In melding the worlds of physical and digital art, Belgian artist VEXX asks the question —Do these two realities really need to exist in mutual estrangement? With the rise of the NFT set against an undiminished love for the physical thing to hold and to hang, perhaps another question worth asking is —What value do we place in the evolution of artistic process itself?
Blending Realities is a new art collection by Belgium-based artist VEXX. Sold Out, I might add, and perhaps unsurprisingly, as VEXX is an artist full of excitement and enthusiasm, with abundant energy in his work, and his art is loved by his fans for, among other things, its playfulness and eye-popping use of colour.
It’s been our pleasure to work with VEXX for over a year, producing a string of limited art editions, here in the White Duck Editions studio. It’s one of those artist/printer relationships that is not only exciting, because of that energy I mentioned in the opening paragraph, but also progressive, as VEXX is an artist always asking “what new thing can be done?”, both of himself and us.
When we started working with Vexx, his objective was simply to make prints of his art. His style is undeniably colourful and bold, almost primary in its appeal, yet the work is full of highly skilled nuance, his hand unmistakably present in the subtle blending of one extraordinary colour palette after another. The giclée medium was a perfect solution for capturing the finesse of his work, and yet VEXX sought a way of adding tactility and dimension to the prints. We achieved this by embellishing the giclées with screen printed metallic inks, covering selected areas of the artwork. This gave the prints a new element of interest, as if small windows into another world had been added to the experience of the work. It was a simple addition that really lifted those early prints and a blending of print mediums that created something new and unique.
Following on from this, VEXX experimented with special-effect papers, searching for other avenues to give his prints depth and movement. One could argue the objective was to get the artworks off the flat paper — out of the flat screen — and to give them an essence of existence in more than two dimensions. Holographic paper was selected — a paper that has a surface that appears animated, as it pans from side to side. (Those familiar with holographic paper, will know how it has a rippling effect that eddies with the movement of white light across its surface, and how the spectrum of colours hidden within are gloriously revealed as the light diffracts upon the minutely indented texture of that surface). The utilisation of this effect was subtly applied, with the majority of the paper being masked by ink, as a seven colour screenprint was constructed upon it, using a combination of matte and gloss finishes, as well as supersaturated overlapping colour.
The result was a heavy screenprint, physical in its nature, visually dense in its layering, and again with these small but pronounced windows into another world. Though this time around, the windows were more animated and purposefully divergent from one’s expectation of the medium.
Other print releases followed, each further exploring the possibilities of how to blend and bend print mediums; but it was the blowing up, for all to see, of the NFT world, that provided new territory for this artist to explore. NFT’s were suddenly the newest and most demanding topic for every person to form a binary opinion about, and those opinions were diametrically split — but of course, what artists tend to do, while the lay-critics bicker, is get on and make their art, relishing the thrill of the new landscape that has opened up before them, it’s features novel and unusual.
VEXX’s most recent collection is a perfect example of his embracing what’s new. By the artist’s own estimation, he spent nearly a year exploring the space that NFT’s had created, and started to ask himself what the merging of the physical and digital art worlds would look like. To VEXX’s eyes, the digital world is as much a reality as the physical, and the art on either side as valid. Blending Realities presented his first iteration of this new coalescence, with a series of paired physical and digital works, each complimenting one another, their narrowing lines of separation blurred.
Released on the Nifty Gateway platform, Blending Realities had as it’s figurehead VEXX’s METADRAGON, the artist’s genesis 1/1 NFT, whose physical incarnation was a hand-painted, wood sculpture of impressive craftsmanship and execution. Inlaid were three infinite object screens, cut out windows to some place else, each showing a unique animation that breathed an uncanny life into the artwork.
Nifty Gateway themselves were openly appraising of the new work, saying “We view METADRAGON as one of the most ambitious and beautiful physicals ever paired to an NFT.”
To sit alongside other digital artworks in the collection — Waves, Power and Ultralight Beam — we produced highly saturated giclée editions on 340gsm Hahnemühle Metallic Photo Rag paper. This paper gave the prints a great sense of movement with it’s outstanding shimmery finish, and to match the original format of the artworks, the prints were circular trimmed, giving a hand-in-hand, truly one-of-a-kind, digital and physical pairing.
With some artists, what one expects over time is to see a refinement of their style within previously acknowledged parameters. VEXX is of a different variety, existing among a vanguard of young artists who are finding their way online, in direct contact with their fans and collectors. As such, his style is in a different flux of evolution, moving freely with the emergence of new opportunities to create and new tools with which to make. He seems to balance this with a genuine sense of fun in his work, as well as a sincere professionalism and dedication when it comes to the actually-not-easy job of making art.
Through the lens of this particular evolution in art, it is fascinating to consider the concept of NFT ownership. Taken alone, divorced from a reality where the art world has a historic propensity to seek out new technologies with which to express itself, it may appear facile and spurious. Yet perhaps for the first time, at least en masse, artists are in a position where they can dress their creative process as a real thing, and sell to their fans the making, not merely the thing they make.
After all, it’s the making the matters. Right?