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Ok Computer

By Published on .

Day Break
Day Break
At the age of 45, Ray Caesar had spent nearly two decades in the art and photography department of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, producing everything from charts and graphs for medical journals, to anatomy drawings, photo documentation of child abuse and even visual game tools for child psychologists. Though he'd also created his own artwork for most of his life, he had never pursued it as a singular focus. So six years ago, when he sent his work to New York gallery owner Jonathan Levine looking just for an opinion, it came as quite a surprise when he found himself with an actual patron.

"I just thought his work was really strange and beautiful, and I hadn't seen anything like it before," says Levine, whose New York gallery has become known for its contemporary exhibitions of artists from nontraditional backgrounds such as street art. Levine put Caesar into a group show soon after their first encounter in 2002, leading to a number of solo and group shows around North America. Levine's gallery hosted Caesar's latest solo show, "In the Garden of Moonlight," which ran this past summer.

Ray Ceasar
Ray Ceasar
As interesting as his protracted path to becoming a full-time professional artist is, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Caesar's work is how it's actually created. The art itself mixes haunting figures in surroundings that evoke a dark future with style and decorative nods to the past, and Caesar builds each detailed piece using Maya 3D software.

"For me the computer is a perfect tool to work intuitively," says Caesar who originally got his start in film animation and builds each piece as a complete 3D environment. "Nothing is concrete and set in stone and I can change things as I need to, even if I have almost completed the image. A brush or pencil is the extension of a hand and eye, a motion of the arm and a judgment of space and negative space; the computer does this as well as any tool and in some ways I can get inside my tool."

The knock on most digital art is that it's often built from pre-existing imagery, but Maya forces Caesar to use many of the same skills needed for most traditional artwork. "The work he does, and how he builds it, you can't create that without being able to paint or draw it in the first place," says Levine. "It's an incredibly technical and time-consuming process. He's pioneered a new way of making art. His work is informed by traditional methods and styles but executed with new tools."

Caesar's work has been described as a 21st century mixing of sculpture and painting, but he simply views the medium as a means to an end. "I suppose it's because sculpture's working method is three dimensional and that is the way the space is for me," he says. "But I also think like a painter. I have a hard time separating method from method as the picture has always been more important to me. I love the images I have seen in countless museums, and it's of little importance to me what medium was used, if it was done in oil or chalk or gold leaf or a print or a sculpture in marble. Those artists used what they had at hand but it's the vision of their mind's eye that stirs something in my soul and makes me want to create a window into my own mind."

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