Sam Parker
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Shawn Smith's 8-Bit Pixel Sculptures Give Us Geek Nostalgia

Posted: 18/04/2012 10:39 Updated: 18/04/2012 21:58

Eagle, by Shawn Smith


The brief lifespan of video games has been one of extraordinarily rapid advancement, particularly in terms of graphics.

If a comparison can be made to the art world then computer games have travelled from crude cave drawings, through the Renaissance, landing somewhere around Realism in a relative blink of an eye since they first appeared in the late 50s.

These wooden sculptures by artist Shawn Smith pay homage to a period in the mid 80s when computer graphics actually had more in common with a kind of Pointillism - if you were to use a square paint brush; the pixilated fires, monsters and animals gaming veterans will associate with early consoles like the ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64.

"Video games are an inspiration," Smith admits, "But so is the fact I really don't know much about the natural world."

"What I do know, I really only know through a screen. I grew up in Dallas, Texas. It is a big city without that many places to go camping. I have never seen a real campfire. I have never spent the night under the stars in a sleeping bag.

"These sculptures are about how much of the world is understood through some type of coded digital translation/re-translation rather than direct experience.



Albino Alligator, one of Smith's pixel sculptures


"What happens to an object or experience when information is lost, colours are distilled?"

40-year-old Smith holds a masters degree in sculpture from California College of the Arts in San Francisco, and has been widely exhibited around America. This year, his work will be shown as part of a large show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery.

"I think the work has engaged people in and outside of the art world. I get very interesting responses from people who work in the technology, computers, video games. I think the subject matter has a universal appeal that a lot of people can relate to" he says.

After 7 years exhibiting in his own country, Smith now plans to try expand elsewhere.

"I am about to have my first solo show of this work in Europe. I am hoping to have more of a presence in Europe, Asia, the world!"

Perhaps, somewhere along the way, he'll get a chance to camp out under the stars.

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PHOTO: Shawn Smith

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