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The Other Avatars – an NFT collaboration with Saatchi Art

Meet Van Sartorial –

Saatchi Art’s invitation to create NFT avatars using van Gogh’s self-portraits represented an enormously exciting opportunity for me as an artist. Bringing together the technological capabilities of NFTs with van Gogh’s remarkable legacy provided me with a completely novel way of making historical, scientific, and cultural connections — maybe some new and some old but always hoping to tell a new story. Always hoping to convey a new insight — a new way of looking at a familiar thing.

I read van Gogh’s autobiography, ‘Lust for Life’ by Irving Stone decades ago and fell in love with the artist as he struggled to be heard and refused to conform but always unrelenting in what he considered to be important stories to tell. I believe Van Gogh was a profound humanist whose approach to life and art was based on his observations of the natural world, free of supernaturalism, motivated by compassion and recognising that moral values are founded on human nature and human experience alone.

I titled my 12 Other Avatars as ‘Sartorial Van’ where my ‘Sartorialist Van’ is not a blind follower of fashion trends. On the contrary, he meticulously curates his fashion statements in celebration of the key social movements and those influential individuals who have had a far-reaching cultural impact over the hundred years of dramatic social and economic progress since Vincent’s death on 29th July 1890.

I adored Charlie Chaplin’s movies as a child and today it is Charlie Chaplin, the man I adore as I continue to develop my understanding what he was attempting to say about human nature. “It is paradoxical that tragedy stimulates the spirit of ridicule … ridicule, I suppose, is an attitude of defiance; we must laugh in the face of our helplessness against the forces of nature — or go insane.”

Every time I hear his speech from ‘The Great Dictator” (what I consider to be his greatest movie) I am still profoundly moved despite having heard it and read it countless times. What Chaplin had to say 80 years ago is still as relevant today as it was out the outset of World War II and illustrates Chaplin’s remarkable insight and perspective. Chaplin deployed satire so proficiently he turned Hitler, a towering figure of fear and horror into a pathetic character deserving only of our ridicule and contempt. I was delighted to be able to combine Chaplin’s appearance with my sartorial Van Chaplin with the transcript of his speech from the ‘The Great Dictator’.

Similarly weaving in Alan Turning’s groundbreaking description of a computer — from his paper “On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem,” — with a sexually confident robot, Van Turing sporting a polka dot scarf.

The Wright brother’s blueprint of their first plane, the Wright Flyer, with the fashion superstar statement made by Van Aviator in his ‘eponymous’ sunglasses and flying jacket. Both items were protective attire for pilots and crew flying fighters and bombers in World War Two but today form an essential addition to every fashion connoisseur’s wardrobe.

Less than 60 years after the Wright Flyer’s first flight, Neil Armstrong landed the Lunar Module ‘Eagle’ on the surface of the Moon — a moment my Van Armstrong celebrates in his original A7L Apollo spacesuit set off beautifully by the words of the American President Kennedy’s famous space speech at Rice University where he encourages the people of his country to be brave and reach for the stars.

I place Van Morton of the 1920s dressed in a fashionable beige suit with a yellow tie against the poster for the first black jazz track played on US radio ‘The Jelly Roll Blues’ composed by Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe also known as Jelly Roll Morton. Ferdinand, who was born in America the same year Van Gogh died, was a jazz pianist, bandleader and composer and is attributed by some as having invented the jazz genre.

Van Hendrix’s fashion statements show further relaxing of men’s fashion along with the relaxation of social mores and attitudes. Hendrix is considered by many to be one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived and who reinvented how guitar was played. I juxtaposed Van Hendrix in front of the lyrics from his incredible ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’.

Van Inator uses the posters from the 1984 movie ‘The Terminator’ in languages from around the world: Japanese, Thai, Polish, French, and Spanish to name a few. Illustrating the power and geographical and cultural reach of stories.

Van Bunny Ears refuses the demand to conform while Van Meta takes us to our imminent future where we can choose the reality we want to inhabit.

Van Trans, sporting a striped suit with a tiara and purple eye makeup, sparkles against the preamble to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

The actual code for the first video game ‘Spacewars’ against a modern VR headset and full-body suit worn by Van Virtual was made particularly fun as I added spaceships from the game — a personal belief that everything can be made better by the addition of spaceships.

I took the liberty with Van Conditional Optimist to place him alongside a Cassini spacecraft photograph of Saturn and its five moons taken on the 120th anniversary of his death on 29th July, 2011 in a hopeful projection of humanity exploring our solar system as a first step towards eventually making it to the stars. A wish, a hope, and a prayer.

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