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Reframing Victorian aesthetics.

I appropriated mainly Victorian imagery for my Nocturne series. Aesthetics—beauty or decoration over narrative or substance—were in vogue during that era. Negating that beauty is part of the conceptual process I go through. In selecting largely Victorian, Romantic, or Baroque imagery from history, I am negating much of the art’s purpose: which is to be beautiful and realistic (“a window into the soul” of the sitter, as it were). I focus exclusively on portraiture in the Nocturne series because that’s the most formal subject matter of all (aside from religious imagery, perhaps). We pay such reverence to portraiture in art history that to behave irreverently toward these formal renderings disrupts virtually every function of the original work. My work is meant to be a critique of the institution of art history, causing people to question their own allegiances to particular objects, styles, concepts, ideas, and even the people in their own lives.


Born in 1983 in Illinois, Chad Wys is a multimedia visual artist and writer who lives and works in the United States. In his artwork, Wys appropriates motifs from art history as well as images and objects from popular culture. He subverts and recontextualizes their cultural meaning through aesthetic experimentation and manipulation via a host of traditional and non-traditional media, juxtaposing conflicting sentiments and styles in order to invoke critical thinking in the viewer. Color, form, unity, identity, and semiotics are constant investigations.

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6 comments for Nocturne

  1. Comment by jeremy on September 12, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    it’s disconcerting to see an artist start off the rational behind their work with the phrase “I appropriated”, as if this has become ok caus they found a fancy word to replace steal, or borrow, or i dont what else to do so im gonna copy some old paintings half way and exploit the credibility of the original work for my own benefit and then come up with some vague explanation about questioning thigns that we’ve all come to expect as if im the first person to come upon this realization, furthermore after viewing the artists website i’ve learned that these arent paintings of original production, but digital manipulations the likes of which any amateur photoshop nerd is capable, so not only is the artist usurping the aesthetic value of the classical paintings that he decided to “appropriate”, but he is not even exhibiting the most fundamental skills necessary to actually paint, this person is moreso a con artist than a real artisan

  2. Comment by Nikola on September 22, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I’m in agreement with Jeremy. Screwing around with someone else’s work (and in the case of oil painting, there is a *lot* of work involved) isn’t art — it’s marketing.

  3. Comment by Bill on September 29, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Jeremy and Nikola —

    I’d like to defend Chad in the sense that he addresses himself more as a conceptual artist rather than the producer of original works. He is producing original thought, however, working literally ‘on top of’ ideas from classical and master artists. Additionally, on Wys’ website, he gives proper attribution to works by calling them ‘found pieces,’ and addressing many as readymades.

    As for the claim about using digital methods to produce, I’ll argue that artistic talent should not be assessed in one’s skill level with traditional artistic mediums. With any form of art, be it oil paintings, interpretive dance, performance or digital work, ‘talent’ is arbitrary. Artistic integrity and aesthetics are more deeply rooted in the concept behind the presented piece, of which I believe Wys has fully developed.

  4. Comment by Neil Chambers on September 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I think i have a new favorite artist! Wys work is both classic and new all at the same time. I love the way he engages and comments on art history and contemporary culture with each piece…really great stuff!

  5. Comment by Raeesa on October 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Dear Jeremy & Nikola,

    Please read Nicholas Bourriaud’s ‘Post Production’

    Perhaps it might help you understand the above work.

  6. Comment by jana on November 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    More info on media might be helpful-? Are these paintings analogue objects? Or purely digital? What do we mean by “painting”?

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