David Hancock at Touchstones

My works are essentially portraits of various avatars re-imaging their real environment as a gaming arena.”

David Hancock’s beautifully detailed work is primarily concerned with the notion of ‘Generation X’, through the exploration of actual communities founded in attempts to create an ideal society, his work portrays the society’s inability to realise itself. His aim is to reveal the psychological gap between the world that we physically experience and the psychological states through which it is perceived. In his current work,
which will be exhibited at Touchstones, Rochdale, from the 6th of July, he has immersed himself in the Cosplay subculture, where participants act as their text-based character in the urban landscape.

In his portraits of cosplayers, Hancock attempts to mix the reality with the fantasy. These portraits are intentionally real, produced in a semi-photorealistic style – they not only give a true portrayal of the cosplayer but also highlight the details within their outfits. However, this is not a stylised representation; instead we see the characters and their costumes as they really are. Importantly, they have not been glamorised and any shabbiness or artistic flourish in the construction of the outfit has been intentionally highlighted. Through these portraits, the seemingly anonymous youngsters are transformed into their exciting alter-egos to the point of blurring the barrier between reality and their imagination.

2. Arkham Asylum
Arkham Asylum’, watercolour on Paper, 2012

In each portrait a single figure is presented on white paper and by doing this the artist presents the barrier between the cosplayer and the viewer. In some instances fantasy elements from the original character or components from the real surroundings are incorporated into the portrait. Hancock emphasises that although they are re-imagining the actual landscape, it is going on inside their subconscious and the viewer is not party to it. This is their interpretation and we are excluded, unable to engage in their fantasy, and while we are provided with a tantalising glimpse of their internal imaginings, frustratingly, we have no knowledge of its transformation.

  Lightning (Kira)
‘Lightning (Kira)’, pencil crayon on paper, 2011

The portraits attempt to highlight the relationship between the cosplayer’s own personality and the fictional character they represent. Their choice of character is key in providing us with an insight into their personality as well as their relationship to this chosen alter ego. In essence what we see are double portraits, presenting two personalities simultaneously. When in costume, the cosplayer is in character representing their text-based persona for a temporary period, yet their interpretation is subjective, and each cosplayer representing the same character will present an entirely unique version. For example, the artist recently focused on a particular text “Vampire Knights” in which one of the characters, Yuki, is favoured exclusively by females, but their ages and appearance differs dramatically. Each individual brings their own personality and personal style of dress to the cosplay – some have explored her sexuality, some her innocence an some her transformation into a vampire. Underlying their choice of character is their connection to the text: what is it in this character’s personality that they relate to? What does this character represent to them? Potentially the character is an exaggerated version of their own personality or at the very least, how they wish to be perceived by others and it is these elements that are at the core of their cosplay choices.

 By meting in large groups the cosplayers expand the digital realm into the real world, by taking over a space and objects or locations are metamorphosed into items specific to the gaming text. Accordingly, cosplayers are thus able to appropriate an urban location, transforming it into a safe space for them to play, even going as far as affecting their surroundings and other passers-by in their vicinity.

Installation view from Cosplay at Wolverhampton Art Gallery

 Having interviewed some of the cosplayers, the artist mentions that they ‘construct an impenetrable fantasy within their own subconscious where outsiders are not only excluded from the public space, but also from the space within the cosplayer’s imagination.’ Although the public may interact in the same space as them, the cosplayer is simultaneously on another plane altogether, an internal fantasy constructed within their mind.
Optimistically, the artist concludes that the imagination of the individual has the ability to transform the mundane into the sublime, and perhaps this is precisely what forms the essence of David Hancock’s latest project.

  David’s solo exhibition is taking place at Touchstones, Rochdale (The Esplanade, Rochdale, OL16 1AQ) from the 6th July until 7th September 2013. For more information about the gallery and exhibitions, click here.


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