The Canadian-born artist brings his cerebral musings and a passion for traditional art and literature into his digital paintings. Berlin-based, he speaks to Georgie Miller about finding deep meaning in remixing tradition.
Adrian Pocobelli was six years old when his parents took him to the Vatican. The experience spent amidst quintessential High Renaissance paintings not only catapulted his affinity for art and creating, but also his fascination with the memetic notions of tradition and meaning.
Within minutes of speaking with the Canadian-born, Berlin-based artist, the cerebral approach to his work is evident. Idealising traditional meanings from classic art, Adrian’s digital remasterings take as much from modern thinking and satire as they do from the past, his work probing the dichotomy of traditional and cutting edge with thoughtful musings on society writ large. Much like the exciting tidal wave of web3, Adrian finds creativity in interrupting the original and the traditional in order to propel it forward.
A student of visual art and literature, Adrian finds his rhythm in paying homage to historic masterpieces, by artists and writers alike, whilst drawing from modern-day consumerist iconography and news media. His intellectually stimulating work is an exploration of the meaning that emerges when clashing different times or ideas, particularly of the past and present; his conceptual style is a journey dissecting the significance of the subject matter and the aesthetic.
“I always say, to be a part of the tradition, you have to have a dialogue with the tradition, so art history is an important subject matter in my work, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly,” Adrian explains, adding, “I also just love the tradition, so it is fun to remix it in a way that makes it feel more contemporary.”
Adrian’s most notable work minted on the blockchain thus far is Madonna of the Goldfinch, part of his Related Images collection, which comprises refined groups of works depicting iconic renaissance paintings with layers and fills, masking the classic work with 21st-century digital shapes in bright, saturated colours. “Again, we're back to this idea of meaning and how things give significance, especially when we alter the original context,” Adrian says. “It’s all about the meaning for me.”
“Mixing it up on a surface level is a way of presenting it to be consumable in the 21st century. It realigns the meaning,” he explains. Madonna of the Goldfinch shows Raphael’s iconic oil painting with marigold brushstrokes decorated over the top. The contrast of gentle and sharp in the context of an established masterpiece is itself a nod to the new versus old, targeting the very meaning behind what we conceive as tradition. The juxtaposition “questions notions of digital reproduction, image authenticity, and how technology mediates our perception of art history.”
In a more surrealist approach to his modernisation of traditional meaning, Adrian’s collection of 200 works in The Peloponnesian War retells the story of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War with a contemporary nod. Each work, all created using an iPhone, combines Ancient Greek vase imagery, snippets of text from the famed literary text, and elements from modern society, including corporate logos and newspaper fragments. Of layering multiple realities from different historical moments, Adrian acknowledges the “ambition” of the piece, explaining “I’m trying to create a kind of conflict of all signification against all signification.”
He recently debuted preliminary iterations of his next project, The Secret History of World War 3. The Tezos collection is a homage to perhaps his most considerable influence, J.G. Ballard, the famed British satirist whose often controversial portraits of modern society stirred up almost unprecedented controversy regarding his perceived absurdity of current events.
“I think we’re in the midst of a digital art revolution.”
— Adrian Pocobelli
Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition, the 1970 satirical novel which was the focus of Adrian’s master’s thesis, focuses on the modern individual in the newly mass media world of the 1960s. Amidst Ballard’s dense prose on the virility of society, which Adrain describes as “word paintings,” Adrian interprets parallels in the happenings of today’s society. “I’m taking what he was doing and putting it back into my work in many ways. I’m trying to put the novel on the page.”
In addition to Ballard’s influence, Adrian notes the legacy of Salvador Dalí’s satirical surrealism and Robert Rauschenberg’s notion of the artist-reporter in his new collection. “It is a real-world response to the global news narrative,” Adrian says. “With the internet and digital technology, artists can give real-time responses to what’s happening in the world, and this project is about exploring this idea. I’ m very excited about it.”
“Mixing it up on a surface level is a way of presenting it to be consumable in the 21st century.”
— Adrian Pocobelli
By embracing the niche of his work, Adrian has found community in the fellow deep thinkers of web3. He publishes daily Artist Journals on his YouTube channel, sharing a perceptive analysis of events in the art world, plus his commentary on culture writ large. Expressing his sentiments through a thoughtful lens, Adrian has found a way to cultivate and relate to his audience.
He beams with excitement over the thought of developing the momentum he has found in his web3 art endeavours. What’s next for him is simply “more work,” continuing to navigate the meaning of the web3 art ecosystem through his creations. “I think we’re in the midst of a digital art revolution, and it’s great to be in the middle of it.”
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