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Figure and Ground – exonemo’s HEAVY BODY PAINT

There is digital art that is about painting and then there is digital art that is about paint; exonemo’s HEAVY BODY PAINT falls into the latter category. Part of an ongoing series, this installment sees the NYC-based artist duo of Akaiwa Yae and Sembo Kensuke frame video footage of jars of Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic paint on monitors slathered with the appropriate hue. Cadmium yellow, unbleached titanium, ultramarine blue – the three pieces offer deadpan colour commentary on the materiality of image making. Yes, it’s a one-liner, but it slyly illustrates the nature of physical versus digital media through total juxtaposition. In the background, ‘high resolution’ 4K displays are nullified and robbed of their ability to transmit images; they are simply canvases. In the foreground, a citation of the essence of the background.


HEAVY BODY PAINT extends out of Body Paint (2014-), which playfully problematized portraiture in the digital age. Rendering flinching, occasionally twitching bodies against solid colour backgrounds, encountering the works was kind of like those paintings in haunted houses where the eyes follow you around the room. The bodies aren’t static, but they aren’t exactly ‘moving’ either – they are mired in an uncanny in-between state. In their statement for the new work, the artist duo elaborates on the progression within the series:

In this new work, the human body motifs are replaced by the paint jars themselves. These works therefore more directly reference the issues of mediation and abstraction. The video monitors are painted the same color as the subjects in the video footage, generating a cyclical structure of signifiers between the footage and the monitor, material and metaphysical existence. Deliberately retaining the physicality of hand-held ‘camera shake’ in the footage, the bottle subtly trembles in contrast to the fixed texture of the paint…

And that’s what we have here, the distillation of a work down to two textures: paint and pixel. Nothing more, nothing less.

Project page | exonemo
HEAVY BODY PAINT will be showing at hpgrp gallery’s NYC location from May 5th through June 10th