Rob and Nick Carter have created a paradox with Sunflowers, a three-dimensional bronze representation of Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1881), arguably one of the most famous still lifes ever painted. Before we come to the technical aspect of the sculpture, which was created in collaboration with MPC, an international visual experience and effects studio, using cutting-edge 3D modeling and printing processes, let’s stick with the object itself. The husband/wife duo’s work is highly faithful to the painting, down to finding a way to represent Van Gogh’s inimitable brushwork. At the same time, it is a real object based on a two-dimensional rendering by an artist who is famous for choosing expression over realism. The Carter’s Sunflowers are highly modeled (it is impossible to look at the grayscale 3D renderings of the sculptures and not think of clay), as opposed to Van Gogh’s painting, which, despite the impasto, is more about color and texture than volumetric form. What’s more, the “realistic” rendering of the sculpture is more in line with the work that could be found in the salons of Van Gogh’s day, which “refused” his work and that of his revolutionary peers.
Which brings us to how The Carter’s Sunflowers were made. The process began with digital 3D modeling. To start, the team at MPC created what’s called a Base Mesh, this is a 3D model with little detail, but is the first step in modelling the painting’s volume. Building on this mesh, it took thousands of hours of botanical study to flesh out the sunflowers and some creative license to sculpt what was “hidden”. Actual strokes from the original painting were recreated in 3D using ZBrush, a digital sculpting and painting program.
The 3D printing process was done using a variety of methods and printers. For testing, MPC used a Z Corp 510 printer, the test print highlighted where further adjustments were needed. The final drawing was then printed in a resin material using the high-end Projet 3500 printer, which prints to a tolerance of 16 Microns. The final sculpture was cast in silicon bronze in an edition of 12 with 5 artist proofs.
Sunflowers was just one of the reworked masterworks on view in Rob and Nick Carter: Transforming at Fine Art Society, London (October 4 – November 2, 2013). The show presents a variety of new media works that were also made in collaboration with MPC and that reengaged with art of the past- harnessing a variety of cutting edge technologies to create sustained engagement with old and modern masters.
Rob and Nick Carter are a British husband and wife duo based in London who have been collaborating for over fifteen years. Their work is centered on the possibilities of light, color and form and has taken many mediums including camera-less photography, painting, installation, neon, sculpture and time based media. In exploring various mediums they continually push the boundaries between painting, sculpture, installation, neon, digital imagery and photography – often creating works which cannot be defined in one sense alone.