Shining A Light On The Intersection Between Artifice And Reality

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For photographer and graphic designer, Paul Hollingworth, the inspiration for projects all stem from one place; his natural curiosity. The highly experimental works – such as Artificial Anatomy 2, a combination of design, photography and film – are challenging for the viewer, but they are intended to be so. For Paul, art is a “way for [him] to force people to question their sense of reality.”

As in the original series, Artificial Anatomy, Paul has taken the broad concepts of surface, texture and volume as the basis for this project, and used human anatomy as the lens through which to explore the idea of what is real and what is artificial.

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The overall feel of this second series feels more futuristic and, in a sense darker. The dichotomous nature of the skull, “both frightening and familiar”, makes it the perfect sounding board for these key questions.

After watching the short film and seeing the stills you may assume that the imagery was computer generated however, the majority of the work are real moments captured on camera. As Paul explains, “each image is an exposure of around 15-20 seconds that records the path of the electroluminescent wire as it’s maneuvered around a highly reflective skull and head.”

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It feels hard to believe that the work is digitally manipulated and this trickery poses questions about the relationship between light and structure for the viewer – and this was exactly Paul’s aim. He wanted to challenge perceptions of reality – and he’s achieved it.

We spoke to him to learn more about the inspiration behind the project and how it came to be realised.

The Plus: What was the initial inspiration for the exploration of surface, texture and volume?
Paul Hollingworth:
I love to challenge what people perceive to be real and what they think is artificial within an image. This fascination with surreal artworks is what inspired me to begin experimenting with imagery such as this in the first place. Exploring surface, texture and volume is one way for me force people to question their sense of reality.

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TP: Why did you choose the human skull as the basis for this?
The human skull really fascinates me. It is something that is both frightening and familiar to us. The challenge for me was to use it in ways that have not been done before. Up to now I’ve covered it in paint and reflected lights across its surface… who knows what’s next.

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TP: What techniques did you use in this part of the project?
The first thing to say about this project is that these aren’t computer-generated images. Each image is an exposure of around 15-20 seconds that records the path of the electroluminescent wire as it’s maneuvered around a highly reflective skull and head. As the speed and frequency of the flashing wire is altered, so too does the definition and intricate detail of each image. Aside from the usual colour and contrast adjustments what you see is very much what was captured in camera, which amazed me most of all. Where Photoshop did come into play was when I needed to merge images of both the skull and head together. Corresponding shots were captured independently and then spliced together in post.

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TP: The music forms an integral part of the short film, how and why did you settle on that particular track?
I wanted something that reflected the abstract, digital and glitchy nature of the imagery that was captured. ‘Whomi’ by Tipper is an amazing track that seemed to fit that bill exactly.

TP: What has undertaking this project revealed to you about human anatomy?
Biologically not very much. It did give me a headache from time to time though.

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TP: First you used paint, then light, to explore surface, texture and volume, are there any other materials you intend to use, maybe for third part to the project?
I do have plans to explore this theme further still. The next stage of artificial anatomy will push the head and skull into complete abstraction. Another similar project is centred on animal skulls rather than human.

TP: What other applications do these techniques have beyond art?
In all honesty I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps the technique could be used to map and record an undulating surface or shape? It could also be used to capture a visual record of change or growth of something over a period of time, like the rings of a tree, but in a digital form.

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