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Edward Bateman: Art and Optics

A new feature on RedThread will showcase contributions by University faculty and students in order to highlight the breadth and range of professional and academic pursuits on campus.  This is the first in an occasional series.  Let us know in the comments whose work you’d like to see more of.  –RT ed
Artist Statement by Edward Bateman, assistant professor in art and art history at the University of Utah:
My work appears photographic and often comments on photography (or other processes of lens-based image creation), but my works are not photographs. I have removed the lens from the image-making process and placed it within the image itself.

Initially my work drew on photographs and their history of depiction but lately my work has been exploring the influences of optical instruments in the history of painting. The development of optical devices such as lenses and mirrors was instrumental in the development of art’s quest for a “realistic” representation of the world.             

In some ways, digital images can be a bridge between photography and painting. In a photograph, there is always the assumption of a physical presence to be captured by the photographer. In painting, we allow for the possibility that what is represented may or may not have been what the artist experienced. My work shares this attribute. Although some elements in my work depict real things, many objects have never had a tangible physical existence. These elements are modeled completely inside the world of a computer. They are ghosts made of nothing more substantial than numbers, yet they seemingly share a tangible space with objects that have both physicality and history. My method of working mimics light itself, one beam at a time, in a process that can take from hours to days to complete and involve literally trillions of calculations.

Lenses and mirrors, a common thread in my work, have a long metaphorical history. Lenses represent seeing and are at the core of our biology of perception. They represent a point of view and a narrow focus. What they reveal often overpowers what is excluded by their gaze (which may be equally important!). Mirrors are a metaphor for art itself as well as the process of self knowledge and discovery. They are also part of the tricks of mind and eye: smoke and mirrors. In the end, perhaps all depictions share a strange mixture of magic, truth, and illusion.         

Bouts, Lenses, Pencils


Vermeer's Faith


R. W. Emerson


Paper, Stone and Scissors


Eye of Arnolfini II



You can learn more about Edward Bateman and his work by exploring his website.