All Memories are Traces of Tears and What Is, From the Light Above, In the Flat Field, Unknown Pleasures and What Should Never Be

Here is another pixel painting that I did in 2010 called All Memories are Traces of Tears (Le Muerta ll: for MZ) that I exhibited at the beginning of 2011 at St. Cecilia’s. The canvas is 24″x84″ and was made using 2.5″ squares this time. The piece is based on Holbein’s well known elongated skull from The Ambassadors which shows a distorted skull at the base of the painting which must be viewed at an angle in order to be fully recognizable. I exhibited the painting on a pedestal that I built, laying it flat on top with the front facing the entrance so that the skull could be fully viewed upon entrance into the space. The pedestal was made 4′ high so that the viewer only needed to crouch down a little bit and turn there head at a slight angle in order to grasp the illusion. All of my pixel paintings are a bit rough in their finish upon close inspection. The reason for this is two fold: The first is that I usually have a lot of pixels to paint and the second is that in order for the illusion to work the viewer must be at a distance so it doesn’t make a difference in the end. I also like the difference between the experience of the painting as it appears rough and slightly unfinished up close and smooth and perfect from a distance. All Memories are Traces of Tears is the only pixel painting that I painted twice in order to smooth out its finish and cover the canvas completely with paint. I knew that people would be viewing the painting up close and I wanted the painting to look “more” finished. I also painted the sides of this piece black because the white sides were distracting when I displayed the piece flat and to make it feel more like an object. Putting it on a pedestal flat almost made it feel like a table at a mortuary and reminded me of Mantegna’s Lamentation of Christpainting.

St. Cecilia’s used to be a nunnery but had fallen into disrepair over the years. I was lucky enough to get my own room and decided to install my paintings so that they would be lit with minimal light, giving the room a quiet and still feeling. I thought that painting on the pedestal was very effect as you entered the room, and had an almost “religious” feeling to it. The title All Memories are Traces of Tears was taken from the beginning of Won Kar Wai’s 2046. La Muerta ll is Death in Spanish and there was an original Le Muerta so this one became the second one. MZ is my friend Mirelle whose mother had recently died and wanted to dedicate the piece to her. I titled the installation, which consisted of 6 paintings, What is and What Should Never Be which is actually a title of a Led Zeppelin song. Here is the work as it appears on the wall and again in its final placement on a pedestal.

In 2009 and 2010 I did 2 pieces that I also included in this exhibition. One is called Unknown Pleasures and the other one is called In the Flat Fields and both are named after albums (Joy Division and Bauhaus). I wanted to see how abstract I could make my paintings using pixels while still making them recognizable. These paintings are 12″x12″ and are made with 144 one inch squares. For these I painted directly on the panels in order to experiment with a smoother finish. The illusion doesn’t quite work at this level of abstraction. I had planned on making more, some with color, but decided that I had achieved what I wanted to know and didn’t need to make any more. Ultimately I needed imagery to make my abstractions from but in the end, thought that the idea was a little hokey. Here they are.

All Memories Are Traces of Tears by Brian HigbeeAll Memories Are Traces of Tears from What Is and What Will Never Be (Installation View) by Brian Higbee All Memories Are Traces of Tears from What Is and What Will Never Be by Brian HigbeeIn the Flat Fields by Brian HigbeeUnknown Pleasures by Brian Higbee

I also included 3 paintings of lights in the exhibition. The main one, which can be see in the photo below, is called From the Light Above from 2009 and is 30″x48″. It is an oil painting and I used a simple traditional painting technique in order to achieve a more traditional effect. This involves using a diluted down light coat of Ultramarine Blue under the areas that are going to be black. The theory is that the human eye will “read” the blue that is under the black, creating a rich and slightly tinted hue. I leave the area that is going to be white (the light) the color of the white primer and paint this area with a titanium white acrylic in order to further make the whiteness “pop” in it’s finished state. I mix my own blacks using Sienna Brown and Ultramarine Blue but it’s important to make sure that I’ve mixed enough because if I don’t it will be impossible to mix the same exact color again and the difference will be seen;I would pretty much have to start over. After the black paint is applied I use an old balled up T-shirt to start tamping the paint in order to eliminate the brush strokes. It’s important not to let the T-shirt get wrinkles in it or it’ll start leaving patterns all over the surface. It’s important to keep restretching the t-shirt. It takes a little while to build up the right tack but once the T-shirt is nicely saturated I start at one end of the canvas and use a light rocking motion in order to cover the entire black surface. It’s also important to do this in the right light so that the effects can be properly seen and mistakes can be eliminated before the surface is dry. Because I paint so thinly my paintings tend to dry within a week or two which is a comfort since wet paintings are a pain to keep clean while they’re still drying. This painting is also stretched over a panel that I made, creating a good resistance for the technique that I described above. When the painting is finished and completely dry, I varnish it with a Matte Golden UVS varnish which will protect it from both light and dirt. Here is what I wrote about it:

From the Light Above represents one of mankind’s greatest inventions, light, and delivers it in one of its cheapest and most efficient form, fluorescent.

Here’s the painting.

From the Light Above by Brian Higbee

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