As You Like It

Arcimboldo-inspired Winter. Private Collection, New York. Courtesy of Pandora Old Masters, New York (Art History); see also the Exhibition Gallery.

Arcimboldo-inspired composite head known as "Reversible Head with Basket of Fruit" (Art History).

Till Nowak, Salad, A Tribute to H.R. Giger and Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 3D animation, 2006. Siggraph Art Gallery.

In November 2006 Nowak developed Salad, creating digital vegetable models and combining them to become a tribute to the fantastic biomechanical mutants of Hans Rudi Giger and the vegetable portraits of Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

Alien, the 8th Passenger (20th Century Fox, 1979) immortalized the phallic monster conceived by Giger

Giger's unsettling biomechanical creature known as "Necronomicon IV" (from his book Necronomicon, 1977). On grotesqueness in Giger

Salad is a purely educational and non-commercial work. Artist remarks: "I am on a continuous search for ideas which bring existing and known aspects of our world together in a new, twisted and weird combination. The challenge is to find new, but simple ideas. For Salad, I combined the old technique of Giuseppe Arcimboldo's vegetable portraits from the 16th century with the creations of H.R. Giger, at the same time, combining the style of an oil painting with modern digital art and turning around the relation between vegetation and flesh. So it contains at least three separate levels and if you want to go further, you can also read some social message in it, concerning our society as the wolf in sheep's clothing… but this kind of message is usually not where I start when I develop something" (Nowak, interviewed by Area).

With Salad, Nowak adds new meaning to the work of Arcimboldo and Giger. Made of fresh vegetables, Alien becomes edible, and grotesquely, the ferocious monster becomes the one to be devoured. Yet, surprisingly, Salad seems to be ready to eat a piece of meat. Double-edged as it is, the image functions as a visual paradox, an idea corroborated by the vegetable composite which holds the piece of beef like Hamlet does so with the skull while asking, "To be or not to be?" But here the whole matter is to be and not to be. Nowak presents a veggie creature pressumably meditating on the very nature of being a piece of meat... This is superb 21st-century vanitas. Just imagine, Salad pronouncing Pindar's famous lines from Odes, Pythia 8: "We are things of a day. What are we? What are we not? The shadow of a dream is man, no more."*

Nowak's use of the visual grotesque is super-fine. John Ruskin has noted that every grotesque is a combined structure, having two components, one fearful, and another playful. The menacing side of the grotesque prevails in Salad; the playful side of the grotesque dominates I can't smile without you.

Technically speaking, Nowak's creations are impeccable. His admirable use of perspective, texture and atmospherical effects makes the incredible look convincing. Besides, Nowak's works involve inventiveness and originality. With The Shaved Bumblebee, and somehow like Francis Bacon, Nowak undoubtedly opens the valves of sensation and gives a new twist to tradition.

At any rate, following also the path of Bernard of Clairvaux, Novak is a man of great vision and keeps us focusing on beautiful deformities and deformed beauties.

As Bernard asked, "What is the point of [...] those extraordinary deformed beauties and [...] beautiful deformities?"**

Who knows... At any rate, humor is the spice of life.***

* Odes, Pythia 8 (Odes of Pindar).
** Letter to his friend William, Abbot of Thierry, 1135 (Michael Camille, Image on the Edge, Reaktion Books, 1992, p. 61).
*** Humor is an essential skill in order to communicate well with others. As Leslie Rose explains, "Humor is the spice of life. It brings happiness. It decreases pain. It enhances speaking well and listening well. Humor is the shortest distance between two people" (The Spice of Life).

Artwork by Nowak included in Imaginarium with its author's permission.
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