Simon Finn Simulates 3D Models, Destroys Them, Then Draws Them
We chat with the Melbourne artist about the immense process behind his charcoal sketches.
'Steady State Disruption' by Simon Finn (2015), charcoal on paper
There’s more than meets the eye to Simon Finn’s charcoal drawings. The Melbourne-based artist uses simulation software to create 3D prototypes, which he then destroys (digitally). These static moments of annihilation are translated onto paper by hand. The resulting sketches almost look like film stills from scenes with crazy special effects (explained by Simon’s experience working with visualisation technologies and teaching prototyping alongside his art career). His practice also sees him using 3D printing to further explore the relationship between creating something on screen and then bringing it into the physical world. We caught up with the artist to talk about his attraction to destruction as well as his ‘Foresight’ exhibition currently showing at Fehily Contemporary in Melbourne.
The Creators Project: Can you tell us about the process of creating your charcoal drawings?
Simon Finn: My latest body of work began as a simulation of a non-existent surveillance structure. The structure is loosely based on a variety of observation towers—panopticons, fire lookouts and tsunami observation towers—that were in positions of possible destruction. I began by visualising this devastated structure using a variety of 3D softwares, usually reserved for special effects for films or other forms of interactive entertainment. From there I rendered the digital images from the screen onto paper by hand using charcoal.
'Steady State Intervention' by Simon Finn (2015), charcoal on paper
So while some artists start with a physical sketch and then translate this onto the screen, you tend to do things the other way round. Why do you choose this method?
I really like the idea of subversion; I’ve enjoyed subverting the role of computer graphics to act as an initial sketch, or a place for conjuring, rather than a place for the refined final product. Translating these images into charcoal drawing allows me to have intimate contact and control over the final output and to revel in the inadequacies of the human touch. In short, it’s kind of a ‘Stone Age meets technological innovation’ approach.
How do special effects come into play in your work?
Special effect technologies allow me to collapse, smash, break and rupture objects at a fraction of the cost [of doing it in real life]. Computer graphics allow me so many wonderful freedoms to play with, not unlike building a sand castle and stomping on it—which we all know is the best part.
What interests you about scenes of destruction?
I find the duality of ‘destruction’ quietly amusing. What I mean is, on one hand destruction can be seen as metaphor for the ending of an old system, and on the other hand, an opportunity for exciting possibilities for new beginnings.
You’re also a deep sea diver. Does this hobby have any influence on your art practice?
I do think that our experiences ultimately affect who we are and what we make, and as an artist mine have inadvertently affected me without a doubt. I do spend a ridiculous amount of time in the ocean; surfing, diving and generally farting around. This obsession has taken me to Mexico, Indonesia, Hawaii, Fiji, the Philippines, California and a huge amount of the Australian coast. This addiction is a muse; especially its feeling of abundant force above and gravity below.
Is your view on technology ultimately optimistic or pessimistic?
I’m leaning toward the pessimistic side, in relation to the longterm consequences of technology on culture, especially in terms of media control, politics and rampant narcissism in social media. I am optimistic, however, that with controlled and measured investment, technology can continue to be a servant to us so long as we heed the advice of the many great sci-fi writers to avoid letting the machine rising above us.