Shamus Clisset (aka FakeShamus) is a New York based artist working with 3D media, including modeling, rendering, and animation. He has presented work locally, internationally, and online. Recent exhibitions include Postmasters Gallery, Untitled Miami, Bronx Art Space, Queens Museum, NewHive.com, Spring/Break Art Show, GRIN Providence, and Dis Magazine. He is a 2014 NYFA fellow in digital art and teaches digital imaging and 3D media at Sarah Lawrence College.
These images are all 3D renderings I’ve been producing and showing since 2010. I’ve been working strictly with the computer to make work for almost 15 years, but my series, “FakeShamus, Manifest Destinaut” marked a shift in content and complexity that is ongoing today. FakeShamus is a digital golem character that morphs and merges with the environments I create, so in effect all of the figures or figure-like elements are an extension of him. I first used the golem concept to play with ideas of digital avatars and to poke fun at the gap between IRL and fake personas, but it quickly took on a life of its own and I now see him more as a rogue creation, overrunning and destroying the virtual world as I create it. Visually I like to set up a clash of realism and abstraction in most pieces while emphasizing that all is equal within the virtual space of the image.
Very generally speaking I’m not really into social media or the internet. While my work is digital, I’ve never related much to “net art”. But I do feel a specific connection to the flow of imagery available through google image searches or on Instagram and Tumblr. The endless, random bombardment, where all types of imagery reside equally next to each other online is a source of inspiration. It sets a new standard that I see as context for my work, as opposed to fitting it into art history and the contemporary art world.
I’ve been tapping into violence in various forms for a long time. Lately I’ve been narrowing the scope of it to reflect the absurdity of hyper-aggressive masculine identity, especially as it plays out in American culture (and damned if the current fiasco of our president didn’t develop right alongside). Personally I also feel there’s a duality to it, because I grew up with very conflicted views about that identity. Torn between aggressive, competitive impulses and an awareness of that attitude as a hollow facade. So I’m trying to satirize those contradictions, drawing on images inspired by horror films, weekend-warrior aesthetics, the American militarized police force, and my own experiences and conflicts.
Going way back to when I was a kid, I started drawing because I loved the Lamborghini Countach. I was fascinated with the look of that car and I started to draw it obsessively, filling up sketchbooks with just Lamborghini drawings. Eventually I taught myself all the digital tools that I use in my current work. It all stemmed from a childhood obsession which is still there but now takes different forms. In a way I’m still always trying to capture the feeling of the future embodied by that car.
Good question – I think my parents like my work, but they would pretty much like anything I do. I’m sure that a lot of the context is lost on them. My dad has said a few times that my work is funny and I think he sees me as really sticking it to the establishment somehow, but his idea of “established” art is probably Impressionism, so, you know…
I listen to a lot of music and I respond to a lot of producers who make technically complex stuff that also has an emotional punch. Growing up I was a hip hop fan from the beginning, especially drawn to the sound of drum machines and scratching, and I gravitated to the most aggressive, futuristic sounds that those technologies could make. Later, when I was getting into digital tools and moving away from painting, it was all about electronic artists like Aphex, Squarepusher, Venetian Snares, Chris Clark, etc. I think anything labelled “digital” tends to have a reputation for being cold and calculated – there are plenty examples to the contrary, of course, but I think it still carries some of that stigma.
Some of the toughest interactions were early on when I was first showing people my 3D work and the entire conversation went in circles about how they were made (no I didn’t build these things and photograph them, no I didn’t find pictures online and photoshop them together). It was so confusing to some people that we couldn’t get past it and never discussed the content at all. That’s changed a lot more recently as the technology has become more mainstream. But the worst reaction (maybe just most funny and bad to me) was a guy who pointed out some part of one of my pictures and said “see this, this shows me that you’re having too much fun. I don’t want to see the artist having fun.” …and I was like, well what’s the point in that?