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Chris Labrooy: The future is not the same as it was before
23 July, 2019
Text: Nino Chimakadze
When travelling by car, you probably have at least one utopian, futuristic idea of the endless possibilities of your transport. For example, have you ever thought about how it changes shape and reaches incredible locations thanks to its flexibility; how it’ll fly over another traffic jam or a mountain’s peak; or at least how you fold it up in the room after the trip. These seemingly infantile fantasies sometimes have such exciting feelings that they may even have a therapeutic effect. Especially today, in the era of holograms, 3D and VR, where almost everything can be visualized and the borderline between reality and hyperreality is getting increasingly blurred.
Chris Labrooy, a digital artist from Scotland, plays with exactly the same feelings in his works and uses our most unusual fantasies to flesh out computer graphics and 3D technology. Visual manipulation of everyday objects transforms them into new sculptural and typographic forms and offers a completely new interpretation of the realities and symbols we are familiar with.
Labrooy's distinctive areas of interest are cars, with numerous series of works having been created. His cars turned into sculptures and installations have strange, deformed shapes, and we find them in a place and environment where we least expect them. For example, a green porsche hanging on the wall, pink cars hanging in a net on a palm tree, cars parked in the pool, and so on. In one of his earlier series, "Auto Aerobics" the shapes and structures are completely changed, and the cars are creating such shapes that you might think this is really aerobics.
Chris Labrooy has been interested in cars since his childhood. After studying the toys thoroughly, he switched to watching car races and video games. With this inspiration he also began to paint cars, which soon became his biggest passion. Eventually, that led him to pursuing a career in design and art. After school, Chris went on to study furniture and product design at the Royal College of Art in London. Here he studied the basics of 3D technology and computer graphics (CGI). At first, he considered pursuing a career in interior design. However, in the process of searching for himself, he realized that the image is as important as a real thing. “Most people have access to expensive, rare products only through the image they see on the Internet, in books and magazines. That's what made me really active in working with images using digital technology." And at that time CGI already had the full potential to become an independent creative medium. Therefore, he did not think as much anymore. In this case, it would take far less money to create a product, and it would not have to compromise, which would be unavoidable when creating a real, expensive product, based on teamwork and sponsorship.
One of the sources of inspiration for the artist is architecture. Especially like the works of Tadoo Ando and Zaha Hadid, which is also felt in some of his works: Ando's Japanese minimalism is combined with Hadid's futurism and dynamics in an interesting manner and is transformed into a completely new concept through 3D art.
Labrooy's 2014 Auto Elasticity Series brought him special fame. The inspiration came from California’s endless highways and car trips. This is a manipulation on the multicoloured strangely shaped pickups that are located in abandoned uninhabited places and intersect in an unusual, but symmetrical manner.
Alongside with the cars, other consumer goods were also in his sight. Food products, kitchen appliances and interior accessories, sports shoes, bags - all of which were also interesting materials for the experiment. Labrooy often decorates such items with typographic symbols, which is another characteristic of his style.
Soon he received offers from a number of well-known brands, including such giants as Apple, Porsche, Nike, McDonald's, Jaguar, Citroen, Louis Vuitton, which became a significant source of financial income alongside with individual projects.
Chris Labrooy is a classic example of a contemporary digital artist whose success and popularity have grown not only due to exhibitions in galleries and participation in various events, but also through social media, especially Instagram and Behance. The Internet has radically changed our thinking, desires, and culture of consumption, which of course has also influenced the creative field. The product created by artists today might have seemed unbelievable only 20-25 years ago, and its value could not be overstated. Labrooy sees both opportunities and challenges in this transformation:
“There is a danger that social media, and especially Instagram, is capturing our minds in such a way that the work is created based on what people will like and not on what they really want. It's important to me to be consistent with myself and not to get lost in many random ideas that come up.”
Following inspirational series by Citroen, Porsche, Jaguar and other cars in 2017, Labrador once again attracted the attention of a wide audience in the online space. This time with animation, where he used Volkswagen brands Beetle and Golf. Cut and Shut is a 1-minute video that also changes traditional car-related perceptions: in one room full of furniture the car is crawling on the carpet like a beetle, in the other one it becomes elastic and passes through a small hole cut in the wall and exits. There are also dancing cars, which break in the middle in a tenth of a second, then reunite and return to their old shape. These shots, as well as much of his work, create a sense of strange comfort, as if realizing the most bizarre and unbelievable fantasies and experiencing unusual aesthetic pleasures in shapes and concepts.
Just recently, Labrooy released another animation entitled "The Future Is No Longer Like It Was Before." This title is perhaps best illustrated by the essence of his work and modern digital reality in general. In the film we see a white Porsche jumping into the water with the inflatable pool bottom instead of wheels and a flamingo head on top; a yellow Porsche with almost the same control, jumping on communication lines, or a silver Mercedes sliding down the stairs, and so on.
Surrealism, deconstruction, absurdity, futurism - When you look at the works by Chris Labrooy, you will be reminded of many developments of the 20th century art or philosophy. He seemed to bring everything together and scatter chaos in our daily lives. All the symbols and signs are corrupted, nothing has a solid or invariable purpose or meaning, inanimate creatures acquire spiritual qualities, and animate ones turn into sculptural or typographic figures. Neither the future nor the present is as we expected. As one famous saying goes, Nothing is true, everything is permitted.