stage baker - webcam portraits

Simon Baker, aka stage, has made a series of portraits based on webcam photos, using Microsoft Paint. "The portraits were drawn in a similiar style - with their own unique pixel brushes (dragged + smeared). Like the users of dump: similiar and different," he writes. The pixel brushes are essentially snapshots of an image or texture (a unique cluster of square dots) that act like a rubber stamp dipped in ink and smeared across a surface. The drawings nicely balance a hand-drawn subjective style with the analytical, rectilinear default state of the toy-like computer program. Like Etch-a-Sketch, the MSPaint "controls" (mouse, trackpad, whatever) always seem to be pulling an artist's hand towards strict horizontals and verticals.








top to bottom: anita_hug, daytimetelevision, frakbuddy, girlafraid, gridworks1, mirrrroring, zoeee

Mondrian and old videogames may haunt Paint but it is still a contemporary tool, included with the most current versions of the Windows operating system and not such a living fossil as people might think. Your screen is a zone of rasterized imagery, favoring bitmap-style arrangement--a grid assembled left to right, top to bottom faster than your eye can see (usually). Even curvy vector drawings ultimately must adapt to the grid, at least until screen manufacture is redesigned and re-conceptualized into some sort of squishy lava lamp field carved by swooping lasers. Drawings such as these constantly remind you of the grid's primacy in digital expression. In this sense they are more honest to the true nature of the screen "medium" than the gauzy, velvety (but ultimately brittle) attempts to imitate fine oil painting seen in most paint programs.

The drawings also explore the interrelationship between drawing and photography, as well as between an active and passive subject. Much of the impact of these images is collaborative. The webcam program allows users to frame themselves and make decisions about lighting and other variables before hitting "send." Baker as artist is obeying parameters not only of the Paint program but certain truths of a pre-existing, previously published image and the webcammer's history and persona on dump (a social, chat-based environment). Like the illuminator of a medieval manuscript, he can to some extent only embellish a fixed text. The drawings are a record of "seeing how far he can go" in expressing his own artistic personality, but with his caricaturist's hand skill, wit and insight into his subject/objects, he doesn't have to go too far "out there" to make a successful statement: just translate with a twist.