OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  2016 exhibition at General Fine Craft with blown glass by Rob Raeside

The enigmatic work of Alex Taves most often involves the human figure in the context of a landscape or a repeated pattern. At General Fine Craft until May 15 2016, Taves presents work from a new series of androgynous portraits that evolved from a fascination with studying people in public places and spaces. As silent observer, he tries to sense a state of mind – a “head-space” or emotional state – in an attempt to read the underlying stories of peoples’ lives.

The images he creates are bold and striking, composed of pieced-together sections of his digital photographs and drawings methodically collaged with layers of painted sections. Crisp areas contrast blurred ones; colour and pattern accentuate the sense of visual playfulness. In his work, digital technology is fused with modernist painting traditions in an exciting way.

Alex cites Pablo Picasso, David Hockney and Richard Prince as influencing his work. Picasso’s distinctive style and prolific output, Hockney’s graphic, colour-rich approach to art-making, Prince’s practice of appropriation and the media – all aspects which give life to Alex’s interplay between art and graphic design.

Equally influenced by fine art and graphic design practices, he finds the intersection of the two to be both intriguing and confusing – especially the perception that a graphic designer should not also be thought of as an artist. For almost 20 years he has been working with digital media, beginning at a time when the medium was in its infancy. He was one of the first to exhibit this type of work in Toronto, his home at the time.

Alex’s work often uses repetition of imagery or several versions of the same piece. “It started years ago with my obsession of vintage boxing photos” he explains. “Every time I viewed them, it opened up a new dialogue. There are certain art pieces that I’ve been reworking for well over 10 years.”

He muses that, “a DJ seamlessly works in tracks, he/she will change the pitch, add or subtract bass or even speed up or slow down the track. I treat my images the same way. I study my own work and manipulate it to fit the moment. I feel it doesn’t lessen the original and frankly what is the original? It’s simply an evolution of an idea.”

Alex Taves is a graduate of Ryerson University’s School of Fashion (Toronto) and the Digital Media Program at Concordia University (Montreal) where he explored the notion of digital media as ‘real’ art. For eight years he was Head of Graphics at Joe Fresh in Toronto. Now a studio artist, he lives with his family in Hamilton, Ontario.