Jonathan Chapline: bridging the physical and digital

Gliding between digital and physical worlds, Jonathan Chapline finds balance within his ability to harness both contrasting aesthetics within a painting. Utilizing his skills in 2D and 3D mediums he works out ideas of space, landscape, and time within each artwork.

His renderings of object-hood are pushed even further by digitally designing and modeling sculptures, then producing them alongside his paintings like props that mirror the flatness and compressed moments by bringing them to life. His sculptures then are displayed next to his paintings to emphasize their conceptual and physical relationship. 

Chapline’s cross referencing from depictions of depth and vastness to shallow and flat, make for some hyper seductive and illusive spaces. His use of color adds to this dreamlike atmosphere by mimicking TV and video game saturations. The physical and digital flushes of tenacious imagery fit together like a haunting weaving of reality and fiction. 

AMM: Your visual relationships to 2D and 3D space are so multi-faceted, can you explain what draws you to express yourself in both of these connected ways?

JC: I’m interested in the connection between the physical and digital and where it can merge. I think of them as two separate processes that I can jump between. I am of the generation that feels just as comfortable using a mouse as using a pencil so
I typically start with simple pen sketches and then create collages on Photoshop. Then I’ll go back and forth adding to the image until I find a composition I’m happy with. Sketching through observation and drawing with a digitally manufactured light source and perspective gives me different outcomes and allows me to embrace some interesting incidents that occur.

AMM: Do you feel that your paintings are an extension of your sculptures, or the reverse? Or neither?

JC: I look at the sculptures as an extension of each of the paintings. The sculptures are all designed on 3D programs on the computer in the same way as I create my paintings. Instead of using the 3D model to create 2D images (the paintings), I pull out the 3D objects to create the physical sculpture. I see the sculptures as props that can relate to the paintings through the shapes by reusing the objects and/or using similar vocabularies such as gradients to create faux digital depth in real life. My hope is that it becomes more apparent once they are translated physically.

AMM: Please tell us about your inspiration of indoor and outdoor landscapes and how they influence your compositions.

JC: I think about my paintings in terms of screens and the illusion of space. I see the domestic scenes as depictions of constructed sets combined with flat gradients that create conflict and confusion. Windows and framing devices enunciate that fact even further.

I think a lot about early 3D rendering like when you are moving through a space and how it would take a second to load the objects in the background. Looking past the render for that moment, the illusion would break. I like that idea in creating an image that is between the illusion and breaking it.

AMM: In regards to landscape, I really enjoy your consistent use of nature and plants in most all of your pieces- even if it’s only a small potted plant indoors. Can you tell us about this trademark of yours?

JC: Well, to me, I find it as a funny idea of trying to depict natural objects in a digital vocabulary with gradients and hard edge painting. There are endless ways to depict plants and foliage and I am always looking for new or different shapes. The plant becomes a key for me to allow the viewer to decipher other objects with lower levels of legibility. Also the idea of how we curate plants in our home has always been an interesting and slightly repugnant illusion as to how as a society we choose aesthetic choices to the detriment of the object.

AMM: Time of day adds to the mood of each of your pieces, there are often sunsets casting many shadows on the scenes you paint. Can you tell us more about your interest in time and mood for each of the artworks?

JC: The time of day and the lighting situation is predetermined in order to create an overarching feel in the work. This is usually done in a 3D program where I am literally putting lights in the scene and working out the shadows. I have a general understanding of what each object’s local color is but I usually can’t predict how the light will interact with it. By using this system and leaning on it as a tool, I can get more interesting and varied outcomes.

AMM: Clearly color is a powerful statement in your artwork, and you use it as a tool to further enhance depth and a story. Can you talk about how you use color to emphasize and heighten your artistic visions? 

JC: Early on I became very interested in how color is depicted on a backlit screen and I wanted to find a way to mimic it or at least reference it. Because of that, I used bold bright colors. Through my process, I realized that since I was already using other ways to reference digital images, I could free myself to change up and explore different color situations. I would never say that the colors I use are naturalistic but I like to think of them as more in the realm of TV set lighting effects or theater lighting.

AMM: In what ways do you seek out color combinations to enhance certain scenes?

JC: I am always thinking about how 2 colors go together and there is almost a certain amount of alchemy or magic in the interactions. I think the most important thing I’ve learned recently about color is to have a certain amount of restraint between having strong colors that I want to say something vs colors that can support them.

AMM: Do you ever feel frustrated trying to wrangle certain color combinations together in one work? 

JC: Of course! Color is a bitch! But to me, it comes down to call and response. I have to make the decisions first in order to correct them or to actually figure out what they should be.

AMM: Please tell us about your illusive representations of the figure in your paintings that include people. You often depict them from behind glasses, or turned around completely. What does this mean for you when you see them this way?

JC: It’s been a long process. I was thinking a lot about film noir and how to present these characters when I started incorporating figures into the scenes. I became more and more uncomfortable about who these people were and stripped it away to more spaces and thinking about what kind of character would exist in the space. I found out I could talk more about the characters through the objects they own and interact with. By working more with the objects I feel like I could personify them and that’s when I started depicting these figural sculptures that rest on the edge between character and sculpture.

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Interview by Megan St.Clair for ArtMaze Mag.

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