Visual Digital Art
Innovative artist Santiago Rueda’s most recent Digital-Cubist series plays with artistic conventions while also invoking a rich art historical tradition. Working within a unique blend of digital and manual media (that is, photography and painting), Rueda’s inspirational approach seems almost foreshadowed in the words of famed early twentieth-century modernist, Pablo Picasso. As he recounted in regard to the evolution of his Cubist works:
“It would be very curious to record by means of photographs, not the stage of the picture, but its metamorphoses. Perhaps one would perceive the path taken by the mind in order to put its dreams into a concrete form. But what is really very curious is to observe that fundamentally the picture does not change, that despite appearances the initial vision remains almost intact.”1
Picasso, the founder of Cubism and also, in many regards, modern art, here encapsulated the powerful potential of Cubism to capture the artistic transformation of both the composition and the subject.
Rueda in many regards picks up where Picasso left off, updating the visual metamorphosis the viewer experiences in his works through his inventive body of Digital-Cubist works. These pieces challenge the boundaries of photography and painting by artfully integrating the two, creating compositions that epitomize Rueda’s talents and offer an essential modernization of early twentieth-century Cubism.
At its core, Rueda’s recent body of work picks up on the primary Cubist aim of deconstructing figures and forms, a breakdown necessary to better understand their respective presence in space. It is this awareness that is visceral in Rueda’s work in the manner in which he creates a sense of movement. Rarely does he offer us one view of the human form, but rather a sequential evolution of that form. The result is tantalizing, for the viewer of Rueda’s work cannot help but navigate through these elements as they progress through the composition.
Rueda also updates Cubism for a twenty-first-century audience by manipulating perspective and dimension in his works with a mélange of media. While Picasso and his associates attempted this as well in their collaged works, Rueda produces a more seamless blend, wherein the break between digital work and brushstroke becomes virtually imperceptible. Simultaneously one witnesses a powerful visual play, as Rueda’s abstracted strokes at times blur the clarity of the photography seemingly hidden beneath.
This extreme is perhaps best showcased in a consideration between his Portrait of Lana and Portrait in White and Red. Rueda’s captivating Portrait of Lana relays the soft curves of the female form under a veil of lush, painterly strokes in rich shades of teal, magenta, and tangerine. The refinement of the figure is particularly pronounced behind this superficial web of color, which adds an air of vitality as she is portrayed from three different vantage points. Rueda’s positions for his figure echo the classical image of the Three Graces, known in antiquity as the three most beautiful maidens in the world. Here, Rueda updates this imagery in a new exaltation of beauty tempered with modernist considerations.
While Portrait of Lana reveals much of the figure, Rueda’s Portrait in White and Red rather obscures this element. To be sure, one can discern the subtle contours of the female figure as she cascades across the composition. Here, however, she is deconstructed beneath a heavier blanket of brushstrokes, with her flesh tones deliberately lost among the rich panoply of primary hues that construct the painterly layer. From this perspective, Rueda plays on the common conventions of portraiture as he encourages the viewer to question whether figure or brushstroke are being celebrated.
These varied strokes thus remind the viewer of Rueda’s brilliant juxtaposition of these two media while also creating a counterpoint between reality and fantasy. In other words, his photography is real, and yet the overlay of painted strokes at times breaks the illusion of that reality, forcing the viewer to question whether these figures are merely a figment of one’s imagination. Thus, Rueda’s series embodies this air of dreamlike fantasy, a metamorphosis of the figure as it seemingly moves through the artful play of color across the composition.
PhD, Arts Writer
1. Letters of the great artists. Friedenthal, Richard, 1896-1979. New York, Random House (1963) Online version.
In other words, his photography is real, and yet the overlay of painted strokes at times breaks the illusion of that reality, forcing the viewer to question whether these figures are merely a figment of one’s imagination. Thus, Rueda’s series embodies this air of dreamlike fantasy, a metamorphosis of the figure as it seemingly moves through the artful play of color across the composition.