Give me some hair gel and I will create a masterpiece!
Do you remember the Rorschach blot test? It is one of the most famous psychological projective tests in the world. Psychologists use the Rorschach to examine the personality characteristics and emotional functioning of the respondent. What do your interpretations of these blots reveal about you?
The artist I want to tell you about today, his works made me think of a Rorschach Blots Test in a modern digital and psychedelic version.
UK-based artist, David Pinegar, despite his professional background as a sports photographer, decided to totally change genres and start thinking like an abstract, decidedly surrealist, creative, and eccentric artist, creating his works all digitally in a precise and detailed manner.
Many of his works are very similar to each other almost to the point of being the same and made with random elements, but if you pay close attention and look at them minutely, you will notice the precise and detailed differences. Full of engaging, bright, and bold colors. David's works are very impactful and it is almost impossible not to be mesmerized by them. One gets lost in the countless figures and possible interpretations one can give to what one is seeing. We also talked about this a few weeks ago in a previous article, remember "Do you see what I see?" where we talked about just how sometimes what we understand as the subject of a work of art can be manipulated by the artist to make us "see something" or how it can instead be our response, often unconscious, to visual stimuli that influence what we actually see.
Those who have seen some of his works have also instinctively compared him to Escher, in color version, or to the Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel, but David Pinegar has a technique all his own, which one might say he created.
In fact, his trademark has become Gelism, which he himself created as a never-before-seen photographic technique. The term 'Gelism' comes from the fact that David uses hair gel for his work. Yes, you read that right!
In an interview David says he is a simple "62-year-old country boy", coming from a small village in the county of Derbyshire. Given his origins, he went to college to learn how to run a farm, a job he did for a while.
At that time, he had a friend with a camera. He tried it out and from that moment on he knew he wanted to have one. So he went to a camera shop, bought a second-hand one ,and became so obsessed with it that he didn't want to do anything else. He even built his own darkroom to develop the photos. After 6 years where he learned the art of photography as a self-taught photographer, he started working for a newspaper mainly taking sports photos for big events, although he was not too interested in the subject. A job he did for 30 years that allowed him to travel the world and meet many people.
The frustration, however, of seeing and taking the same old photographs and wanting to see something new, made him make that mental click and switch to abstract photography.
David is a man who believes a lot in fate and destiny and thinks that everything happens for a reason. During his career as a sports photographer, at one point he switched to a digital camera, which was certainly easier to take pictures with than the analog ones of the past, and for him, this was neither exciting nor stimulating. So one day, he started walking around his house and taking pictures of everything just to see something different in the lens. As fate would have it, he had to go to the pharmacy that day to buy some medicine. On the shelf, he saw some hair gel and there was a click in his head. Why not try it?! He bought it and hasn't stopped since. He does not use it, and in the interview, he amuses himself by saying that despite his age, he enjoys thick grey hair, but he has boxes of it.
To create his images, which are always large, he uses a Canon medium format camera, i.e. a camera with a larger sensor than an mm 35 (mm 24x36) or full-frame DSLR camera. For him, the camera, the lenses, the printer, and all the equipment must be the best in order to create images with the absolute highest photographic quality and very large size without losing definition. He can then work by combining up to 16 different images like a collage.
Hair gel is not the only tool he uses to create his works. He also uses a lightbox, where he inserts all kinds of objects, different in size, material, and texture. It can be a Christmas decoration, or a woman's shoe taken from a second-hand shop, a soft toy, or anything else. A second tool is transparent cling film, the kind we all use to wrap and preserve food. Holding it taut over a frame, he spreads his magic potion, hair gel, on it and that will act as a sort of filter.
David then plays his favorite music on Spotify and begins to create.
He does not, however, reveal exactly how he manages to create his works, saying that he does not ask where the images come from, he does not even know, they just appear. In any case, he specifies that it is not just that, it is not just taking random objects and photographing them. There is much, much more.
It's all in how the light hits the objects, creating a vortex in the gel and the camera captures the effect, but he explains that without a good quality raw file, he wouldn't be able to work with it, despite trying to use very little post-production software such as photoshop.
The result is incredible and always different depending on the light, the gel used, and the objects positioned. Each work is unique and inimitable, if not irreproducible in an identical way.
He enjoys it, it makes him feel alive, and that's what counts for David, he can't ignore it.
"It is the result of the realisation that an emotional calling can no longer be ignored" - David Pinegar
IG page: @davidpinegar