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RN143412 Robot Paintings, Birth of Venus, after Botticelli, after Warhol
Painting time: 10:04:03
Stroke count: 1,902
23 September - 8 October 2021
Acrylic on wooden board
12 parts, each 21 × 21 in | 53 × 53 cm
“Often at art fairs there’s always one work you see which stays with you long after you’ve left the tent for the pub. Such is the case with this painting Birth of Venus, after Botticelli, after Warhol. This is such a sagacious, foxy work of art. Twelve identical panels (other than their palette) each depict the head of venus, purloined from Warhol’s own ‘theft’ in 1984 of Botticelli’s image from his The Birth of Venus (c.1495).
“Now, appropriation in art isn't new, as this lineage of larceny proves. What interests me here is that each individual panel has been executed in exactly the same way with exactly the same number of strokes. Not by the artists’ own hands, but by a robot in a bewildering act of mechanical mimesis and electronic embezzlement. If you look closely at each canvas you will find they all share the same smears, smudges and blobs of paint. The same accidents. All executed with the same pressure and motion by a robot. There’s this tiny moment in the lower right corner of each panel where the paint has collected into a teardrop of medium. Each driblet being in exactly the same size and weight in exactly the same place on each panel. It’s almost unnerving. “What’s being appropriated here is not just an image, nor just the mechanics of its execution, but what Walter Benjamin called the aura of art in his 1935 text, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ Benjamin said it was impossible to reproduce art’s aura - its unique presence in time and space - mechanically. Well, Walt mate, Rob and Nick just proved you wrong. Their robotic performance in paint emanates the most teasing aura, problematising the sanctity and sanctuary of the status of the artist, their object, its subject an the process which conjure both. The longer you look the further you go from Botticelli’s Venus and the close you come to an epiphany of pure chroma. Colour sings louder than Image or subject. It becomes the subject, engendering an Albers-like interrogation of colour and thus, itself.
“A magical cunning bastard of a painting. O love.”
17 October 2021