Please or Register to create posts and topics.

Betta Ep. 2

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted:  October 6, 2020

Artist Description: Gentle, elegant, and free-flowing. The second piece in a three-part limited edition series inspired by the effortless beauty of Siamese fighting (Betta) fish.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Ultimately, the move from abstraction to portraiture is common. It seems that many 3D artists of sufficient skill grow tired, perhaps, of crafting objects that have no analogue in the real world, which can exist in the beautiful vacuum of their own unquestioned essence. They move to human figures because of the challenge, because audiences can sniff out imperfections of the human form with extraordinary ease and skill. Even if the eventual portrait studies are an artist’s crowning achievement, however, we can learn so much about their sensibilities from their early sculptural experiments. Such pieces are codexes that reveal to us an artist’s skill, their journey upwards and where exactly they stopped along that path to record their talent. It would be negligent, for example, to say that Betta Ep. 2 is among artist James Owen’s greatest works. That would be false: His more recent series of human portraits are too astounding and gifted; they overshadow everything which came before. And yet, studies of color, form, and flowing movement like Betta Ep. 2 maintain an uncommon brilliance, and a life to them which attracts eyeballs from across a room. Within Betta Ep. 2 are the artist’s hallmarks —the stunning realism, the mastery of minute movements, the soft and ingenious compositions— but without a subject powerful enough to match them. In that sense, it is almost like looking at a stunning aquarium exhibition without any animals inside. I suppose that’s an ironic way to describe a piece inspired by fish. 

Betta fish, to be exact; and thus, the title. “Gentle, elegant, and free-flowing. The second piece in a three-part limited edition series inspired by the effortless beauty of Siamese fighting (Betta) fish,” Owens says in his Artist Description. Already, in my head are images of shelves in my childhood friends’ kitchens, the tiny plastic tanks there and the fighting fish within them. Or the rows of them in the pet shops when I’d go to buy crickets for my lizards (I was a weird kid). Or behind ring-toss games at boardwalks, prizes for children with no concept of ethical dilemmas. Owens captures the grace with which these animals move, the careful way they float through the stillest water, their fleshy fins curling and flowing in line with their movements, like paper flowers. That kind of lethargic-though-lively movement is captured with incredible accuracy here despite the piece removing the life of its subject and replacing it with abstract geometric objects. Instead of a skull or body, the subject here has a shimmering rose-gold orb as its center. Wavering fins have been replaced by a sheer sheet floating in mid-air, all of its folds appearing like the veins of a leaf, and its edges jagged in spots like the fins of the fish which inspired it. The entire subject casts a detailed shadow upon the grey ground below it, one of warehouse floors. The environment is probably worth mentioning, if only because of how odd it is to see such a soft and luscious subject floating in an entirely impersonal environment: grey ground, beige walls, blue sky, all devoid of individual detail. There’s a zoologism to the environment; it might well be a fish tank, just one of another sort. 

This second piece in Owens’ SuperRare oeuvre already demonstrates the artist’s aptitude for realism, an aptitude that, even among gifted 3D sculptors, stands on its own. Because in reality, things lack a certain brilliance. Life is bright but it’s mottled. I’m thinking about the works of Arc4g, which are stunning in their own right, but which capture surfaces that shine more brightly than anything we have a realistic analogue for, and which detail surfaces we are attracted to specifically because they are so unlike what we know. Not so in Betta Ep. 2 or any other of Owens’ works. I’m attracted to them specifically because of how they capture that ineffable life-i-ness. The sphere at Betta Ep. 2’s center, for instance, doesn’t shine like some cosmic rock, but with the same muted brightness of an old candy wrapper. The flowing, fleshy substance unravels like a kind of blanket, and its texture is something that seems familiar to me. I can gauge its thickness and the warmth it would provide even if I can’t really know it. 

The temptation, of course, is for artists to use digital processes to craft surfaces and textures and objects that can only exist digitally. To do as Owens has done, to use digital processes to mimic the physical world with such exactitude, is to display serious restraint, but also to ask questions about the nature of the digital/physical divide itself. It’s to showcase that with digital technologies and with sufficient skill, one can invent the world itself, though that stream does not flow in reverse. Thus, Owens’ entire oeuvre is a kind of revelry, a kind of self-deification and a deification of technology. A realm outside the physical realm that is nevertheless able to mimic the latter’s hyper-specific characteristics and capital-T Texture. I’m not sure I knew digital art could do that before I saw Owens’ pieces. No wonder he turned his attention to human beings; Betta fish are too small to hold the artist’s imagination forever, especially when he has proven how mimetically he can go ahead and invent them himself.  

You are not allowed to do this. Please login and connect your wallet to your account.