Reducto Palettum

Matti. | ︎ ︎
Access start date 13 / 05 / 20 @ 6pm - Access end date 24 / 05 / 20 @ 9pm

Reducto palettum is the result of nine months’ experimentation with a technique for reductively abstracting digital photographs. The resultant images clearly recall the source but slide subtly sideways onto a separate visual plane.

I discovered this strange world between the familiar and unfamiliar by reducing the palette from up to a million colours to less than fifty.

The first image I used was a black and white photograph of my mother, copied with a phone camera that introduced unexpected pinks, yellows, and browns. Although a glitch, this palette revealed another feature of the technique: contour lines. The algorithm is forced to use blocks of colour to simulate three-dimensional modelling rather than a jpeg’s smooth gradations, making the image appear unreal. With over 14 hours of digital hand painting, Portrait of Isobel Coulston I echoes Andy Warhol’s famous Marilyn Monroe or Shepard Fairey’s infamous Barack ObamaHope poster.

I hunted through my archives for other portraits to experiment on. The difficulty was finding an image with enough detail to be recognisable but not so much that it couldn’t be reproduced with just a few blocky colours. Eventually, I started exploring other favourite subjects: flowers, butterflies, and bees. The incredibly tiny elements nearly drove me to distraction as every single-pixel brush stroke came with the need to decide what (and where) to paint and what to erase, which colours to keep and which to replace.

The most difficult conversion was a friend’s wedding photo so full of detail that it took more than 40 hours to complete. I was chagrined when I later painted over most of that detail while exploring yet another technique by changing the palette from “IRL” to more muted pastels.
The transformed images are as challenging and beguiling as only an accident can be.

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