Digital Art

Ray Caesar: Digital Surrealism

This interpretation of “Desire” is from the massive portfolio of Toronto surrealist Ray Caesar, a renowned digital artist who spent part of his working life (1980-1997) in the Art and Photography Department of The Hospital For Sick Children. (That experience is a wonderful read, on his website, here.)

Launderette, 2017, 38 x 34″ Edition of 20 / Top of Post: Desire, 2014, 36 x 24″ Edition of 20

Caesar says his art is an outlet to “present a side of the fluidity or ambiguity of my gender,” in response to a difficult early life, as he outlined in an online interview.

As a child I used to behave and dress very much like the figures in my work but any expression of that soon became too dangerous in the volatile family I lived with in the 1960s. It was also unnerving to my father that I used to talk to dolls, and that I insisted they would talk back –  excerpt from Jupilings

Song for the Dearly Departed, 2015, 24 x 24″

Caesar’s digital art is leading edge:

“I create models in a three dimensional modeling software called Maya and cover these models with painted and manipulated photographic textures that wrap around them like a map on a globe.

Each model is then set up with an invisible skeleton that allows me to pose and position the figure in its three dimensional environment. Digital lights and cameras are added with shadows and reflections simulating that of a real world.”

(He mastered Maya while working in digital animation for TV and film from 1998-2001. More about technique here)


Infamia Di Creti, 2018, Digital Ultrachrome on Archival Paper, 20×20″, One of a Kind

Many art critics place Caesar in the Pop Surrealism category, also known as Lowbrow Art, that contemporary blend of deliberate charm, creep and impish sarcasm, with roots in underground punk and street culture. But Caesar’s expression of childhood and life experiences is so uncontrived that he is also often identified as one of a kind.

“Most of my adult life I have been trying to have a dialog with a part of myself that is difficult to understand, and even more difficult to communicate with. Often I come face to face with some aspect of my own subconscious nature that absolutely stuns me . . .  –  PhotoPhore interview

We Three Kings, 2012, 30 x 30″ Edition of 20

Caesar’s art is extremely popular, with clients from Hollywood to international banks. The experience of a Globe and Mail writer upon meeting the unassuming artist for the first time is typical.

He’s wearing a black turtleneck sweater. His eyes are soft, his smile is gentle. . . his hair is more salt than pepper. You might mistake him for a mid-level office hack grabbing a coffee on casual Friday.

Could this really be the artist behind the eerily beautiful, otherworldly and rather disturbing canvases (dames with spider legs, girls eating flies) hanging on the walls of such boldface buyers as shock rocker Marilyn Manson? The same guy who corresponds with Madonna? Who was recruited to work with fashion demigod Riccardo Tisci? Shouldn’t he look more like Edward Scissorhands? Or at least Karl Lagerfeld? – interview with Amy Verner

The Curative, 2017 30 x 30″ Edition of 20

Caesar’s work is widely exhibited, and appears frequently in publications that include the Times magazine, Huffington Post, Vogue Italy, Vogue Japan, Hi Fructose, Juxtapoz and others. His art is in prominent collections such as Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, the Hearst family (media mogul and owners of O Oprah Winfrey magazine and ESPN) and others.

Ray Caesar’s website, here.

Represented by Gallery House, Toronto, here.

Note: Caesar has a solo exhibition opening March 23, 2019 at Gallery House.

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