Travelling to Naples Glass was lucky enough to meet with artist Paul Thorel. He is having his first solo show in Paris at the moment and this, back in April, was a truly unique opportunity to speak to someone who embraced the use of digital manipulation in art way ahead of his time.
Naples-based artist Paul Thorel has been working with digital techniques since the early ‘80s. Following his discovery of digital editing equipment in Paris, he began a career in creating special effects for television and film in Italy. Employed by the state television company and the University of Genoa, he worked, and was able to experiment, with the most technologically advanced aparatus of the day.
“They had a graphic tablet and they had all these different instruments. They had a way of calibrating the right colour and I found out that if you did calibrate and create the special effects and, in effect, misuse the instrument, you have a wide range of special effects that appear to combine all these machines which were made to create a proper video signal together with a mixer. Combining all these elements would mix together and create (the final work). This is a principle I have used throughout my work so far.” And as he described this discovery, as an artist, he, of course, wanted to apply them to his own work.
Having seen what could be achieved with digital-imaging equipment, Thorel felt he could never go back to making art in the traditional way and as he worked and gained experience in using the materials he found the language he uses in his work to this day.
But as he saved money from the work he was doing, he was able to begin setting up a studio, “Eventually I managed to buy a computer, I bought an Apple 2 which was the first more commercial computer from Apple.”
The images Thorel creates are mainly black and white – he sometimes uses colour, but as he is colour blind no one will see the colours in his work as he does and sees this element of letting go of the work as being at the core of what he is doing.
“I find using colour gives some strength to the black and white. When you use black and white, you use contrast to give it strength so the blacks must be very deep and dense. But adding colour gives another aspect to the black and white, it gives it sort of colours to the black and white without touching it, almost making it grey. You could not add colours in this way before. I would add a tiny bit of colour sometimes and it would add a different vibration.”
Before last year there had been no politics in Paul Thorel’s work but, as so many of us were, he was inspired by the events in Tahrir Square, Egypt and using snapshots found on the internet, he saw the initially peaceful uprising as something he had to include in his work.
“I did a series of eight works on it because I was so struck by this immense biblical crowd that came out of apparently nowhere, suddenly. That I had the idea of doing crowds for the first time. The immensity of it was incredible. So I started to take pictures from the media sequence and a sort of a magma or fluid of people with this density of movement of a crowd moving and it had no direction but yet it moves, it moves everywhere and yet it moves in a sort of symbiosis. I wanted to show the thickness and the fluidity of it at the same time.” by Amah-Rose McKnight Abrams
Paul Thorel’s exhibition Un Vrai Semblables will be on display at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie from June 16 – September 2, 2012