I first posted about Alex McLeod's digital dreamlands over at Posterous to plug his show at Switch Contemporary, which I unfortunately didn’t manage to see at the time. Luckily for me, McLeod’s work appears again this summer at Angell Gallery (with paintings by Michael De Feo; read my interview with De Feo here) until August 29th and lots of people are noticing. I love McLeod’s 3D renderings for several reasons: they are playful and imaginative, rendered with intense attention to detail and light, and they evoke a certain magic that I haven’t before seen in any type of digital work. Below, McLeod discusses the relationships between people and space in his work, and what comes next for this prolific artist.
There are quite a few things that stood out to me in the pieces on exhibition at Angell Gallery. First of all, your use of buildings/dwellings (or objects that resemble either). Can you talk about the significance these sorts of spaces have in your work? (By the way, I thought the use of buildings/dwellings in your work read really well with De Feo’s portraits on maps).
Thanks, I had only seen De Feo’s work online and wasn’t even aware that they were all painted on maps, very cool relation! I use buildings to signify human interaction/impact without having to include people. I try to build the habitats with a certain amount of anonymity so that they don’t necessarily refer to anything specific. Although the landscapes are deserted they appear as though they could have been habitable.
I was also very drawn to how accurately you render real-life materials. There’s wood, acrylic (or plastic, or candy), shells, water. These materials co-exist in your environments with imagined materials as well. I notice as well that some of the imagined elements — namely, the bubble-like clouds — are suspended with string within your images. What is the relationship between reality and fiction in your work, and how do you balance the two? The clouds, for example, obviously don’t need to be hanging from strings, since you are fully designing the scene, and yet they do, as if it was a physical maquette.
It’s important for me to make sure that the objects look like they could exist in real life, but exist only as a representation (or maquette) of transforming matter. By doing this I can remove site specific associations by making environments that are completely fictional. That, and I really like train sets and models, so it ends up coming from a mix of aesthetic and conceptual reasons.
Some of your work reminds me of old video games — and, sometimes, glitches in old video games. They also evoke a number of random things, like movies, candy, and children’s books. It’s an odd mixture of future and nostalgia. What sorts of visual experiences inform your work?
Any of those, sometimes music videos and art installations too. Point-and-click adventure games made a huge impact on me because they had the luxury to pre-render scenes, which resulted in really great graphics that were incomparable in any other genre. Granted they were probably the coldest type of game, but they seemed the most authentic to me.
Can you say anything specifically about the works that were selected to be in this exhibition? I found them to be a lot darker than some of your other work, both in colour and composition. They had a more sombre tone amongst them than I was expecting, considering the work I had seen on your website.
They are the newest work, except City Flicker Stars, which was one of the first compositions I started and only recently finished for this show. I think they are only half darker, maybe because I’ve been watching a lot of Hitchcock films. I don’t really have a good answer for this one, I apologize.
And finally, a question you don’t have to answer, but I’m curious: How close are you to constructing these scenes in a giant warehouse so that people can walk through them and experience them physically?
Maybe one day. I have been in talks with IMM Living about designing ceramic gifts through them, not really walk-through-able but definitely physical! I would really prefer to take an industrial design approach to making physical work and ensure it has another function other than being an art object.
What’s next for Alex? Apparently, lots of stuff. The group show, Peep Show at Lonsdale Gallery features work by McLeod, until September 27th, and his work will also be a part of their anniversary exhibition in November. South of the border, he will be exhibiting in a show upcoming at Concertina Gallery in Chicago. The summer group show at Angell is up until August 29th. Keep an eye on alxclub.com — McLeod updates frequently.