We tend to think of renderings as tools that help us depict realness: We wait with dogged patience for hours (or days) as our computers grind through a single image, tweaking textures and lighting until the hard drive spits out a passable representation of life.
Toronto artist Alex McLeod is interested in doing just the opposite. He uses rendering software to depict photoreal dreamscapes, rich with strange detail and eye-popping color.
McLeod’s images are tough to generalize. He works almost exclusively in landscape format, composing stylized versions of the natural world using Cinema 4D, Sculptmaster, and an iPad app called Forge. Many of his images reference 19th century Romanticist landscape painting, but in a visual language native to video games and graphic novels. In a series he showed at Pulse NY last year, Super Nintendo clouds hang over stylized mountains, crystals, farmlands, and ambiguously urban scenes.
But the strangeness of McLeod’s work has less to do with the scenography than the rendering style. The hyperreal images force us to “question if we are we looking at something in real space or a flat plane,” McLeod told me. We accept digital renderings as reality every day–that ad on the subway or that weird medication commercial–and McLeod exploits our collective suspension of disbelief.
More recently, McLeod says he became interested in how patterns affect form. A new series, on view this month at Montreal’s Three Points Gallery, blankets entire landscapes in a single pattern. “The work was inspired by those ‘Magic Eye‘ books where you had to cross your eyes to see an image (one which was created in a 3-D program),” says McLeod. “It’s self-referential.”