Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Al Magnus - Master Of Imagination
Al Magnus’ body of work is the stuff that dreams are made of
For a physics and chemistry scientist with a PhD, Al Magnus is unabashedly preoccupied with fantasy. Magnus constructs dreamlike images of childlike wonder, worlds where young boys and girls can use the elements of the sky as balloons or construction platforms. Lamps descend from the heavens at the same time that stars are manufactured by hand for placement at dusk. His compositions are single-image fables that are ultimately as allegorical as any Aesop story. He’s a professional make-believer, harnessing the analytical ability of the adult mind to capture the impossible—the master of imagination.
“The adjective ‘scientific’ carries a lot of misconceptions,” says Magnus when asked if he finds science and imagination to be mutually exclusive. “For me, ‘science’ means the joy of discovering, a permanent false naivety, and above all putting oneself in a mental state of ‘to be surprised at any time.’ These conceptions definitely can be seen in my pictures. But I could also add ‘doubt’ and ‘uncertainty.’ I have such an approach to life, in general, and I believe the ‘imagination’ you see is the result.”
About his inspiration, Magnus says, “I have a deep belief on a day-to-day basis that only creative and innovative work is worthwhile and gives me motivation. In actual fact, as the number of portfolios available on the Internet explodes, I find it more and more difficult to encounter some originality that sparks my interest. I just get the bad impression that too much is being shot over and over again, and processed using the same tools. Moreover, nowadays it’s very easy to make extraordinary, aesthetically appealing pictures. But if they’re not inserted into a creative process, they have no value at all. This is the reason why I’ve made such pictures myself as a sort of ‘pied-de-nez’ [to thumb one’s nose at]. I just can’t find any motivation in doing what has already been done.”
Adds Magnus, “I always want to convey an impression more than an idea. The sort of impressions I’m interested in are the very moving magical instances, when something unreal happens as if coming from your own world of dreams. These short instances are a free ride to dreamland and have extraordinary value. But as I’ve said before, you have to let yourself be surprised.”
Magnus’ work belies no little amount of effort. Each image is the result of only a day or two of digital work, but the conception itself, from beginning to end, can cost him upwards of a year. The idea for an image will hit Magnus suddenly, and he’ll consign it to a book with drawings, notes and remarks on lighting and such. This stage is important to him because he’s able to cement the idea without having to begin the slow process of gathering the pieces of the eventual puzzle, the slow part.