A Pair of London Artists Pay Homage to the Retro Video Game

As various journalists and culture critics have pointed out—including a recent piece in The Atlantic—today’s thirtysomethings are in a unique position to feel nostalgia for video games. Pac-Man, Mario Bros., and other games that we now consider “retro,” didn’t exist before the 1980s. The London-based artists Tom Jackson and Craig Evans, better known as the artist duo STATIC, fall squarely in that demographic; their shared nostalgia for classic video games is a driving force in their work. STATIC’s latest paintings, currently on view in London in a new show, “Press Play” at Lawrence Alkin Gallery, draw from the design elements of classic arcade games and highlight their influence.

Piranha Posy (2016), for instance, features faceless and sharply fanged video game monsters, highly pixelated, as if to remind you of the primitive quality of an old Atari game. Game Over- Pink & Blue and Highscore- Yellow & Pink (both 2016), along with several other banner-like pieces in the show, are sign-style messages, rendered in vibrant block letters, that recreate the prompts and messages that guide a player into and out of a game. Labyrinth - Blinky (2016) juxtaposes two unmistakable relics from the golden age of vintage video games: Pac-Man and a pinball machine.

These pieces were inspired, in part, by “Game On,” a pair of large-scale murals that STATIC recently created at Wood Street Walls, a community art project dedicated to connecting artists with blank walls in London. It’s not hard to spot the street art aesthetic—also, it’s worth noting, a cultural hallmark of the 1980s—in “Press Play.” There’s the bright, almost fluorescent color palette, and the grand scale, for starters: you can almost some works as three-stories-tall murals on city walls.

It’s not just the color palette and the familiar imagery that transports the viewer back to the 1980s, and to the glory days old-school video arcade. Videos, of course, are flat, but the machinery they’re played on is not: STATIC brings together both dimensions, using spray paint and screen-printing techniques, aluminum, and multiple layers of glass to build rich compositions that feel like 3D versions of the gamer’s screen. These pieces, like the real-life equipment that inspired them, are enduring and technically complex. Given their current approach to contemporary art, filled with a nostalgic spirit and an analog twist, we’re excited to see what STATIC will do next.

Bridget Gleeson

Press Play” is on view at Lawrence Alkin Gallery, London, Jan. 15th – Feb. 14th, 2016.

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