In Conversation with Alex Sutcliffe on Syncing Matter
In Syncing Matter Alex Sutcliffe experiments with an array of digital and physical processes to explore illusionary qualities of contemporary image making.
Studio Sixty Six's Art Consultant Ginny spoke with Alex Sutcliffe to gain a little insight into his unusual process and material diversity.
Your process and materials are quite unusual. Do you remember what first inspired you to do this kind of layered digital looking artwork like After Poussin Apollo and Daphne?
I was looking for a way to add more layers to my work (literally and metaphorically) so that I could use the medium of painting in unique ways. Working with collage brought a combination of metaphors relating to the construction of the artwork itself, as well as showing the layers of digital mediation during the process.
Alex Sutcliffe, After Poussin Apollo and Daphne, oil and acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 inches, 2022.
How do you think COVID has informed these works and your experiences as a young artist?
To be fair, it's kind of a lucky position to be in because I’m always “self-isolating” when making my works. COVID didn’t disrupt my work as much as most people were. Although, there were times where it was very difficult to do creative work because I hadn’t seen anyone in months which didn’t make sense logically but human interaction is vital apparently (who knew?).
I think the influence of covid appears in some of the more digital pieces where I was looking for resolve in a terminally-online moment. Turning digital things into physical materials can be cathartic because you’re bringing that space into reality and stripping it of its context-less form. The digital collapses time and space so I find it helpful to ground the art in reality.
How much have you learned about AI and coding to do paintings like In Spring? Can you tell us a little about the process of using text-to-image AI?
I don’t know a lick of coding but I definitely had to do research to get a basic idea of how to use and implement the models for my process. I downloaded a free program called Visions of Chaos made by a nice fellow who is incredibly active in their discord. I used the program with my graphics card to generate hundreds of images based on text input like “fingerprint smudges on glass flash photography with metal 8K resolution matte painting Unreal Engine”.
Alex Sutcliffe, In Spring, UV ink on Dibond, 24 x 30 inches, 2022.
What is it like working digitally and not seeing a tactile result until much later? What is it like to see your digitally generated artworks, like Canopy, fully 3 dimensional?
It’s really great to see them physically because they’re way more interesting than the digital versions. I use Blender to visualize the elevated texture via a displacement map attached to a digital version of the painting with physically-accurate lighting simulated and rendered.
Alex Sutcliffe, Canopy, UV ink on Dibond, 16 x 20 inches, 2022.
Do you feel very differently about your work and process when you’re working with oil paint versus digitally?
Definitely. When I work digitally, more often I am looking for interesting ways to subvert the 2-dimensional and hyperflat matrix that was used to create the images. With oil I relish in the vitality of texture and colors more than what's possible in digital simulation.
What do you have planned now that the show is done? Are you going to keep experimenting with AI and 3D printing or do you have a new project in mind?
I have a project I’m working on to continue using text-to image tools to create artworks. I would also like to continue 3D printing/using digital-to-material processes for new work. As well I’m experimenting with different types of paint applications. Lastly I’ll be doing more figurative pieces which is something I always come back to after circling through other ideas and experiments. Stepping away from certain ideas and coming back to them is often very constructive for my practice.