Still, moving and materialized, 2015
Brand constructs synthetic reflections of the tangible world. His detailed interpretations of reality balance between a plausible rendering of this reality and the clinical appearance of a digital facade. In his animations he offers a suggestion of life while letting the impersonal, untouchable consequences of a digital recreation shine through.
Although he started out as a painter Brand has been working solely in the digital domain for
several years now. Tenaciously he explores the rapidly expanding technical and plastic
capabilities of 3D-modelling software. These new techniques enable him to create works that
don't have to rely on a brush on canvas, a stroke of the pen or the chisel on stone, but which can
be realized in the mostly unmapped field of digital construction.
Natural themes and landscapes have been a constant in his work. Ranging from romantic evening scenes in the forest to absurdist and even humorous sequences in which unnatural objects undergo transformations within the logic of virtual intangibility. His animations are detached from a classical narrative and display an almost meditative repeated motion. These qualities invite the spectator to keep on looking.
The emphasis in his work from the past decade has lied on prints and animations. In recent
years Brand has been searching for ways to materialize his digital shapes. Objects which used to
have a strictly digital 'existence' in the eerie atmosphere of 3D-modelling are now made into
tangible objects made of brightly coloured steel or plastics. These highly reflective, shiny abstractions somehow maintain their virtual origins. They act as test cases for an implied materiality of an essentially intangible technique.
Wolf Lieser from Berlin’s Digital Art Museum [DAM] interviews Eelco Brand for Eyemazing
My first encounter with Eelco Brand was at an art fair where I saw one of his animations. In this black-and-white film, a dog is waiting beneath a street lamp at night. Trees can be seen in the background that are illuminated by the lamp so as to suggest the edge of a forest. The dog is moving his head back and forth from left to right. Attracted by its light, insects are flying around the street lamp. This scene has little detail and not much by way of action. Eventually I realised that this was all there was: nothing whatsoever would happen. Whatever I thought could or should happen, didn’t. Yet this was also what interested me in Eelco Brand’s work: he does just as much as is needed to get the message across. Moreover, this message is not a lengthy narrative; it is simply an imaginative stimulus so that you come up with the story yourself.
- What was your first experience of computer-generated art?
I was using Amiga computers to make simple animations in the early 1990s. Through this, I discovered the computer’s potential as a visualisation tool. At that time, computers were also becoming rapidly cheaper and more powerful, and I used them for years to construct images for my paintings. Although I never romanticised the process of paint on canvas, I also felt that 3-D images were simply too cold, too plastic and too flat to be used for a final image. By using paint and brushes, I regarded myself as being effectively an organic printer.
- What made you decide to change from painting to working with a computer?
Painting largely consists of adding and removing elements. You work on an image that evolves through its own logic. For me, constructing a 3-D image is the same as painting. But the fascinating thing about working with 3-D constructions is that you can enter the virtual space behind the two-dimensional surface and, more importantly, you also have the possibility of animating a scene. This means that suddenly you can go beyond the static medium of painting, and can add both movement and sound. This has created completely new ways of constructing and presenting works. The scenes I construct as prints or animations are virtual and hand-made. I don't use photographic materials or scanned images.
- Has this changed the topics you deal with?
Not really. I continue to make the same kind of works; all that has changed is that I use a mouse and a screen instead of brushes and canvas.
- Many of your works deal with nature; is there any specific reason for this?
Working with nature is challenging because it is virtually impossible to even begin to approximate its infinite sophistication. Yet nature and landscapes also involve a universal language and experience. Curiously, landscape as we see it doesn't actually exist. In reality it’s simply a collection of randomly located trees, hills and rocks, which we mentally translate into a landscape. Reality is reconstructed in the human brain, and this reflection has a similar immaterial quality as the jumping electrons that create a computer-generated image.
- Up till now, you’ve been using 3-D programs to create your works. Are you planning to graduate to other advanced tools such as software interactivity?
At a certain point, I felt that it would be wise to limit myself to mainly 3-D techniques so as to avoid the situation where you end up knowing a little bit about dozens of programs. Working with 3-D can be time consuming, the tools are complex and getting results that go much beyond the program’s predefined options involves undertaking a great many steps. I use this software to construct the images that I would otherwise paint. I have never believed in parading the newest technical wizardry because nothing dates so quickly as the latest technique.