Shamus Clisset and FakeShamus are the same but different. Shamus Clisset is a New York-based digital artist, whose unique works are painstakingly crafted over months in front of a screen and furthered with an advanced knowledge of 3-D modeling, photo-based software and a background in painting.
FakeShamus is perhaps best described as the soul of the work itself. Maniacal, intense, confused – he is the both the angel and devil figure perched over Clisset’s shoulder, whispering warped inspiration into the artist’s consciousness. Alter-ego. Imaginary friend. He’s what Clisset becomes in the studio.
FakeShamus blurs the line between fantasy and reality. A mix of the absurd and the banal appear together in his work, and conspire to create surreal, three-dimensional images – the full depth of which we are unsure how to negotiate. Violence, drunkenness and perversity are all present – as should be expected from an artist whose main inspiration is still the Lamborghini Contache he obsessively drew in grade school.
The darkly humorous party themes found in FakeShamus’ work can often mask the intense level of craft that goes into each piece. The images themselves are very nearly photorealistic, leading one to ponder if, in fact, they are actually still-life photographs set up in a studio – which is not completely untrue. The compositions are the result of hundreds of hours of ‘virtual photography’ and manipulation; what you are seeing wasn’t actually there, and never really existed, but the methods and qualities of traditional photography were all drawn upon to create the scenes.
Completely intrigued by the nature of the artist’s work and the identity that created them, POST NEW caught up with Shamus Clisset (or was that FakeShamus?) to find out more. Full story here.
POST NEW: Hi Shamus, tell us about your artistic background.
Shamus Clisset: When I was 8 I became obsessed with the Lamborghini Countach. I drew thousands of Countaches, trying to get one to look exactly like it did in my head. By the age of 12 I had it totally mastered. I can still draw one from memory. In college I studied painting and art history and also started dabbling with Photoshop, around 1995-96, which led me down the path exploring digital tools. Now everything I make is done on the computer and the Countaches are fully 3-dimensional models splattered with digital blood.
PN: Can you explain the creative process that goes into making one of your works?
SC: I think of digital space as a sort of extension of mental space. Everything you picture in your head or make in virtual space exists as a model, a representation of data or of our understanding of that thing. So the process always starts with an image or idea of objects in my head that I’m basically trying to transfer into digital space. Since we don’t have the technology (yet) to make that process automatic, I model everything with 3D software and then render it with an unbiased raytracing program to generate the image of what I’ve built. The unbiased nature of the rendering program means that it produces a physically correct light simulation. That’s a crucial part of it because I don’t want some artistic piece of software influencing the look of the picture, it just comes out real. Then I output them as c-prints.
PN: What’s the concept behind the FakeShamus identity? What is the difference between Shamus Clisset and FakeShamus?
SC: FakeShamus is kind of an alter-ego and my nemesis at the same time. He started out as a digital golem, in the sense that he’s a mindless creation that I can put into any situation – he follows every command and takes on any form I want. Over time he’s become more of an imaginary friend, but more like the bad kid who always got you into trouble, made you smoke cigarettes and had all the dirty magazines. Another part of him is what I call the “Manifest Destinaut” – an explorer and conquerer in that deadly early-American frontier sense, only now the frontier is a digital world.
PN: Is the work itself raising questions of identity? There seem to be such a wide spectrum of influences manifest in the images – a sort of confusion, if you will…
SC: I’m not really thinking of identity in any conscious way when I’m working. But a lot of the imagery draws on personal references and experience. At the same time I’m always trying to surprise myself, so I try to include any tangents my mind goes off on during the process. As I do more work I start to build up a library of objects and environments that I can incorporate or transform into other things down the line. I tend to see connections between these things in lots of different ways, across that wide spectrum of influences. Some of those connections could seem random because they come from very personal leaps of logic. But it’s not really confusion to me, it’s about allowing every idea in and then deciding what’s interesting or funny to me.
PN: What influences you as an artist, in or outside the studio? Is this what we are seeing in your work?
SC: What usually inspires me is anything with a big, grand-scale vision. I prefer really ambitious and flawed to something wrapped up in a careful little package. There are lots of films and music that I admire for that quality, not as much so in art. I don’t know if other people see that in my work, but it is what I’m striving for.
PN: How long does one image generally take to produce?
SC: The first of the current series, the “Grizzly Suit”, took almost 2 years from the first concept to the finished print. The learning curve was crazy steep, but it taught me a lot. Every picture I make leaves me with some new technique or trick that makes the next one easier and faster. Recently I’d say I average about 1 a month.