Konrad Wyrebek is a British artist whose works include circular paintings – feature hyper-bright colors that represent dreams, targets and ambitions. A lot of his works use the unreal images of fashion editorial and advertising as a starting point. Some of his works, such as ‘Young Slaves’ and ‘Three Graces’, look into the possibility that we can all become slaves of the ideals we aspire to. Nowadays, we perceive youth, beauty, fashion and celebrity lifestyle as highly valuable. Messages and images that we consider perfect – the ones celebrating and advertising these targets – envelop us, and our attempts to attain at least some of that ‘perfection’, whether through sex, body transformation or simply shopping can trap us in work, debt and limited ways of thinking.
“I think that often these aims are impossible ideals of perfection, so it’s important to me that the zones are faded into each other; elusive. Our ambitions are the same: what we aim for can quickly become somewhere else.”
Process and Drives Behind Wyrebek’s Work
Konrad Wyrebek’s works also include media such as 3D scanning, digital print, sculpture and painting. Investigating contemporary concerns – such as the effects of consumer culture, technology and obsession with physical perfection – his process often begins with images and material sourced online. These sources are then re-appropriated, distorted or re-made in different media, with much of Wyrebek’s output attempting to find fault-lines where idealized images and messages begin to breakdown and become new possibilities.
Konrad paints mostly in oil and acrylic. He usually always starts with the images he finds online, on various websites like Facebook, Google Image Searches, blogs, etc. – or from newspapers and magazines.
He is searching for images that can potentially become something entirely else than what they are at the moment. “Transformation interests me – how people or things can change, but particularly how we can make them change from our viewpoint. As I spend time with the found image, new thoughts and possibilities are evoked and I experiment with potential additions, deformations and changes that will become part of a transformed image.”
In a way, his work process is quite open ended because he wants his paintings to offer possibilities; make people wonder about what they’re looking at – and the contemporary world that is all around us.
In each painting Konrad is also trying to apply a critical edge, exploring concepts such as modern slavery; ideals of beauty in relation to our consumer society; mysticism in an age of science; sexual expression; new religion and beyond. He tries to evoke some sense of these ideas in the viewer but not for them to draw any obvious conclusions or statements. Instead, he hopes that they start looking for connections with the way they live, and the way they think others live.
In his latest work, Data Error Paintings, Wyrebek attempts to build a unique visual grammar to discover the beauty in corrupted and pixelated image. “Data Error” are a series of large format abstract paintings and video-paintings using images captured from television, film, and print that represent contemporary living, lifestyle and culture.
Each image is pixelated through a succession of digital compressions with deliberate settings causing corruption of data in transfer between different softwares and devices. Wyrebek says that there is a connection between the process and the intensification of abstraction Mondrian’s paintings. During the process, images are destroyed, protected and subsequently retrieved “It is related to my interest in imperfection and deformation”.
Wyrebek’s large-format abstract paintings examine the relationship of mark-makings between the emotional artist’s hand and rational technology. The question is also raised as to how far and how soon, humanity is losing itself in the digital; how far we are already embarked on a journey that merges mind and body with the stuff of machine.
Like Wyrebek’s previous half flash, half steel ‘live sculpture’, contrasting elements are brought into play in Data Error Paintings Apart from showing merely elements of abstraction, Wyrebek’s paintings also retain the possibility of interference. They are not simply the product of corrupting process of data, each painting is unique and singular, and each finishing layer is retouched.
Wyrebek always makes the nature of abstract art a subject of exploration in his work. “Can photography be abstract?” he asks. In his previous work, Plato’s Cave, he took photographs of abstract light in different surroundings. The photographs look abstract, but they are, nonetheless, a candid representation of reality. “It is a presentation of something that looks abstract, but it was an object, a video, a picture”
There is a certain irony in Wyrebek’s abstract paintings, when the details are gone, we are but forced to step back to see a clearer and bigger picture. As the viewers step back, the boarders of the pixels become invisible, the process of pixelation is being reversed and the seemingly calm, regular and geometrical pixels become chaotic and dynamic. By reducing the superficial meaning, and by abstracting the figurative, artists like Wyrebek’s knowingly compel viewers to search for meaning in the art work, not to merely look, but to really see.
Konrad Wyrebek lives and works in London, United Kingdom