The explosion of digital media over the past forty years has transformed the nature and techniques of contemporary art. Artists can now create works of art within the confines of a computer, or combine traditional mediums such as painting or drawing with digital effects to create new worlds and modes of expression.
Visual artist, director, photographer, and IVY Member Alex Lark is in the business of creating new worlds. Alex grew up in Australia, where the country’s raw landscapes and his grandfather’s painting influenced his passion for the arts. He received a B.A. in Visual Arts from Duke University and then moved to Los Angeles, where he began to fuse his work in the fine arts with digital media. He has developed a diverse body of artistic and commercial work, ranging from subtly digitally-manipulated photographs from his travels around the world to work as the 2nd Assistant Director on the music video for Ty Dolla $ign’s “Saved ft. E-40.”
His newest series, “Reflect Form,” creates surreal and reflective landscapes that blur the lines between the real and digital worlds. The pieces imagine landscapes that we see in reality with manipulated elements inside the frame, generating abstract distortions that both enhance the landscapes and invite the viewer to give them deeper thought.
Alex sat down with IVY Magazine to talk about his work as a visual artist-director, and to share some of amazing the images from his new “Reflect Form” series.
What was it like transitioning from your studies in fine arts into digital media?
Alex Lark: There were a couple key moments: first, swapping a pencil for a digital stylus five years back; and second, moving out of the dark room into the digital camera space. But you don’t leave one for another, they will always co-exist and the fundamentals are always there. My stack of moleskines continues to grow.
Was there a visual artist, director, or photographer who inspired you most to become an artist-director-photographer yourself?
AL: To single out one is impossible! So many over the years. Maybe Josh Soskin, he’s a Venice based director-photographer out here. Such a clean, beautiful aesthetic. And he’s living a great lifestyle. His wife Grace produces with him and they’re such good-vibe people. Sometimes he would wrap up set before sunset just so that the crew would have time to get a golden-hour-surf in together. Balancing great work and family, that’s the dream.
What would you say differentiates your work from other artists?
AL: That’s the aspiration, isn’t it? To define a style that is your own. I asked an artist I worked for in New York a few years back to critique me and he said it was a tone of optimism in everything.
Can you tell us about your new series, ‘Reflect Form’?
AL: The series plays on the name, quite literally, in that the photographs reflect reality with manipulated elements inside the frame to form new, surreal landscapes. It’s taking the types of images we see everyday and distorting that in a way I find beautiful and perplexing. The first reaction might be to try and understand how, to look for the edges of where the reality ends and the digital starts — but that’s the point. Blurring that line between the two and creating something new.
How has the explosion of digital media changed your art form?
AL: The immediacy and sheer scope of people across the world that can engage is phenomenal. That access allows for an ongoing conversation that inspires new work, but the digital side has always existed as part of what I create. I remember as a kid I’d sketch wild animals and tribal symbols before taking photos of them to create snowboard designs in photoshop.
Do you find it difficult to balance your commercial vs. fine art endeavors? What do you think are the benefits of working in both fields?
AL: Right now they naturally overlap with one another; but, yes, it’s something I’m always conscious of balancing. The crew is like family on some sets. Working on larger productions you learn so much about collaborative workflows and you create work that isn’t possible as an individual. That’s something special. At that size though it can loose a personal touch. It’s when I crave that individual freedom I find myself driving up to Joshua tree with a couple mates, taking photos of the stars, or backpacking through Mexico.
What do you aspire to do next with your brand?
AL: I flirt with the idea of opening studio space in Los Angeles, or working in-house somewhere. But heading back to Australia is always in the back of my mind. I loved picking up more international work last year in Australia and Europe, I can definitely see myself doing more of that. For now, I plan to continue finding the people I vibe with here. The talent of cinematographers, art directors, models, production, set design, makeup artists, stylist, and the rest is unmatched and it’s exhilarating.
What advice do you have for artists?
AL: Create work in series. The purposeful constraints you choose focus and better your work at every level. Also by simply placing two objects next to each other you force a relationship between them. When you design that relationship you start opening some interesting conversations.
How can the IVY community support you?
AL: Come out to future shows! I had my first piece in a gallery in Chicago last year and loved chatting with people wandering through. I know IVY people love a good art show and open bar. Also I’m publishing a photography zine this year, keep an eye out for that.
Follow the series @alexlark on Instagram.