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Looking For U: In Conversation with Marc Gumpinger

Learn more about the artists in our Summer Group Show...

Having a background in graphics programming but pursuing painting throughout his life, Marc Gumpinger's interest lies in the interesection between digital simulation and handmaking processes.

In a world where the realms of cyberspace and the boundaries of the physical world are increasingly blurred, Gumpinger's landscapes investigate our modes of perception and our comprehension of visual reality in our contemporary environment, and perhaps even open up a new avenue for painting to resist obseletion in our modern world.

Unit London: How did your relationship with technology and art blossom and when did they become intertwined?

Marc Gumpinger: They have always been an integral part of my background. I got my first computer at the age of 9, in the gold old days of the C64,  there was no such thing as a graphics editor or anything like this, so I had to start programming from the very beginning to see something. My entire career in was in software development, and I wrote software for 25 years professionally. It started in the early 1990s - from creating the graphics for computer games and 3D visualizations to large scale image workflow systems - and I painted all of the time - a kind of a visual approach was totally always natural to me. Whenever I wrote algorithms,  it is exactly the same thing that happens in my brain or within me that happens when I paint.  The code looks exactly the same to me as my paintings.

UL:  What do you expect the viewer to see immediately? Does it no matter whether they know about the algorithmic origins of your work?

MG: I’ve always thought that my paintings have to work without a single word - it’s like an onion, you can peel off, layer by layer, and get deeper, and at the end of this process or during this process, you start to question what it actually is that you see. You start with something very simple of an emotion of ‘I like it’ or ‘it’s a mountain’ and you end up with maybe still liking it, but maybe knowing nothing about what you see. 

UL: Is lostness, or a feeling of not knowing exactly what you are looking at the perfect reaction to your works?

MG: Absolutely - we live in times where truth and reality become so diffused, that with all this ‘fake news’ and the convergence and digital and analogue worlds, and digital revolutions - it all of a sudden becomes a huge question: 'what is real?' There are so many algorithms that guide our lives all day, but we cannot see them - they are totally transparent but yet they have a huge impact on us, and that is something that I try to visualise - to me a good painting is contemporary by the sense that it could only have been painted now, and this is a core question I think that a lot of people are influenced by: where are we? Where are we going? What is reality? What is truth? What is algorithm? Are we controlled by computers? Are we in The Matrix? These are very contemporary questions. 

"Materially, this painting could have been painted exactly like this 500 years ago, but in reality it could not have. Nothing about the aesthetics, nothing even similar to this software existed even 5 years ago."

UL: You have stated that you felt that a lot of things in contemporary art hadn’t been done yet. Could you elaborate on that, and is there anything, as an industry, that you feel is lagging behind in terms of perspective?

MG: We are so influenced by technology these days but most of these traditional artists do not have a background in technology, they can’t turn on a computer, they can’t launch an application, and they’re just not using technology they would use a brush. Because of my background, I was using both at the same time, and both on the same level, and I felt there were so many things about aesthetics especially out of technology that nobody has ever touched because there is just no background on this. I hardly know any university that teaches that, and it is not something they put a focus on, and because we’re living in such technologically influenced world, this just the very beginning of a new type of aesthetics based on the impact of technology and using it as a tool, not as a room you enter then leave quickly after.

UL: The artists in Looking For U have responded in different ways to identity and communication in the digital age. Do you felt like our overwhelmingly intertwined relationship to technology is a source of greatness and innovation or of darkness? 

MG: There’s always been a very close connection between technology and painting, because recently the status of an artist became something where you as a person use it to help evolve and express yourself, and until then it’s only been a job. If you look at the big painters, they had huge factories that created paintings with subtle and innovative technologies because they had no money or time to waste. My relationship to technology is that it is a tool - I use it however and whenever I can to create new aesthetics and use it like a brush. I am very open to technology but I am not glorifying it. I think being an artist is to be open, and I cannot understand the resistance to technology as it is a tool, like so many other tools out there. It can still be traditional, old-world, but it is also technology, combining the two, using whatever is there. 

UL: What would you say are your future plans, and do you have any particular interesting projects or ideas?

MG: My primary problem is that there is so much in front of me that have different aesthetics and I just have to paint them and create them. I really love experimenting with technologies, like LED screens or ‘digital light’ in general is something that I’m playing g a lot with and prepared a number of things that are almost ready to be shown. The second area in addition to oil painting is light, be that LED screens or light mapping, and projection mapping to merge art, light, and architecture into something that is not just a plain flat surface as a painting, but turns into something more immersive, which, by background, is what I am always working on. I’m just as well a sculptor as I am a painter because a lot of effort goes into creating those virtual 3D models and algorithms that I then paint, so the notion of doing something immersive that you can walk into and be entirely part of, architecture and light in this case, is an area I have done a number of things in and is just around the corner to be shown.

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