On the occasion of the first edition of the Basel Meeting Point, organized by Davidoff in collaboration with My Art Guides, we interviewed the Trinidadian multi-media artist Rodell Warner (b. 1986 Trinidad & Tobago), selected artist of the Third Davidoff Limited Art Edition, an initiative which aims to promote and support Caribbean artists.
Rodell is a photographer, multi media artist and graphic designer whose works assume various forms in a process of exploration and rediscovery. He harnesses facets of new media, digital media and photography, creating unique patterns and projections that have become key characteristics in some aspects of his artistic production. Through his digital creations, Warner participates within a global framework of discourse about the nature of digital possibilities. How we see, think, and interact are brought into question as Warner seeks to reveal what is already there.
Carla Ingrasciotta: Could you tell us something about your experience and involvement into the Davidoff Art Initiative program?
Rodell Warner: To begin the process of creating the Limited Edition we thought about the meaning of “Time well spent” and explored different directions with the images, which became a way to generate a conversation about exactly how to communicate this with the artwork. I experimented with photography and drawing and digital collage, really assessing a wide range of possibilities to share with the group. As our discussion and analysis developed we realised that with both Davidoff’s work and mine, the focus was on exquisiteness in the craftsmanship of the things we make so that the experience of enjoying them is extraordinarily pleasurable, and we found that to be the true link between the product and the artwork, and time well spent. Taking cues from the elements that go into Davidoff’s products, I crafted images full of texture and colour that would be a joy to look at, a delight to experience
C.I: Which is the vision or concept you have about the Caribbean art? Do you think there is a common denominator or defining characteristic?
R.W.: There’s incredible diversity among the artists and art practices that I’m aware of in the Caribbean. I also know that my knowledge of all that’s happening in the region is nowhere near complete. The scope of Caribbean art seems so wide and free, so varied and uncentered, that I have to classify it as undefined and unknown.
C.I: The project you’re presenting is titled “Nature Reimagined”, a series of photographs and a further maturation from your earlier series “First Light” and “Negatives”. Could you tell us about the creative process behind this artwork?
R.W.: “Nature Reimagined” is six digital images I created for DAI’s Limited Art Edition which relate visually to the elements and processes that go into the crafting of Davidoff’s products. The Collectors’ Edition is a photo series of self-portraits I made by projecting these images onto myself. At Art Basel, visitors to our installation can choose to also be photographed this way.
C.I: Talking about your art you state “I enjoy the universality of this exploration, as the viewer is not asked to be familiar with any specific cultural references in order to access the work.” Could you tell us something more about this concept and your practice in general?
R.W.: My idea was that the image of the unclothed human form transcends all cultural signifiers, making it universally relatable as all viewers of art have bodies, although I feel now that the suggestion of universal relatability is not correct as even distorted images of unclothed bodies carry in them information that could be seen as identifiers of one group or another, and might not be seen as universal symbols.
What I’m interested in is the familiarity of the image of the human form, and distorting the image to inspire new imagination about it. I’m looking for surprising ways we can picture ourselves. I have the constant sense that I’ve already seen the body in every possible way, and yet I’m surprised all the time by exciting variations that I find and share.
C.I: In your work, you explore the nature of digital possibilities, trying to reveal unseen aspects of nature. How do you translate this urgency into your artwork?
R.W.: The use of technology in image-making creates possibilities for the generation of extremely unfamiliar scenes. Projection onto human figures offers a way to combine these unfamiliar scenes with what is perhaps the most familiar thing to us – the human form. The interaction of these two in my work creates instances of new ways to see the familiar, and new ways to imagine the complexity of nature which often or in many ways exists invisible to us.
C.I.: Any upcoming projects we could look forward to seeing?
R.W.: New projects are in the works. I’m making a new body of work – exploring a style of photography and video that I’m currently obsessed with and developing. I make a new show by experimenting and creating new things then collecting the most fascinating results and finessing those into an exhibition. While working on this new set of images I’m posting bits of it on my instragram, sharing breakthrough moments and feeling out what resonates the most.
C.I: It’s your first time in Basel, could you tell us about your expectations and what you are most looking forward to?
R.W.: I know the city is going to be buzzing with activity during Art Basel. I’m being very careful to make as few plans as possible so I can float around and take it in. I just want to be there and see what happens.