Painting portraits of the rich and famous was a practical necessity prior to photography. Artists gained vital patronage from royalty, military leaders, prominent families and institutions. Photography has superseded the skill of representation that artists and only artists then provided.
Degard’s work explores the power of celebrity as icons of our time inspired by their Aura Pure (AP).
The AP surrounds an individual, is part of an individual and is created by that individual. It is the whole person as one is truly needed to be known and understood. The AP may contain information about the way people are living their lives today. It is determined by their current health, lifestyle, their personality, relationships, passions, attitudes, strengths, weaknesses, moods, thoughts as well as beliefs and identity. It is their tangible and intangible selfhood made visible. It can show the truth of moments in people’s lives which have defined them and their direction.
The paintings of the AP are the equivalent of a time-lapse video eg if one photographs a plant for say a year and took all those photos and laid them on top of each other to arrive at the sum total of the plants being this is the appearance of the AP that Degard is painting.
Effectively the AP is akin to an aetheric cubism (where height, width, depth at different angles are painted together) and the AP adds the dimensions of time and the aetheric.
Her study of the cult of celebrity naturally draws on the work of the founder of Pop Art, Andy Warhol, who explored the inter-play between mass production and the self, positing the view that mass production leads to homogeneity and objectification – tending towards a loss of personhood.
Warhol witnessed (and arguably participated in) the dawn of consumerisation which was placing an increased value on celebrities and on consumer brands. Nearly 30 years on since his death we see all valuable brands using celebrities to help sell their products and many media outlets relying on reporting of their every move to stay in business.
However Degard does not seek to subvert the personhood or the likenesses that celebrities cultivate. She takes strong, ‘ready-made’ photographic images, often sanctioned for publication by the celebrities themselves, and builds on top of these. She explores the attractiveness and magnetism of celebrity and then goes deeper to personalise and inject new meaning into these iconic images. She aspires to inject this transcendent quality into her work.
A weary complaint in the art world is one of consumption. You only have to look at Gavin Turk’s sculpture of Sid Vicious to see this conversion in action and YBA’s all being offered Royal Academician status. Entropy is soon absorbed into capitalist culture.
Degard also explores society’s ability to make even the harshest assault on the establishment somehow part of it– by making it less frightening, more accessible, taking the sting out of it, thereby absorbing it into our culture in order to further a more vital discourse. Her work is intended to be purposefully magnetic.
Science interestingly has the opposite issue. However the public’s relationship with science is more complicated. Degard asks why science is not considered part of culture in the same way as art, when it seems obvious that scientific enquiry is as much part of the human state as story-telling, singing, painting, sculpture, dance, poetry, philosophy, language. They are all equally worthy of contemplation, yet science is often painted into a corner, regarded as too difficult; even accused of messing with nature or working against humanity or religious beliefs. Science does not appear to have built its own social narrative. This dilemma is also addressed in her work.
The AP questions science deeply:-
where is memory held?
Where is consciousness?
What is consciousness?
Is the AP the soul?
In order to deeply study the inter-play between science, art and the divine Degard has opened contemporary aetheric art and the aetheric movement.