Anthropo = anthropomorphous
Technikon = technological order
In this series, my work focuses on the creation of an industrial/technological age mythology fusing anthropomorphized figures with contemporary historical allegorical themes. This recent direction is a departure from my previous investigations, which dealt more with a pseudo-realistic treatment of recognizable and/or believable corporate/industrial/technological symbols, signs and artefacts (e.g. Military weapons, giant pill-capsules, corporate logos, etc). In other words, I view my earlier works as leaning more toward a form of realism and cultural commentary. In contrast, in this recent group of paintings and graphic works, I wanted to explore and apply a metaphysical quality to my imagery by inventing and appropriating techno-industrial age mythological subjects and allegories based on key historical events and periods that have indelibly marked our collective psyche and existence since the end of the second world war: not necessarily in this order, the space race/exploration, the cold war era, the Chernobyl disaster, the Gulf war and genetic research to list the more salient examples. Combined with this ambient sub-layer context of historical periods and events, is another layer of meaning that appropriates religious, mythological and pop-culture themes and archetypes borrowed for instance from biblical scenes and science-fiction illustration art and literature. One example is the painting ‘Baby Wormwood’, which on one level, is a commentary on the horrible and unfortunate human genetic mutations produced from the Chernobyl accident and the resulting radioactive environmental contamination; while on the other, there are references to an alternative biblical interpretation (Revelation 8: 10) pointing to the Chernobyl accident as a potential fullfilment of the ‘end-times’ ‘Wormwood’ prophecy. It is said that Chernobyl translates as ‘Wormwood’.
In other works, such as ‘Eliminator’ and ‘The Martian Princess’, I appropriated imagery borrowed from 1950’s B-movie poster illustrations and science-fiction magazine cover art. ‘Eliminatior’ is a symbolic representation of war (i.e. a cold war god) in the form of a military mutant-cyborg monster rendered in a menacing battle posture. Historical mythological precedents also point to the Roman deity Mars and the Mayan counterpart Ah Chuy Kak, both embodiments of fear, power and destruction. The companion painting, the ‘Martian Princess’, is a metaphor characterizing the space-race era, evoking the allure and sex-appeal of a brave new technological age, symbolized by a mysterious and attractive female figure depicted in an action pose taking place in an alien world. Of note, is the presence in the painting of the fabled Sputnik satellite attached to the tip of the ‘Martian Princess’ whip. Viewers can draw their own metaphorical conclusions. However, my intention was to portray the ‘Martian Princess’ more as a symbol or icon of American scientific/technological power, while references to Sputnik bear the uncontested iconographic representation of Soviet scientific and social progress.
Also part of the A-T series is a subset of images based on literary sources and iconic figures and events responsible for the dark legacies that incontrovertibly shaped our world since the second world war. Included in this group are graphic examples such as ‘The Shroud of Morgo’, ‘Dr Oppenheimer with Mask’, ‘Little Kid Nevada’ and ‘The GeoEngineer’. The imagery treatment in these paintings draw from key historical players, events and subjects related to the ‘Manhattan project’, the Nevada nuclear bomb tests of the 1950s, and the transformation of the planet through the intervention of petro-chemical engineering.
The concept of anthropomorphizing phenomena and nature has existed since the dawn of picture making as manifested in almost every culture of the world throughout history (tribal and civilized alike). Our own North-American culture has accustomed us to the ‘Disney’ paradigm of transforming commonly known wild and farm animals into anthropomorphic mice, ducks, dogs, deer and even trees. Though, in the Disney example, the intent is to create caricatures and cartoon figures based on human characteristics and behaviour presented in a candy-coated manner (understandable since the target audience are children). More bizzare and surreal, is the merging of 3D anthropomorphic figures such as the M&M candy characters with human actors as we have been acclimatized to viewing since the advent of 3D computer animation. In contrast however, the imagery and themes represented in the Anthropo-Technikon series is far from being sympathetic to the viewer by virtue of the very nature and interpretation of the subject-matter: imagery depicting figures transformed and mutated as a result of radiation contamination, genetic mutation or other apocalyptic supernatural forces, is an outgrowth of an aesthetic and conceptual approach attempting to capture the Gestalt of the ills, pitfalls and ramifications produced by a technologically addicted, obssessed and dangerous culture.
Pierre Duranleau – December, 2010