Some of you may have noticed that there is a new exhibition opened in the East Quad Gallery. The exhibition is called Genesis, and features the paintings by the artist Dan Hernandez. I went to the exhibition opening two weeks ago, but did not have enough time to scrutinize the works and think about the message the artist tries to convey. Today, the artist visited my drawing class and gave us a lecture. He talked about video games, classical and religious paintings, and how these two seemingly unrelated elements inspired him to create his current artworks.
His paintings, according to the artist, owe a great deal to the video games in the 1980s and the 1990s. Passionate about both the history of art and video games, he observes many connections and shared visual languages between the two. For example, early video games depict the space in a flat manner, which echoes the lack of pictorial space in many ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Nonetheless, there are hints about the spatial relationshipâ€”fighting games often have a small stage at the very bottom of the screen and simple backdrop, a trait that is also found in early Pompeiian friezes. Just like Egyptian manuscripts, video games usually simplify the figures or buildings as straightforward symbols. The picture frames of both are often divided into multiple tiers to render different scenarios/stages. Additionally, the scrolling narrative that is observed in Trajanâ€™s column and many medieval Asian handscrolls, is also found in video games like Super Mario Brothers. Remember the Sistine Chapel ceilingâ€”how each section depicts a scene from a larger scenario. The same happens in video games: the space sometimes breaks into different sections, and one needs to reach a certain level to enter certain spaces, but once you unlock the space, it becomes a part of the larger narrative.
The artist incorporates these parallels between the masterworks in the art history and the video games into his own works. He draws his inspiration from the religious scene of annunciation, borrows the renowned composition and represents the virgin and the angel as the characters in the video game, Street Fighter.Â He also explores the resemblance between the faÃ§ade of Gothic cathedrals and the spaceship in Galaga, and creates his Flying Cathedrals series. He finds the halos of the saints in the choir similar to the repetition of identical coins in the Super Mario Brothers, and visualizes this idea in his paintings as well.
The lecture was really interesting and inspiring. So, definitely stop by the gallery to check out this exhibition sometime.Â For more works by Dan Hernandez, please visitÂ http://www.danhernandez.org/Art/Home.html