Pixels on Old Masters by Raluca Sturzu

Raluca Sturzu (b. 1988, Bucharest, Romania) is a graduate architect and designer, living and working in Bucharest. Her education and personal cultural background kept her permanently in touch with art & technology. In her art related work she focuses on perception and how technology could alter or augment reality through programming and digital rendering. Thus, the digital medium affects the object of representation, modifies its content and creates new visual semantics. In this context, the series “Pixels on Old Masters” is a play on perception where images of classical works are translated and eventually altered by computer completely, the computer being an equalizer – an efficiency oriented mechanism and medium of perception where all the inputs are nothing more than pure data. Specifically, oil paintings of the old masters are reduced to RGB fields of pixels to be operated upon by code which reads and eventually renders them as quantifiable results.

INSPIRATIONIST: What influence has Bucharest had on your work? The culture? The people?

Raluca Sturzu: Considering the fact that this exhibition is centred on the idea of beauty to be found in error and imperfection, I could just say that Bucharest is an aesthetically challenging city, full of contrasts and at times quite difficult to be dealt with. But being born and raised here I learned to understand it and even miss it when living for a longer time in more homogenous and posed urbanscapes. The culture and the people here are to some extent the result of this fragmented, dynamic and unpredictable environment. Hence, the influence Bucharest has on me and on my work must be related to this context where beauty doesn’t prevail as such and where forms or traces of beauty have to be looked for in a difficult and maybe even unappealing environment.

I:In how many exhibits (and where) has your work been displayed in the past?

R S: Message (Not) Received was the first public show of a printed version of my works. Until now, they were only featured on some glitch-related groups and blogs. Although I’ve always been interested and somehow involved in art, my work is of recent date, it is something I started over the last year, after my graduation.

I:Is there a specific thematic concentration within your work at the Message (Not) Received show? Is there a thread that ties all your pieces together or do they all have different meanings?

R S: At the Message (Not) Received show two works are exhibited – one is the central piece of the “Polyptych of Misericordia” of Piero della Francesca, representing the Madonna, and the other is “The Fortune-Teller” of Georges de la Tour – both part of a series called “Pixels on Old Masters”. In the series, oil paintings of the old masters are treated as pure data and thus read as RGB image files which are afterwards altered by code. The exercise is a play on perception, in which iconic images of balance and mastery are digitally altered in an attempt of investing their content with new visual semantics. The results are unpredictable and the original images are both radically different and still recognizable.

Pixels on Old Masters by Raluca Sturzu on Inspirationist (17)

I: What are some of the techniques and processes you used for you work ?

R S: The pixels on each column were sorted by a certain value of white, black or brightness; each amount of colour is preserved, which means that the chromatic balance of the original image is kept. The pixel sorting is not complete, so that the result appears to be a still of a process that would eventually erase all trace of representation and only leave behind a gradient of pixels.

I: Glitch art deliberately manipulates a message to deliver an alternate meaning. What alternate meanings were you trying to convey?

R S: The alternate possible meaning would have to do with representation itself, which in the digital environment is fragile, unstable and virtual. Thus, images coming from the real world are nothing more than inputs which can easily be altered and also easily lost. Moreover, this particular process of pixel sorting which makes an image go from figurative to complete abstraction – although leaving intact the mathematical description of the image – acts like an erasure device; hence, this process tells us something about memory as well, about its fluidity and about the difficulty of regain or repair.

I:Glitch art essentially brings out the beauty in mistakes. Did your pieces require a lot of planning to portray these “mistakes” in the best way possible or was your method mostly experimental?

R S: The beauty comes out of the lack of precise control. My method was experimental in the sense that I run a code blindly, meaning that I only see the result, it is not a real-time process – the result of which I may either accept or dismiss and run the code again, altering the code to some degree. But I do know what the code does, I do have some expectations, some representation regarding the possible result, based on which I make my final selection of images.

I: What do you think appeals to people about glitch art in this digital age?

R S: Digital tools were created to produce always better, close to perfection results in a never-ending process of optimization. Glitch art makes us watch the tools of perfection fail, which can have a strong relieving effect on the observer. Then, there is also an important amount of humour inherent to glitch art and humour appeals to people.

I: Do you think glitch art is a social commentary on using an error to break a routine and create a new order that embraces flaws?

R S: I wouldn’t say that glitch art is a social commentary, but I believe that at some level it contains a strong critique on the prevalence of technology and representation, aesthetics. We are living in a world based on the positive progress-oriented idea that technology is supposed to create perfection and perfect products and, by extension, to make our lives and even our bodies perfect – in a way, to make out of ourselves a work of art, an artefact – which is a terrifying thought. Here representation plays a crucial part and I believe that seeing the tools of perfection failing or using them for uncontrolled, imperfect results can act like a mechanism of relief. I see glitch art as a celebration of the failure of perfection, which is invigorating.

I: What artists have influenced you?

R S: I would like to refer here only to painters. I think that due to my choice of input images for the series “Pixels on Old Masters” it is obvious that I have a particular affection for pre-Renaissance and Early Renaissance painters such as Simone Martini, Fra Angelico, Fra Filippo Lippi, Piero della Francesca or for the French Baroque painter Georges de La Tour. But closer to us, Gerhard Richter is the artist – or should I say master – who had a great influence on me. He is to be admired for his mastery, for the intellectual importance of his work or for the fact that through him figurative painting regained its place after a long period of great visual restraint and dull abstraction; but these are nothing compared to the beauty of his works, to the ethereal blur covering landscapes and figures and which reminds Da Vinci’s sfumato. Some of his works could even be regarded as manual, analog glitches.

I: Have you attended any glitch art exhibits yourself? If so, which ones?

R S: No, I haven’t and I unfortunately won’t even be able to attend this one.




 All Images & Text ©  Raluca Sturzu

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