ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present RAFAEL OCHOA: THE PLASTIC ARTS, a solo exhibition of new digital paintings by this highly regarded young artist. The show runs in the east gallery from May 1 to May 30, 2015, with an opening reception on Thursday, April 30, 6:00 to 9:00 PM.
The phrase “plastic arts”, much in use in the 19th century, traditionally referred to visual arts in which forms are rendered in or as if in three dimensions (sculpture, painting, drawing, etc.) In Rafael Ochoa’s reclamation of this historical term, “plastic” refers to both the simulation of solid objects common to representational painting, and to the artificial nature of painting with digital media. “I like to think of my practice as digital image-making, with a visual language heavily influenced by traditional European painting,” says Ochoa.
The attraction of historical art, for Ochoa, is the quality of design that artists of the past absorbed and transmitted over many centuries. Pondering why a painting by Vermeer of a woman reading a letter is more resonant than a casual snapshot of the same subject, Ochoa concludes that it is the formal elements — composition and colour — that are the core strength of Old Master painting, and it is these qualities he seeks to emulate.
In this body of work, Ochoa mines the fertile territory of traditional notions of beauty. Fair women in languid poses, accompanied by exotic birds, evoke the decadence of the Rococo era of pre-revolutionary France, when artists such as Watteau and Fragonard painted sumptuously garbed aristocrats at leisure. Platters of rich food and vases overflowing with blossoms hark back to the European still-life tradition, in which painters immortalized the material accouterments of the good life. Yet Ochoa’s works are not throwbacks — they exude a slightly cartoonish air, a sensibility not unlike that of painter John Currin, who likewise balances traditional references with postmodern awareness.
Beyond their captivating appearances, Ochoa’s images delight through the unorthodoxy of his process, which produces results decidely unlike most digital art. Rather than allowing what software plug-ins and filters can do to provide the direction, Ochoa searches for the tools that will create the brushstrokes he is after. Seeds of inspiration may come from internet-sourced images ranging from historical art to fashion photography, but every element in Ochoa’s digital paintings are slowly built from scratch and assembled using a complex process that Ochoa has spent years developing. Like the Old Master painters who are his spiritual mentors, Ochoa doesn’t take shortcuts, and his sumptuous 21st century tableaux bare witness to his labours.
Rafael Ochoa holds a BFA in Photography from OCADU and an MFA in Visual Arts from York University. Ochoa was a featured artist in both Simulators exhibitions at Angell Gallery, and had a solo exhibition there last year. BlogTo named Ochoa one of Top 5 Toronto Artist To Watch in 2014, and was a featured artist in The Toronto Star’s Arts an Entertainment section.