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It Ain't Easy Living In A Plasticine Dystopia

Mark Gmehling's digital art series "Plastic Relations" imagines oblong plastic people doing oppressive "social dances."

Orbit-02, 2014, Fineartprint on dibond, 150x150cm, edition of 3

Artist and graphic designer Mark Gmehling's recent exhibition Plastic Relations could be described as a plasticine dystopia. On a surface level, his digitally rendered images of oblong plastic people appear cartoonish and even funny, but look closer and the work reveals a bleak undercurrent. One piece depicts a mob of figures trudging in a caged circle and clutching their sides in apparent pain, while another includes the characters rolled up into a ball as they hold their hands together in prayer. The glossy surface layer of each image is a visual sleight of hand. 

On view from August 22nd through October 24th at RWE Foyer in Germany, Plastic Relations was inspired by the "triviality and absurdity of human life," explains Gmehling over email. The greyscale works are named after "social dances" like Polonaise and Reigen, references to historical, repetitive dance styles that the artist says portray his worldview "in a more or less metaphoric way—manners of society, mob mentality, hierarchy structures, and more that feel absurd to me."

Polonaise fig.01, 2014, Finartprint on dibond, 200x90cm, edition of 3

Polonaise (detail)

The Plastic Relations artworks are all digitally rendered using Cinema4D and touched up using Photoshop. "The image surfaces and shapes could be called painful-beauty," Gmehling explains, "but their inner truth is different and quite dark—often sad and empty."

"I'm trying to explain the world to myself by catching contemporary, relevant topics and serving them in a way that is on one side appealing to the eye (and maybe funny), but also carrying a darker mood if you look closely." 

See some work from Plastic Relations below:

Orbit-01, 2014, Fineartprint on dibond, 150x150cm, edition of 3

Orbit-01 (Detail), 2014, Fineartprint on dibond, 150x150cm, edition of 3

zzzup?/ Selfportrait, 2014, Fineartprint, 80x100cm, edition of 3 (originally created for pictoplasma portrait gallery)

Reigen fig.02, 2014, Finartprint on dibond, 160x90cm, edition of 3

Zementa, 2014, Fineartprint on dibond, 110x150cm, edition of 3

Plastic Relations is on view at RWE Foyer through October 24th. For more on Mark Gmehling, visit his website here.

Images courtesy of the artist. 

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