Famous Portraits Reimagined in 3D Print: Daniel Warnecke Updates the Classics

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Photographer Daniel Warnecke‘s work explores portraiture’s essence, moving beyond the realistic conveyance of an exterior topography to questions of how a captured likeness continues to evolve despite traditional conceptualizations of it as a frozen moment in time. His latest project has involved mining material from the rich history of portraits by masters such as Gainsborough and Arbus. For this series, he has converted 2D portraits into their 3D sculptural complements giving form to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and to a self-portrait by van Gogh.

daniel-warnecke-3d-printed-portraits-of-classical-paintings-designboom-06There’s more to it than a simple conversion from one medium to another. Warnecke has also used this cutting edge technology to bring the figures themselves up to date. Gainsborough’s Blue Boy is dressed in a track suit, Magritte’s Son of Man‘s apple is replaced with a grocery store produce sticker, and Vincent van Gogh looks more like a hipster, complete with odd beard and skinny jeans, than a troubled artist. But to Warnecke it’s more than just a trick of technology, it’s the initiation of a conversation between the future and the past, as he described:

daniel-warnecke-3d-printed-portraits-of-classical-paintings-designboom-07“By creating modern incarcerations [sic] of famously known and iconic portraits using 3D printing, I am able to engage the audience by showing them something very familiar and recognizable but in a completely new way of viewing. This starts to open questions and makes the viewer start to reassess and consider the original sitters once again. By having a 360 degree view over the 3D printed figurine, nothing is left to hid and all of the elements which could have created subjective tendencies have been removed such as camera angle, crop, size and lighting.”

While the point about the opening of the possibilities for the viewer’s consideration is well made, I have to disagree that there has been a removal of subjectivity. After all, he has chosen the clothing and completed the absent elements in ways that are highly personal. It’s not that this subjectivity is a hindrance, but rather that is surprising he should negate it as an aspect of the created piece. Possibly this stems from his prejudice as a photographer and reflects the attitude of a 2D artist newly engaged in sculptural work.

daniel-warnecke-3d-printed-portraits-of-classical-paintings-designboom-010The weakest aspect of this addition to the dialog is the quality of the 3D prints themselves. The pieces they mimic are so famous that even the sloppiest version of them is nearly instantly recognizable, but if this is an examination of portraiture across media rather than a proof-of-concept piece, there is a great deal of work still to be done. The point isn’t that the evidence of the 3D printing needs to be disguised, but that it needs to be refined as the beauty of these faces lies in the details that are obscured by the print. They become coarser versions of themselves and their power has been replaced by novelty.

Something has been lost in the face of van Gogh and Mick Jagger, but hints of possibility are seen in the recreation of Arbus’ twins and The Blue Boy that demonstrate the worthwhile nature of this exploration. It’s not simply a matter of further mastery of technique but of the continued development of a respect for sculptural form. In other words, the difference between 2D and 3D art is more than just a matter of thickness. Thoughts on this artwork? Discuss in the 3D Printed Famous Portraits forum over at 3DPB.com.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 10.11.03 AMThe second installment of this show, titled Subject to Impression Chapter 2, will be be presented at London’s GX Gallery beginning on May 4th. You can see more of the collection, as well as comparisons to the famed originals, at designboom.

[Source: designboom / Images: Daniel Warnecke/GX Gallery via designboom]

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