August 3, 2016

Combining album artwork with classical paintings, artist Eisen Bernardo creates pop culture mashups with a twist. Ever thought what Ri Ri would look like in ruffles? Lana del Ray as a simple 19th century countrywoman? Wonder no more. We caught up with Eisen Bernardo to find out more.

What is your background/education in the arts?

I’m a Development Communication Practioner, which means I work in applied arts, creating communication and education materials for the oragnisation I work at. When it comes to art, I have no formal training, no degree. I’m just doing it as a hobby.

What inspired you to create these digital collages?

I’m fond of homage, similarities and references in movies, music, and other art forms. I compare Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud with Marvin Gaye’s Lets Get it on. I love spotting movie scenes that were inspired by classical artworks, for example House By The Railroad by Edward Hopper and Hitchcock’s Psycho, Escher and Inception, etc

Like my collage series, I just felt that magazine and albums were inspired directly (and indirectly) by classical paintings. I really wanted to compare and contrast modern and classical aesthetics.

Obviously popular culture is a feature of your work; how do you think contemporary imagery differs to historical art? Or is it the same?

I think contemporary and classical imagery have a lot in common. They might have differences in terms of the medium but they still share the same principles of aesthetics. The visual composition, lighting, texture, and other artistic techniques that are being used in classical art are still evident in contemporary artforms. Moreover, the themes and issues tackled by classical art haven’t changed. Women are still naked and objectified.

The powerful and the popular have occupied the majority of the canvasses (and in today’s society, magazines and album covers). The cover girls that we have today are society’s standards of beauty in the same way as the classical artists’ muses in the past.

I can imagine it is time consuming finding the perfect image match! What is your design process?

I’m a music fan, so I’m more or less exposed to a lot of album covers from different genres of music. Most of the time I identify the album cover first. I also love classical paintings, so I’m familiar with lots of artworks. I do a mental matching of the album covers and the paintings. However, when I do actual implementation in Photoshop, it is like I’m assembling a jigsaw puzzle. It’s trial and error. Sometimes, my instinct/mental matching is correct. But when they don’t fit, I need to do a lot of research online to look for a matching artwork. Most of the time, the pieces posted on my Instagram are just a product of beautiful accidents. All of them are unplanned and I’m always surprised with the output. It is really a fun activity.

After a while, I started getting some feedback that my work was filled with humour and irony, so I started considering the meaning/message of my collages. When I came up with my next batch of digital collages, I tried to look for covers and paintings that could produce visual puns or could establish more meaningful connections. I just wanted every piece to evoke a humorous or fascinating effect on the viewer.

What role has the Internet played in the creation and publication of your work?

I don’t have formal training as an artist. But because of the Internet, I have the chance to be an “artist”. For my art making, all the resources that I use are downloaded from the web. I think I’m part of the digital era where people can freely express themselves using different art forms. The social media make it easier for someone like me to be noticed. We all know that the art world is an elite arena. But social media and the internet has democratized it and made it more accessible for everyone.

Do you have any influences other than popular culture?

I’m facinated by fine art. I have a lot of favorite painters such as Joan Miro, Picasso, the PreRaphaelites, Cranach, Klimt, Schiele, Matisse, Andy Warhol and a lot more. However, everything I watch on tv, or see in a movie, or read in my newsfeed incites my curiosity and creativity.

What are you currently listening to?

Coloring Book by Chance The Rapper; Blurryface by twenty one pilots; Cheap Thrills by Sia

Are you interested in working in any other mediums?

For this +Art series, I already have four specific projects, these are: Mag+Art (magazine covers), Album+Art (album covers), Criterion+Art (Criterion DVD covers), and the Logo+Art (logos). And they are all done digitally. I want to make some of these digital artworks into actual collages.