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A long mistake.

Museum Link:

Source Link: https://

Date Minted:  July 6, 2020

Artist Description: It feels like infinity. My inaction is a frame to my picture of you.  

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

It’s rare that you can scroll through an artist’s SuperRare oeuvre and see the evolution of their artwork so clearly, with each link in the chain of their talent so intensely evoked. Giantswan has a beast of an oeuvre to begin with, a network of images and figures and colors that I have not seen even partially reproduced anywhere else, plus a style that marries the cybernetic to the vaporwave to the cell-shaded…wow, it’s just so unique and exciting and palpable. Over time, those pieces become more and more intense, with more lines, more crisscrossing interactions, more colors and polygons stuffed into the frame. These are exhausting and exhaustive pieces, wild in their conceptualization, somehow wilder when set down. A long mistake. is somewhat of a respite within an energetic, almost comic-booky collection of works, a piece that is most notable for its unique calmness than its relation to Giantswan’s other frenetic pieces. The Australian artist here, in A long mistake., showcases their restraint, though it’s a restraint still marked by hyper vivid colors and an obscure zaniness. And that color palette: unmistakable. And that character, surrounded by free-floating wires: unimpeachable. There is so much of Giantswan in A long mistake., even when reigning in their artistic impulses, those impulses still burst through. This is not the color of Giantswan’s artwork, but the color of their heart. And it is unlike all others I’ve seen.

I just think it’s so hard to find and then convey a specific sensibility in one’s art, ever. Let alone across an oeuvre spanning 70 artworks. And yet, crucial to Giantswan’s sensibility is their color palette, an evolving but always recognizable blend of teals and turquoises, electric pinks and pastel magentas, violets and beiges, peach and tan and colors that hover on the edge of my known verbiage: burnt-sienna, auburn, rust and some kind of orange-inflected purple, and a sky that always seems to be half-covered by haze. And then there are the characters themselves. Despite rarely featuring the exact same color palette, and usually not in the same position, sometimes wearing faces that are bizarre or sinister, but always mask-like, they are composed of individual polygon pieces, almost like the robots in iRobot or Ex Machina. Giantswan seems to use a cell-shaded animation style, giving pieces an intensely stylistic feel, a cartoonishness that may manifest in appearance but only rarely in subject matter. Because there’s a certain gravity to these pieces. A long mistake. is a great example of that gravity. Seated amongst a bright red meadow of spiky grasses, in front of a bisected sky —like a Rothko painting, it is a salmon color at its northern section, though that color retreats into a grayish green as we travel down towards the earth— an odd character sits on the ground with its knees up by its face. It’s hard to make out details from here, obfuscated as they are by both the grass and by the nature of Giantswan’s composition. The character wears a red, demon-like kabuki mask; it seems like he is actively trying to rip it off his skull. Something is very wrong. His hands are up by his face, and so are his knees, but his body is ripped apart, and in the gaps between bones grow grey tree branches studded with turquoise leaves. Seated on his back is a mechanical kind of black bird, its ominous wings outstretched, dangling wires emerging from its feathers. The bird, a kind of crow or raven, has orange tape covering its eyes, as if ashamed of what it’s doing, or blind to it, perhaps on purpose.

The imagery here is definitely dense, and I’ve really no idea what it’s trying to communicate. Want to be up-front about that. Giantswan’s Artist Description is equally confounding, reading “It feels like infinity. My inaction is a frame to my picture of you.” Confusing syntax, but a message that stinks of melancholy. And this is indeed a piece that seems to emanate that melancholy. That much I can feel seeping out of it. The color palette almost threatens to contradict that, but the pose of the character, the apparent self-harm of their actions, and the way their body is being broken into pieces, replaced with something totally unlike it (though not unbeautiful), it’s all quite painful. The kabuki mask might be in the process of being pierced by a thick pink crystal from the ground, though it’s unclear if this is just a play of the foreground. 

So many of Giantswan’s characters are engaged in some kind of activity. They are in gymnastic poses. They are studying. They are meditating or dancing or warring or hugging or otherwise seeming to have an effect on the abstract elements around them. The character here, by contrast, appears inactive, and things are being done to him. He is being restrained. He is being blurred from us by the great stalks of grass. He is being bound (apparently) by the bird on his skull. He is seemingly without agency, tied to the ground by the tree branches stuck through his limbs. A character in limbo, perhaps alive or perhaps not. No wonder it would “feel like infinity”: This is a piece marked by its inconclusivity. It is Giantswan using their style not to expose and engender action (which the artist does so well elsewhere) but to make that action nebulous and unclear. Ultimately, we are blocked from understanding by the composition itself. So much is in our way. So much information is not ours to know. We are kept just far away enough from the character that their attitude, appearance, and activity remain mysteries. We can only zoom in so much. We are subject to the environment too. And we are swallowed up in it, caught in a limbo of understanding just as much as the character we seek to comprehend. May we at least be spared the hanging-wire raven on our own scalps. 

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