pictures made with the sensibility of an invented past as could only be imagined in the present. Just as the color and texture of a period film can date it more closely to the decade of it’s making rather than the era it portrays, my images bare a timestamp that will inevitably grow more apparent with age. Through projecting contemporary ideas, aesthetics, and experiences through the lens of traditional methods and motifs I aim to link past and present by revealing enduring commonalities. 

Ghost in The Machine • Artist Statement 2009

I prepared the statement below for an exhibition by teaching artists for an audience of young learners. The works it discusses are in the same vein as those featured in my Animated Gifs gallery on this site. The challenge of writing about my work in child-friendly language proved to be extremely rewarding. The process yielded a statement that’s more candid, personal, and direct. I recommend this exercise to anyone trying to write an artist statement: 

I’m the type of person that can’t help thinking about scary things. As a child I had a hard time falling asleep because of all the frightening pictures I’d imagine. Since then I’ve learned to look for the funny side of scary stuff. The artworks seen here were inspired by an old book called the Heideberger Totentanz (1488). I was attracted to it because the skeletons seemed more humorous than threatening. Even though they’re more than 500 years old they reminded me of cartoons today. I wondered about the kinds of new adventures they might have. Since I found them on the computer I wondered what it be like if they could continue living in computers. Rather than re-drawing them by hand I used my computer to change them. I posed them in different positions and put them in new situations. It’s my way of celebrating the art of the past using the technology of today!

Protosapia • Artist Statement 2007

One of the unique purposes of art has been to pictorialize the metaphysical. With great ingenuity and inventiveness artists have sought to render all manner of otherworldly beings, alternate realities, and supernatural phenomena. I am interested in the visual interpretations of such things because they uncover the beliefs and mindset of those who devised them. Many of my ideas originate from depictions of miraculous events and figures, as they appear in Judeo/Christian mythology, I use drawing to revisit, reinterpret, and reconfigure them. The mark language in these works allows me to conjure the same sense of weight and authority that classical religious imagery tend to possess. Although my images are informed by a contemporary and admittedly more secular viewpoint the basic themes, fears, and desires remain constant. I imagine the narratives in my drawings as part of a larger mythology set in Protosapia, an Eden-like environment that serves as both laboratory and breeding ground for an alternate or “would-be” human species. It is a place where ideas about creation, sexual politics, and iconography coalesce to create new possibilities embodied by its inhabitants, the Protosapiens.
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